On Sept.16 at 1 p.m., the Red Hawks stormed the field to face off against the Franklin and Marshal Diplomats at Sprague Field. Sam Ray, junior lineman for Montclair State University, came onto the field with lots of energy. He motivated his teammates with inspiring words and had the home crowd excited and cheering by displaying a high level of passion and intensity on the sideline before kickoff.
The game started off slow for the Red Hawks offensively. They were committed to running the ball early, only accumulating eight yards in the passing game the whole first quarter.
According to head coach Mike Palazzo, the Red Hawks were looking to take what the defense was giving them.
“It’s a game plan thing week to week,” Palazzo said. “We wanted to see what they were giving us and just take what Franklin gave us. It really depends on what the opposing defense shows us.”
The Red Hawks struggled to keep the chains moving early on, failing to convert on all their third down attempts in the first quarter.
The visiting Diplomats drew first blood mid-way through the first quarter, taking advantage of a turnover on downs the previous possession by Montclair State. Quarterback Jack Font for the Diplomats threw a 19-yard touchdown to make the score 7-0 with three minutes left in the first quarter.
Montclair State’s defense did a great job at preventing the Diplomats from early. Red Hawk defenders were flying to the ball, tackling opposing players as soon as they got their hands on the ball.
In the second quarter, the Diplomats scored a field goal following a Red Hawk fumble on the previous possession, which gave them a nice field position. A few moments later the Diplomats scored another touchdown giving them a 17-0 lead over the home team. The offensive line for Franklin and Marshall protected Font well for the most part and provided him enough time to make his read downfield.
Penalties and turnovers made things more difficult for Montclair State. However, their offense came to life once trailing 17-0. Sophomore Quarterback Andrew Sanborn for the Red Hawks threw a 68-yard touchdown to fifth-year Receiver Clarence Wilkins.
“You have to have a strong positive mindset,” Sanborn said. “If you’re down 17-0 that early in the game it really doesn’t mean anything, there’s so much time left to play. We kept each other’s heads up and kept playing.”
The Red Hawks threw for 119 yards in the second quarter. Sanborn scrambled for a 16-yard touchdown right before the end of the first half, making it a 17-12 ball game going into halftime.
The third quarter was competitive with both teams putting up points and getting stops. Font threw an interception in the end zone after a six-minute drive, and all of the momentum was starting to flip to Montclair State.
Senior running back for Montclair State Abellany Mendez had a huge impact in the second half. Mendez gained 95 yards in the second half of regulation. He had 154 yards total averaging over 12 yards per carry. He would help the Red Hawks take the lead 18-17, giving them the lead for the first time during the match.
The Red Hawks would score again giving them a 25-17 lead with 3:45 left in the fourth, which made it 25 unanswered points for the Red Hawks. The Diplomats preceded to drive 79 yards in 17 plays to tie the game, then converted the two-point conversion that was needed to tie the game 25-25 at the very end of regulation.
Montclair State started with the ball in overtime, and on the second play, Sanborn was intercepted down the sideline. Diplomats running back, Dante Wilson rushed for 22 yards on his last 3 carries including the game-winning 2-yard run in overtime.
It was a highly entertaining back-and-forth contest in Palazzo’s home debut however, his team was unable to pull off what would have been an epic comeback.