Saturday, September 3, 2016

Albright Football - Lions Fall in Non-Conference Season Opener

Photo Courtesy of Albright Athletics
SALISBURY, Md – #16 Albright opened the 2016 season with a familiar opponent, facing the #23 Salisbury Sea Gulls Friday night in Salisbury. The Lions were not able to replicate last year's season opening victory, however, as Salisbury used two big plays on special teams to build an early lead and pulled away in the second half for a 34-18 win.

The Sea Gulls opened their season in style, as Sean Rowland returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown, giving Salisbury a lead it would not relinquish. Alex Potocko's extra point gave the Sea Gulls a 7-0 lead just 12 seconds into the game.

Albright responded with a scoring drive on its first possession of the game. The Lions drove into Salisbury territory and had a first and goal from the nine following an eight-yard run by junior Romello Monroe. After a two-yard completion from sophomore quarterbackMike Knight to senior Vinny Williams on first down, Monroe picked up five yards on a second down carry to set up third and goal at the Sea Gull two. A false start penalty cost Albright five yards, and Knight's third down pass fell incomplete as the Lion drive stalled out. Sophomore kicker Kevin Goetz's 24-yard field goal attempt was good, and the Lions cut the deficit to 7-3.

On the ensuing kickoff Rowland ripped off another big return for Salisbury, rambling 62 yards to give the Sea Gulls the ball on the Albright 35-yard line. Three plays later Connor Canonico cashed in from two yards out to put Salisbury on top 14-3 with 8:08 left in the opening quarter.

Once again the Lion offense responded with a strong drive, as they drove deep into Salisbury territory. On third and six from the Sea Gull 16, however, Knight's pass was intercepted by DJ Davis to end the Lion threat.

Albright's defense forced a Salisbury punt, and once again the Lions marched into the Sea Gull red zone. Back to back runs of 10 and 17 yards from Monroe highlighted the drive, which saw the Lions reach the Salisbury three-yard line. On third and two from the three, the Sea Gulls stuffed an Albright run for a four-yard loss, and Knight was sacked for a loss of nine on fourth down, keeping the Lions off the scoreboard.

The teams traded punts for the next two possessions until Albright took over on its own 14 with just over four minutes left in the half. The Lions drove 86 yards in 10 plays, highlighted by two passes from Knight to junior Malik Jackson covering 21 and 26 yards. Monroe capped the drive with a two-yard scoring run, and Goetz's extra point made the score 14-10 as the teams headed to halftime.

After Albright punted on its first possession of the second half, Salisbury put together a scoring drive to extend the lead. Ryan Jones scored on a 15-yard run to cap a seven play, 72 yard drive that gave the Sea Gulls a 21-10 lead.

Salisbury forced another Lion punt, and then embarked on another long scoring drive. Salisbury covered 72 yards in 12 plays while taking over seven minutes off the clock. Again it was Jones scoring from 15-yards out, pushing the Sea Gull lead to 28-10 early in the fourth quarter.

The lead grew to 34-10 midway through the fourth quarter when Canonico scored for Salisbury from a yard out as the Sea Gulls took advantage of good field position after their second interception of the evening.

Albright continued to fight, as junior quarterback Alec Vignola engineered a late scoring drive. Vignola connected with sophomore wide out Kyle Dickerson for a 25-yard touchdown pass with 3:26 left in the game. Vignola then found Malik Jackson for the two-point conversion to pull the Lions within 34-16. Albright attempted an onside kick, but the Sea Gulls recovered and ran out the clock to end the game.

Knight finished the game completing 20 of 40 throws for 181 yards with two interceptions. Monroe led the Lion ground game with 86 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown. Malik Jackson caught eight balls for 96 yards, and junior Milton Cordero added seven catches for 59 yards. Ryan Jones led Salisbury with 118 yards on 18 carries with the two scores.

Defensively sophomore David Sanchez had a game-high 12 tackles for Albright, while juniors Kevin Mason and Grant Boehlereach chipped in with 10 tackles.

Albright will open the defense of its MAC Championship next Saturday, September 10, when Stevenson comes to Shirk Stadium for the MAC opener for both teams. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00.

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