Clan too strong for Lumberjacks

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SFU football score 34 straight points to beat Humboldt State, 41–37

By Bryan Scott
Photos by Adam Ovenell-Carter

The Simon Fraser football team celebrated their Senior players last week when they played host to the Humboldt State Lumberjacks, who sit in the top spot in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. Terry Fox Field was appropriately foggy for the Clan’s final home game of the season. The Lumberjacks beat the Clan by 20 points earlier in the season in Arcata, California, so SFU was looking for a better result this time.

The game did not start well for the Clan. Humboldt State used their running game to push down field quickly. The most damaging play was a 55-yard run by runningback Victor Spencer. Then quarterback Casey Mintz hit Brandon Kakitsuka with a 28-yard pass to give the Lumberjacks a 7–0 lead.

Things would not get better from there. Clan reciever Tore Corrado fumbled after a catch, at the SFU six-yard line. This led to another touchdown for the Lumberjacks, leaving the Clan down by 14 points early on. The Clan offense could not get anything going, and were forced to punt the ball after three plays. Humboldt State took this opportunity to possess the ball. They used 11 plays and ran five minutes off the clock, finishing with a field goal to lead 17–0.

Later in the half, SFU got the ball back inside the Lumberjack’s zone after a 20-yard return for Corrado down to the 39-yard line. The Clan got close, but could not finish the drive with a touchdown. They went for it on fourth down, but Lamar Durant could not hold on to the ball for the first down, and Humboldt State took over on their own 23-yard line.  Once again, they used the running game play after play, putting up many yards against the Clan defense. Lumberjack running back Nick Ricciardulli rushed the ball for 49-yards on his third carry of the drive into Clan territory. They pounded the ball on the ground three more times before finishing the drive with a short pass into the end-zone. The Clan, down 24–0, needed to respond before halftime to avoid being completely embarrassed on home field.

On the ensuing possession, with just over five minutes left in the half, the Clan woke up. They started on their own 21-yard line, utility guy Ryan Blum made a few good rushes to start the drive. Then Wheeler connected with Durant on back to back plays for 14-yards each ,which put the Clan in great position. On third down and six to go, Wheeler hooked up with Kyle Kawamoto for 33-yards down to the Humboldt State five-yard line. The Clan offense was still having trouble finishing in the red-zone. They lucked out on a pass interference call to get a new set of down which they managed to score on, cutting the lead to 17 points at halftime.

To start the second half, the Clan defense was spectacular, especially against the running game. They forced three fumbles on three straight Lumberjack drives to start the third quarter. First, Dylan Roper forced Ricciardulli to fumble. Alex Iezzi picked up the ball for the Clan and ran 32-yards for the touchdown, which cut the lead to just 10. Next, it was Roper who recovered another Ricciardulli fumble on the Lumberjack’s 37-yard line. After a few passes to Bobby Pospischil that got them to the one-yard line, Wheeler finished the drive on his own. The Clan were down by three points.

Iezzi cashed in for his second defensive touchdown of the game, when he picked up another Lumberjack’s fumble and returned it 53 yards. The Clan missed the extra point but now had the lead 27–24. They did not let the Lumberjacks score in the third quarter.

Durant got in on the action to end the third quarter when he pulled down a 42-yard pass from Wheeler. The Clan scored 34 points unanswered to lead the game 34–24 going into the fourth quarter.

The Clan looked like they were going to roll right over the Lumberjacks when they forced yet another fumble and took over in great position. Unfortunately, Wheeler was picked off at the opposing 19-yard line, and the ball was returned 81 yards for the score, adding even more excitement to this game. The extra point was blocked so the Clan still had a 34–30 lead.

The Clan offense did not get much going on the next few possessions, and the Lumberjacks took advantage of the fog when Mintz found Tommy Darcey for a 31-yard pass for a touchdown, putting them up by three points, 37–34.

There was no way the Clan were losing this game, not when Durant and Wheeler feel like putting on a show. On the next drive, Wheeler hit Durant with a 45-yard pass, and Durant fought his way past two defenders to give the Clan the lead.

The Clan defense continued their great play — they stuffed the Lumberjacks on several occasions from very close range. The Lumberjacks failed to score and the Clan knocked off the best team in the conference in impressive fashion.

Clan graduating running back Bo Palmer was excited after the game “It makes it even better that we were able to win my last home game at SFU. This one is definitely the highlight of my Clan career.”

The Clan are now 5–5 on the season and 4–5 in the GNAC. The senior players on the team will always remember their epic last game on Terry Fox Field.