Scratching and Clawing

Bloomsburg football leans on defense heavily, while offense just does enough to win season opener

By: Sports Editor Justin Lockowitz

Ashland quarterback Billy Cundiff dropped back on fourth down from deep in his own territory with a little over a minute left in the game, and once again scanned the field.Seeing every white and purple jersey closely blanketed by a maroon and gold jersey, Cundiff began to move around in the pocket.Beginning to feel pressure and still not able to find an open receiver downfield, he took off around the right end, sprinting for the first down marker.With several Bloomsburg defenders converging on him, there was a crack of helmets and pads and Cundiff went down in the pile, once again coming up short on a crucial conversion attempt, this time costing Ashland the game.Senior defensive end Justin Presley commented, “On that last play I almost had the opportunity to sack him to end the game, but I slipped and he got away, but running behind him I knew someone would come up with the big tackle to stop him from gaining the first down.”

Time and time again the Bloomsburg Huskies’ defense was called upon to shut down the Ashland Eagles offense and they answered the bell every time leading the 13th ranked Huskies to a 10-7 victory over the 15th ranked Eagles under the lights at Redman Stadium.  Running back Stefan Adams declared, “The defense just flat out played their minds out shutting down a team with great offensive capability.”

Linebacker Anthony Smith makes one of his career-high 11 tackles; Photo courtesy of Justin Lockowitz
Linebacker Anthony Smith makes one of his career-high 11 tackles; Photo courtesy of Justin Lockowitz

The game wasn’t pretty from an offensive standpoint, as neither team reached 300 total offensive yards and combined for six turnovers.This year’s game had an entirely different feel to it compared to last year’s meeting in Ohio, when both teams combined for almost 1,000 total offensive yards in a barn-burning 49-42 come-from-behind victory for Bloomsburg.The low-scoring affair surprised many people, but Coach Hale was not among them, stating, “I wasn’t surprised, but extremely pleased at how our defense played and how we held them to just seven points.”

The Huskies were the first to strike in Thursday night’s game, wasting no time as they were set up with great field position on a nice kick return by cornerback Jesse Cooper and drove the ball 29 yards in nine plays before Jon Koenig put them ahead with a 28 yard field goal.Bloomsburg would quickly add to that lead as the Eagles’ fake punt pass attempt on fourth down was intercepted by cornerback Oscar Rivera.Rivera’s interception set up an eight-play, 85-yard drive, capped off by quarterback Dan Latorre, who after dropping back and seeing no open receivers, decided to take matters into his own hands by slicing through a crease in the middle and scoring a touchdown from eight yards out.The ensuing extra point put the Huskies up by a score of 10-0 with 2:53 left in the first quarter.The half ended without either team scoring again, although Ashland’s offense had the ball in Bloom territory for the majority of their possessions, but the Husky defense held strong, especially on a goal line stand in the second quarter.With Ashland knocking on the doorstep of the end zone with the ball inside the one yard line, the Husky defense rose to the occasion stopping Ashland three straight times, including on a fourth down attempt, once again denying the Eagles offense.

Cornerback Jesse Cooper; Photo Courtesy of Justin Lockowitz
Cornerback Jesse Cooper; Photo Courtesy of Justin Lockowitz

Ashland was finally able to get on the scoreboard with 2:30 remaining in the third quarter, when running back Carlin Isles took a draw from Cundiff and raced towards the right end, bouncing it out to the sideline and weaving his way through the Bloomsburg defense for a 50-yard touchdown run.The score cut the deficit to just three points, but Bloom’s defense rose to the occasion again and again smothering the Eagles offense the rest of the way and continually making Cundiff uncomfortable in the pocket, which led up to their final possession.A well-placed punt by Koenig and nice coverage by the Husky special teams pinned the Eagles offense at their own three yard line and played a major part in Ashland’s failed final drive.Hale added, “That punt was huge, great coverage and awareness by our guys.”

The Bloom offense was led in the air by Latorre (16-28, 158 yards, INT), who used his legs a few times to pick up key first downs, but relied heavily on their ground game to get the job done.Running back Stefan Adams was called upon the most often (15 carries, 104 yards), but with Kenny Domzalski going down with a leg injury early in the game and Derrick Price still suspended indefinitely, the Huskies also gave carries to Matt Cox, Marc Best, and James Sweeting.

Quarterback Dan Latorre celebrates after the Huskies' touchdown; Photo Courtesy of Justin Lockowitz
Quarterback Dan Latorre celebrates after the Huskies' touchdown; Photo Courtesy of Justin Lockowitz

Defensively, the Huskies were led by linebacker Anthony Smith (11 tackles), Presley (8 tackles, 3 sacks, forced fumble), and Rivera (9 tackles, INT), while many others contributed to the cause.

The Huskies hit the road for a few weeks now, with PSAC West rival California hosting Bloom next Saturday night.If you’ll recall, last year the Huskies upended Cal early in the season before losing a heartbreaker to them in the NCAA DII quarterfinals.To add to it, Cal lost their first game this season on Thursday night, a 23-17 loss at the hands of Saginaw Valley State, so the chance to put Cal in an 0-2 hole to start the year is sensational.Presley remarked, “With them losing in the first week we are smiling at the opportunity to put them in an 0-2 hole, but we know even if we do beat them, they are still going to make the playoffs and we will see them again.”

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