Football leads early, but Wagner pulls away late in season opener

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – The Saint Anselm College football team opened the season with a flurry, jumping out to a 10-3 lead against NCAA Division I-FCS Wagner College, but the Seahawks pulled away in the second half for a 38-16 victory over the Hawks on Thursday night at Hameline Field.

Box Score

The Hawks drop to 0-1 on the year and open their Northeast-10 Conference slate of games next Saturday with a 4 p.m. game against Bentley University at Grappone Stadium.

The two teams traded punts to open the game with each team picking up a first down on their respective opening drives. On the Seahawks next possession, the Hawks forced Wagner into a third-and-15, but the Seahawks threw a jump ball to John Williams that went for 32 yards and put the ball deep into Saint Anselm territory. The Hawks kept Wagner out of the end zone, but the home team put a 37 yard field goal through the uprights to take a 3-0 lead.

Saint Anselm answered right back as Yianni Gavalas (Manhasset, N.Y.) connected on back-to-back passes to Zach Bartak (Greenfield, Mass.) and Kyle Hill (Upper Marlboro, Md.) to drive the ball into Wagner territory. Correy King (Northridge, Calif.) took over in the backfield and took the ball to the Wagner 37, and on third-and-two, King took the ball through the left side and into the end zone to put Saint Anselm on top 7-3.

After forcing another Wagner punt, the Hawks were pinned deep in their own end at the one yard line. Back-to-back runs by Joe Hayman (Brandywine, Md.) gave Saint Anselm some breathing room, and Gavalas picked up a first down by slipping his way through the defense.

With room to operate, Gavalas marched the Hawks down the field, completing a pair of passes to Kyle Hill for a total of 51 yards to bring the Hawks inside the 10 yard line of Wagner. Unfortunately, they could not cross the end line but came away with a Daniel Parisi (Georgetown, Mass.) field goal to take a 10-3 lead.

Wagner answered with a seven play, 78 yard touchdown drive that ended with a pass to Keith Foster in the back of the end zone to tie the game at 10-all with just over three minutes to play.

On the Hawks next possession, they drove to midfield but the drive would end there as Gavalas was stripped from behind on a run leading to a turnover and gave the Seahawks the ball back with one minute to play at their own 41.

The home team quickly took the ball to the Saint Anselm 32, but an Alex Thomson pass was tipped by his receiver and into the waiting hands of Isaiah Douglas (Attleboro, Mass.) to give possession right back to Saint Anselm with only 36 seconds remaining. The Hawks ran out the clock and the game entered the break tied at 10-10.

The teams traded empty possessions to open the second half until Wagner worked the ball deep into Saint Anselm territory in the closing minutes of the third quarter. The Seahawks went to the running game, picking up 55 yards on the feet of Denzel Knight, and Matthias McKinnon finished off the drive with a five yard touchdown run to give Wagner the 17-10 lead headed into the fourth quarter.

After a three-and-out by the Hawks, Wagner quarterback Alex Thompson rushed for a 59 yard touchdown to extend the lead to 24-10 with just under 14 minutes remaining in the game. On the next play from scrimmage for the Hawks, a Gavalas pass was tipped into the air and intercepted by Tim Hayes at the Hawks 28 yard line, however the Hawks defense stood their ground to keep it a two-touchdown game.

Gavalas hit Bartak for a 26-yard gain to pick up a first down and Connor Schoske (Springfield, Va.) picked up a first down with a 15 yard catch to get the ball to the Wagner 30. Another completion to Bartak moved the ball to the 16 yard line, but Gavalas was intercepted on a jump ball in the end zone to stop the drive.

The turnover sparked the Seahawks to 14-straight points on a Denzel Knight 37 yard touchdown run and a Ryan Owens 21 yard touchdown reception that made it a 38-10 game with five minutes to play.

The Hawks controlled possession for the final five minutes of the game, driving 85 yards and ending the game with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Gavalas to Hill as time expired to give the game its final score of 38-16.

Saint Anselm put together 396 yards of total offense including 267 yards through the air and 129 yards on the ground. The Hawks picked up 21 first downs, converting 53% (9-of-17) of their third downs and 50% (1-of-2) of their fourth downs. Saint Anselm controlled time of possession, holding the ball for 34:49 compared to 25:11 for the Seahawks.

Wagner picked up 488 yards of total offense, doing a lot of their damage on the ground as they rushed for 312 yards on the night. The Seahawks only went 4-for-10 (40%) on third downs and committed nine penalties for 70 yards.

Yianni Gavalas ended the night going 22-for-40 for 263 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in his first game back for the Hawks. He also added 31 yards on the ground, while Correy King was the leading rusher with 58 yards on nine carries and a touchdown.

Zach Bartak posted a game-high 13 catches for 122 yards, tying the fifth-best mark in catches in a single game in program history. Kyle Hill added four catches for 83 yards and a score, while Connor Schoske had two catches for 30 yards.

Defensively, Nate Lewis (Lanham, Md.) had six tackles, including five solo, while Isaiah Douglas and Andy Klouda (Solon, Iowa) registered six tackles apiece. Shaun Callahan (Norwood, Mass.) had five tackles and three pass breakups, and Zack Sirowich (Seymour, Conn.) had a sack for a loss of eight yards.

Stay up-to-date with the latest news, including game previews and recaps, directly from the Saint Anselm College athletic department by liking us on Facebook and following us on TwitterInstagram and Snapchat @STAHawks.