The Shippensburg University football team overcame rough weather conditions and ever-changing personnel to win a grind-it-out Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Eastern Division opener against the Bloomsburg Huskies Saturday on a wet and windy Family Day at Seth Grove Stadium, 7-0.
The Raiders (1-3, 1-0 PSAC East) persevered against the Huskies (1-3, 0-1) thanks to a next-man-up approach offensively as they dealt with injuries at quarterback and running back and rode the strength of their defense to their first victory. The zero points allowed defensively marks the team’s first shutout since Oct. 16, 2019, a 27-0 win over Millersville at home.
Redshirt-sophomore Tanner Hess (Lancaster, Pa./Hempfield), the Raiders’ fourth-string tailback entering the season, put the team on his shoulders in his first collegiate start. Using a smart, patient running style that meshed well with the slippery conditions, Hess amassed a career-high 100 rushing yards as well as the game’s only touchdown.
Redshirt-junior safety Isaiah Gilmore paced the SU defense with a career-best 10 tackles. The Raiders held Bloomsburg running back Kaleb Monaco to just 27 yards on nine carries. Monaco had entered play Saturday second in the PSAC with 356 yards rushing.
Passing, as well as holding onto the football, was a difficult chore for both teams from the onset. A promising opening drive from the Raider offense ended with an interception in Bloomsburg territory. But the Huskies ran into similar issues, as a solid drive was short circuited when graduate Mike Brewer (Bridgeville, Del./Woodbridge (Wesley) forced a fumble that was recovered by redshirt-junior Chisom Ifeanyi (Langhorne, Pa./Neshaminy) on the Shippensburg 13.
Hess and graduate Onasis Neely (Enola, Pa./East Pennsboro (Temple)) took turns notching first downs on the ensuing drive before a key third-down pass from redshirt-sophomore Joey McCracken (Lititz, Pa./Warwick (Maine)) found freshman Karim Brice (Bethlehem, Pa./Liberty) for a 14-yard gain, putting the hosts on the doorstep of the endzone.
Hess then completed the 17-play, 87-yard, 9:16 drive with a 1-yard scoring plunge with 11:21 remaining in the second quarter, and the score remained 7-0 as the two teams took a brief respite from the rain during halftime.
Freshman Sam Stoner (York, Pa./William Penn (West Virginia)) filled in at quarterback following a second-quarter injury to McCracken and did a solid job of managing the lead.
The lefty signal-caller nearly put the Raiders up two scores in the third thanks to a clutch 24-yard completion to redshirt-freshman Jaimen Bryant (Somerville, N.J./Somerville) on fourth down, but the end result was a missed 31-yard field goal attempt.
A 53-yard punt from junior Jaxson Montross (Tunkhannock, Pa./Tunkhannock Area) aided the Ship defense in the fourth, but the field position advantage swayed back into the Huskies favor late, as the visitors regained possession on the Shippensburg 43 with 2:55 remaining.
The Huskies got as far as the 23-yard line before running into fourth down. With the game on the line, Bloomsburg back-up quarterback Ben Ries took a shot at the endzone, with his pass deflecting dangerously off the shoulder pads of his receiver who fell to the turf, resulting in an incomplete pass and a turnover on downs.
The Raider offense finished with 155 yards rushing Saturday. Neely added 12 carries and 39 yards.
The two teams combined for just 91 yards passing.
Graduate Evan Townsend-Henry (Norwalk, Ct./King School (Pace)) totaled five tackles defensively, including a team-best two tackles for loss. Senior Jacoby Sherard (Lawrenceville, N.J./Lawrenceville) recorded a sack.
The Raiders return to action next Saturday with a road contest against the Shepherd Rams. Kick-off is set for 12 p.m.