BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- The Moravian College football team opened the 2018 season with a 24-0 shutout of King's College in non-conference action at Rocco Calvo Field Saturday as sophomore quarterback Doug Erney tossed a pair of touchdown pass.
The shutout was the first for the Greyhounds since the program blanked Juniata College, 42-0, on the road back on October 23, 2010, and the previous shutout at Rocco Calvo Field dates back to October 20, 2001 when the Hounds kept Delaware Valley University off the scoreboard in a 42-0 win.
"To have all of the hard work pay off, I'm really proud of this team," stated Head Coach Jeff Pukszyn. "They worked really hard during camp, and it paid off. We weren't mistake free and we left some points out there, but the guys did an unbelievable job playing for each other. The shutout is kind of the cherry on top of the sundae. I'm real proud of the defense for the way they played, and offensively, taking care of the football as much as we did being even on the turnover battle. We did take advantage of our opportunities."
Moravian's offense racked up 452 yards on 67 plays behind Erney, and the Hounds also held onto the ball for 33:54 with a large chunk of that, 19:46, in the second half. Erney completed 15-of-23 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns, and he also ran the ball 11 times for 79 yards as the Greyhounds ran for 262 yards in the game. Senior Eli Redmond rank for a game-high 96 yards on 13 carries while junior running back Roberto Diez returned to the lineup after missing all of 2017 with an injury to carry the ball 14 times for 91 yards and a score. Freshman running back Gerald Grube had 19 yards on three attempts in his collegiate debut.
Erney spread the ball around with seven different players catching a pass led by sophomore wide receiver Nick Petros grabbing five passes for 68 yards and a touchdown. Freshman wide receiver Cory Little had three catches for 54 yards while freshman wide receiver Eddie Olsen and junior wideout Alex Pierce each catching two passes with Olsen adding a touchdown and 37 yards and Pierce gaining 14 yards. Junior wide receiver Andrew Lelie had one catch for seven yards while Redmond pulled in one pass for six yards and junior running back Sal Pagano adding a reception for four years after missing most of 2017 with an injury.
"I think you could tell that these guys are now in their second year together," Pukszyn said of his offense. "Eli has been here a few years, Roberto has been injured and Doug was in his first year last year but to have one whole year under their belt together, you could see them be more comfortable together on the field. The receivers like Alex and Nick have a year in now and the comfort level certainly helps and you could see it today."
Defensively, sophomore linebacker Brady Hornbaker recorded a team-high nine tackles with two for loss and a half a sack while freshman linebacker Noah Breidinger had eight stops with one tackle for loss. Sophomore defensive back Justin McRae, sophomore defensive back Jackson Buskirk and senior defensive lineman Nick Tone each had seven tackles with Tone adding a half a tackle for loss and Buskirk breaking up a pass and returning two punts for 19 yards. Senior defensive back Jacob Kober had six tackles and an interception he returned eight yards while sophomore linebacker Tanner Barr also made six tackles with one for loss. Sophomore defensive back Jalen Richardson and freshman defensive lineman Tijir Bleam each recorded five tackles with Richardson breaking up a pass and Bleam making a tackle for loss and half a sack.
"I think overall on the defensive line that we're deep and it is nice to have a rotation because of drives like the 17-play drive in the first half where we can keep fresh guys on the field," noted Pukszyn. "I thought Brady and sophomore linebacker Austin Heisler played well, and Nick Tone has been practicing at an elite level and played that way. Jake Kober made the second start of his career and came up with a huge interception."
The Monarchs opened the game with a 14-play drive that ended with a 34-yard field goal attempt coming up short to give Moravian the ball on its own 20-yard line. The Greyhounds needed just eight plays to reach the end zone 80 yards away. Erney connected with Little on the initial first down of the season on a nine-yard pass, and Erney ran 46 yards for another first down. Facing a third and ten, Erney found Petros in the back right corner of the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown. Senior Jon Miller split the uprights with the extra-point for a 7-0 lead with 5:07 left in the first quarter.
The teams would trade punts before Moravian's defense came up with a fourth down stop early in the second quarter. The Hounds used the momentum to go 73 yards in eight plays to extend the lead. Redmond had a 16-yard run and Erney hit Petros with a 13-yard pass to move past midfield. Diez would finish off the drive with runs of eight, 19 and seven yards with the final one putting him in the end zone for the first time since October of 2016. Miller added another extra-point for a 14-0 lead with 7:39 before the intermission.
On the third play of the Monarchs' next drive, Kober intercepted a tipped pass and returned it to the King's 49-yard line to set up the Moravian offense. Erney and Olsen connected for a 14-yard pass, and the Greyhounds would move into the red zone before Erney lost the ball just outside the end zone on a quarterback draw and King's recovered in the end zone for a touchback.
Moravian forced a punt and had just over a minute left before halftime. Redmond had a 19-yard run while Erney hit Little with a 15-yard completion to put the ball on the King's 24-yard line. The Hounds brought Miller in to attempt a career-long 41-yard field goal on the final play of the half but the kick fell short as Moravian kept its 14-0 lead after 30 minutes of action.
The Greyhounds received the opening kickoff of the second half and needed just seven plays to cover 71 yards to the end zone. Redmond had runs of 15 and 11 yards to move the ball to midfield before Erney hit Little with a 30-yard pass play. Two plays later, Erney found Olsen across the middle for a 23-yard touchdown pass, and Miller's PAT made the advantage, 21-0, with 11:17 left in the third quarter.
The Monarchs embarked on a 17-play, 82-yard drive on their next possession but Hornbaker made a stop inside the five-yard line on fourth and goal to end the scoring threat. After taking over deep in their own territory, the Hounds would move 88 yards in 13 plays to set up Miller for a 25-yard field goal to cap the scoring with 13:53 left in the fourth quarter and the 24-0 lead.
The Blue and Grey would force two more punts by King's sandwiched around aa 13-play drive that covered just 37 yards but took 7:58 off of the clock. Moravian's final drive would run out the clock after an 11-yard pickup by Grube.
"I think it is great for Moravian football, and it shows that the hard works pays a lot of dividends," Pukszyn stated about the season opening win to go along with the new Shaw Sports Turf at Rocco Calvo Field, a renovated locker room over the summer and a new look on the field with helmets and uniforms. "I think that came about today through the upper classmen in creating a great culture in the offseason. The guys did a great job of staying in touch when they spread out for the summer and they all came to work with their hard hats on every day during camp. We reaped the benefits of that today."
Moravian is scheduled to begin its 2018 Centennial Conference schedule on Saturday, September 8 with a trip to McDaniel College for a 1:00 p.m. kickoff in Westminster, Maryland.