DOYLESTOWN, Pa. --- The Moravian College football team ended its 2015 season with an 8-3 record after falling to Delaware Valley University, 20-16, in the Inaugural Centennial Conference-Middle Atlantic Conference Bowl Series in Doylestown Saturday afternoon.
The Centennial and Middle Atlantic Conferences formed the Bowl Series on November 5, 2015 as a partnership for two postseason football games between member institutions. The Inaugural Centennial-MAC Bowl Series involved the top two teams from each conference that were not selected to the NCAA Division III Championship. The two conferences also supported the NCAA Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) partnership with Special Olympics by donating 25 percent of ticket revenue generated during the Bowl Series to the organization. Giving back to local and regional communities not only adds to the comprehensive learning component of Division III, but also provides a venue for passion and service.
"I think we played hard, and we played for 60 minutes and showed a lot of fight," commented Head Coach Jeff Pukszyn at the end of his fifth season. "A couple of times things got away from us penalty wise and missing some tackles that hurt us. Overall I look at it as our guys gave 100 percent and left everything they had out on the field. We beat ourselves on a couple of plays and against a team that has been a top 25 team most of the year in the polls, you can't so that. Our guys will have to learn from that as we move onto next year. I'm very proud of the fight our guys showed today."
The 2015 squad is just the 15th team in the 91-year history of Moravian to reach eight wins, and just the second to start the season with an 8-1 mark. Moravian was also making its eighth appearance in the postseason with two trips to the NCAA Division III playoffs in 1988 and 1993 and ECAC Division III Bowl berths in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2010. Pukszyn has guided the Hounds to a 13-8 record the last two falls.
"This is really my first recruiting class since I took the job so late before my first season, and they were the class we recruited that first summer," Pukszyn said of his 15 seniors. "These guys are a really special group to me. I learned a lot, and they learned a lot in four years. I think a lot of them are going to be very, very successful after they walk across that stage in May to get their diplomas. You learn life lessons in sports, especially in football. I am proud of the whole group and the successes that they still have to come in their lives."
Moravian picked up 365 yards of offense in the game on 75 plays as junior quarterback Mike Hayes completed 21-of-41 passes for 259 yards with one interception, and he also gained 19 yards on seven rushing attempts. The 41 pass attempts was a career high for Hayes, and he finished the season with 2,271 yards, the third-best season in school history, while going 186-of-311 with 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Hayes is now 330-for-579 in his career for 3,898 yards, tied for sixth in the record books, with 29 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in 21 games at Moravian's starting quarterback.
Junior running back Chris Negron led the Greyhounds rushing attack with 57 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries as he finished the season with 1,425 yards and 15 touchdowns on 272 carries, all second in school history for a single season. Sophomore running back Eli Redmond added 22 yards on eight attempts to finish the year at 429 yards and seven touchdowns on 87 carries. The duo has combined for 4,541 yards in their career with Negron second in school history at 3,385 yards on 647 carries and Redmond 20th all-time at 1,156 yards on 199 carries. Negron is also third all-time with 31 career rushing touchdowns while Redmond has nine rushing scores.
Junior wide receiver Liam Nolan caught a game-high six passes for 85 yards for the Greyhounds while Negron pulled in five receptions for 47 yards. Nolan heads to his senior year needing just 62 yards to become the 18th wide receiver in school history to reach 1,000 career receiving yards. Sophomore wide receiver Justice Anderson had four catches for 33 yards while senior tight end Andrew Racobaldo added three receptions for 48 yards. Junior wide receiver Jalen Snyder-Scipio made two catches for 41 yards as he will head to his senior season with 132 career receptions, eight shy of tying the school record, and 1,482 yards, eighth in school history. Redmond also caught one pass for five yards and returned three kickoffs for 63 yards in the game.
"I thought Hayes did a pretty good job today but Racobaldo was huge," stated Pukszyn. "The tight end was a big part of what we did today. He had some big catches, and Andrew always does a nice job of blocking on the perimeter."
The Hounds received the opening kickoff and moved down the field in seven plays as Gotzon scored on a one-yard touchdown run for his second career touchdown. Senior Jerome Wachter added the extra-point for a 7-0 lead just 2:14 into action. Gotzon had eight yards on five carries in the game as he made his first collegiate start while Wachter finished the season with a school record 42 extra-points made in 44 attempts.
The Aggies answered with a 10-yard touchdown pass on fourth down play to tie the game at 7-7 with 9:05 left in the first quarter.
Each team would punt on their next possession. The Greyhounds took over at the DVU 43-yard line after the punt. Moravian moved down to the eight-yard line where Wachter connected on a 25-yard field goal to put the Hounds back in front, 10-7, with 2:44 left in the first quarter. Wachter finished the season 4-for-6 on field goals and with 54 points, the fourth most points by a kicker in a season in school history.
The Greyhounds had a long pass negated by a penalty and ended up punting on their next possession after the Aggies had punted. Delaware Valley took Moravian's punt and went 36-yards to take a 14-10 lead with 8:25 left in the second quarter.
The teams would go to the locker room with the Aggies leading 14-10 after the Greyhounds had two drives end on downs and an interception late in the second quarter.
Delaware Valley took the opening kickoff of the second half and moved down the field until Moravian senior defensive back Anthony Orlando made his third interception of the season to end the drive at the DVU five-yard line.
The Hounds picked up a first down before Anderson was stripped of the ball after a reception, and the Aggies recovered. Delaware Valley would turn the turnover into a touchdown. Junior defensive lineman John Snyder blocked the extra-point to keep the DVU lead at 20-10 with 6:26 left in the third quarter.
Moravian moved into Delaware Valley territory on the next drive before senior defensive back/punter Jimmy McCarthy was called on to boot the ball away.
The Greyhounds' defense made a stop on a fourth-and-one inside the 10-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Moravian's offense responded with a 12-play, 92-yard drive. Early in the drive, Hayes hit Nolan with a 53 yard reception. Negron finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown run, the 34th touchdown of his career, second in school history, and 204 career points, third in the Moravian record books. After a penalty on the initial PAT, Wachter's extra-point bounced off the right upright to set the score at 20-16 for the Aggies with 7:32 remaining.
Moravian's defense came up with a tackle for loss and a sack to force a punt. The Hounds started at their own eight-yard line with 4:47 to play. Hayes hit Negron with a 29-yard pass and Negron ran for 11 yards to move the ball near midfield before the Blue & Grey turned the ball over on downs.
The Hounds defense stood tall again and forced a punt as Moravian's offense came back on the field with 2:24 remaining and the ball at its own 15-yard line. However, the Greyhounds turned the ball over on downs with three incomplete passes.
The Aggies picked up one first down before running out the clock as Delaware Valley's offense picked up 302 yards on 71 plays while controlling the ball for 34:53 of the action.
Orlando and senior linebacker Brendan Downey each had nine tackles to lead the Moravian defense with Orlando adding his third interception of the season and the fourth of his career and Downey contributing a half a tackle for loss. Orlando finishes his three-year career at Moravian with 225 tackles while Downey had 264 stops in his four seasons including a team-high tackles this fall.
"I think Anthony and Brendan were two guys in the back half of the defense that did an excellent job this afternoon," Pukszyn said. "I thought the entire defensive line played great, and we won the line of scrimmage because of their play."
Senior defensive end Tim McCabe had eight tackles against the aggies including one sack and one and a half tackles for loss to lead the Greyhounds with seven and a half sacks and 17 tackles for loss this fall. Freshman linebacker Steve Ewald made seven solo stops with one sack and two tackles for loss while Snyder and senior defensive lineman Dan Bracken each made six tackles with one for loss as Bracken finished his career with 103 tackles and Snyder will enter his senior year with 114 tackles. Senior defensive lineman Ryan Pysher and freshman defensive back Nick Zambelli each made five stops as Pysher finishes his career with 126 tackles.
McCarthy had three tackles to finish his career with 95 stops in just two years on defense and his team-leading 11th pass break-up of the season for 23 career passes defended including seven interceptions. McCarthy punted five times for an average of 39.0 yards on Saturday with a long of 52 yards, his sixth punt of the year of more than 50 yards. McCarthy also returned one kickoff for eight yards and completes his career as the school record holder with 77 kickoff returns and 1,579 kickoff return yards.
The Blue and Grey are slated to have 78 players from this year's squad return for the 2016 season.
"We have a lot coming back and the 2016 team will start in January with off season lifting will begin to start its own identity, and that is when the season really starts," Pukszyn finished. "There is a lot of potential and talent. It is all about molding that and getting leaders to emerge, and identifying a new group because the 2015 group is done now. They put their legacy into the Moravian football history as an 8-3 team and took us out of the basement from a pair of 2-8 seasons to a team that was rewarded with a game in that 11th week. They are passing the torch and it is up to the 2016 squad to keep climbing the mountain."