Raiders Pick Up First League Victory At Holy Cross

Spencer Serling

After dropping a contest to Stony Brook 27-3 while most students were on Fall Break, the Raiders shifted their focus to the Patriot League portion of their schedule. Drawing the Holy Cross Crusaders as their first league opponent, the Raiders scored a go-ahead touchdown with just under a minute remaining and took home the 28-24 victory.

A week removed from a tough home outing, the Raiders (2-5) were nearly at full strength as they travelled to Worcester, M.A. to take on the Crusaders (3-5). After first-year Jake Melville became the third starting quarterback this season, previous starter senior Gavin McCarney finally felt healthy enough and took back his starting job for the first league matchup.

“The injuries have kept me out of a few games but I’m glad I’ve been able to come back and help my team out,” McCarney said.  “Being a senior, you don’t want to miss any games.”

After letting the Crusaders get out to an early 7-0 lead, McCarney got the Raiders offense back on track leading them 81 yards down the field on just six plays. McCarney plunged his way into the end zone from five yards out for the touchdown to tie up the game at seven.

The Crusaders cruised down the field on the next drive but coughed the ball up on the goalline as junior linebacker Kris Kent forced the fumble and junior defensive back Mike Armiento recovered. McCarney then masterfully led the Raiders 99 yards down the field for a score to put the Raiders up 14-7. On a drive that spanned over six and a half minutes and took 13 plays, McCarney found first-year wide receiver John Maddaluna for the 10-yard touchdown reception.

The Raiders defense, which gave the Crusaders problems all day, forced a three-and-out and got the ball back quickly hoping to capitalize. McCarney, however, could not as he forced a throw scrambling right on third down and was intercepted. The Crusaders turned the Raider turnover into a touchdown after an 11-play drive that tied the game going into halftime.

Starting with the ball in the second half, the Crusaders wasted no time in grabbing the lead as they drove down the field and kicked a field goal to get back their lead at 17-14. The Raiders’ next drive began promisingly but quickly took a turn for the worse five minutes into the drive with the Raiders in Crusaders territory as McCarney fumbled the ball Holy Cross recovered. With 12 seconds remaining in the third quarter, the Crusaders scored yet again to push their lead to 24-14.

The Raiders began their drive in the fourth quarter with a sense of urgency, knowing that they needed to mount a comeback to beat Holy Cross. With two tailbacks in play, sophomore Demetrius Russell and junior Jimmy DeCicco, the Raiders quickly moved down the field. To cap off the drive, junior fullback Ed Pavalko plunged in from one-yard out to cut the lead down to 24-21.

The Crusaders got the ball back and first-year quarterback Peter Pujals went to work on the Raiders defense. Switching up between rushing and passing, the Crusaders slowly made their way down the field. Once in the red zone, however, Pujals showed his inexperience. On a second-and-goal play, Pujals pass attempt was intercepted in the end zone by Armiento, who picked up his

NCAA-leading fifth interception of the year.

With 3:50 remaining on the clock, McCarney and the Raiders offense got the ball back with a chance to take home the victory. McCarney did what he does best on the drive, leading the Raiders down the field through the air and on the ground.

McCarney’s 28 yard rush on second-and-four

was key as it set up the Raiders on the Crusader 31-yard line. With 59 seconds remaining, McCarney hit sophomore Brian Lalli for a 31 yard touchdown catch that put the Raiders ahead 28-24.

“We felt as a team that we were going to drive the field and score,” McCarney said of the last drive that gave the Raiders the lead. “We were all confident that we’d be able to score and take the lead.”

With such little time remaining, the Crusaders were rushed and turned the ball over on downs, giving the Raiders the victory in their first league matchup of

the season.

The Raiders now have one league contest under their belt and hope to carry their momentum into the next game as they travel to Washington, D.C. to take on the

Georgetown Hoyas this weekend.

“Having only Patriot League games left, we know how important each one of them are,” McCarney said. “We feel confident that we can compete with any team and after the way we won last weekend, the team has gained a lot more confidence. The team is focused and we all have our eyes on

the Championship.”

Contact Spencer Serling at [email protected]