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Greyhounds Top McDaniel, 14-9, to Open 2018 Centennial Conference Schedule

The Moravian defense makes a stop at McDaniel College during the third quarter.
The Moravian defense makes a stop at McDaniel College during the third quarter.

WESTMINSTER, Md. --- The Moravian College football team recovered four fumbles, one for a touchdown, as the Greyhounds battled host McDaniel College and a steady rain to post a 14-9 victory over the Green Terror to begin the 2018 Centennial Conference season Saturday.

"It is never easy to win on the road, and this trip down to McDaniel along with the weather conditions were pretty poor today but I think the players did a great job of handling everything," stated Head Coach Jeff Pukszyn. "The guys dealt well with the weather and travel, coming together for a big team win today."

The Hounds, now 2-0, controlled the ball for 35:42 and had 181 yards on 66 plays in the game including 111 on the ground. Sophomore quarterback Doug Erney ran for a team-high 49 yards on 11 carries including a nine-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and he completed 5-of-15 passes for 70 yards. Senior running back Eli Redmond ran for 48 yards on 28 attempts as he moved into 11th in school history with 1,837 career yards while junior running back Roberto Diez added 18 yards on nine carries.

Sophomore wide receiver Nick Petros caught two passes for 44 yards, and he tied a school record by punting 11 times in the game for 327 yards including four punts inside the 20-yard line. Junior wide receiver Andrew Lelie caught one pass for 22 yards while junior wide receiver Alex Pierce and freshman wide receiver Eddie Olsen each caught on one pass for two yards.

Sophomore linebacker Brady Hornbaker led the Moravian defense with seven tackles including three and a half tackles for loss and two sacks to go with a forced fumble. Sophomore defensive back Jackson Buskirk added six tackles and a fumble recovery he returned five yards for a touchdown, and Buskirk returned two punts for 21 yards. Senior defensive lineman Nick Tone had six tackles with one and a half for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery while sophomore defensive lineman Shane Mastro made six tackles with two for loss, a sack and a forced fumble.

Freshman linebacker Noah Breidinger contributed four tackles with two for loss and a fumble recovery while freshman defensive lineman Tijir Bleam and sophomore linebacker Tanner Barr each had four tackles with a half a tackle for loss and Barr added a pass break-up and a kickoff return of seven yards. Sophomore defensive back Jalen Richardson made three tackles and broke up three passes while junior defensive lineman Christian Coia had three stops with a sack.

"You need to take advantage of the opportunities with turnovers, stealing possessions and giving the ball back to our offense, and I thought we were really able to do that today," Pukszyn said. "Any time you can score on defense that is an added bonus. The was a big heads up play on the touchdown, and the one that was a lateral that sometimes on those bubble screens everyone thinks it is an incompletion so you need to play to the whistle like the defense did on that one."

The Green Terror opened the game with the ball but on the second play of the game, Tone forced a fumble that was recovered by sophomore defensive back Justin McRae. Moravian picked up a first down before punting for the first time in the game.

On McDaniel's next drive, the Hounds thought they had forced another fumble, but a penalty negated the turnover, and McDaniel finished the drive with a 37-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead with 9:01 left in the first quarter.

After punts by both teams, Petros pinned the Green Terror at their own six-yard line. On the first play, Mastro forced a fumble that Buskirk scooped up at the five-yard line and took three strides into the end zone for a touchdown. Senior Jon Miller added the extra-point to give Moravian as 7-3 lead with 1:38 left in the first quarter.

The game would remain that way throughout the second quarter with drives either ending on punts of downs for both squads as the score remained 7-3 Greyhounds heading into the locker room at halftime.

The Blue and Grey weren't able to do much on the first drive of the second half, punting once again. However, McDaniel fumbled the first play of its drive to put the Hounds' offensive right back on the field. Moravian moved inside the five-yard line before bringing Miller on for a 22-yard field goal attempt that ended up hitting the left upright.

After two more punts, the Greyhounds would get the ball back at the McDaniel 32-yard line after Tone fell on a loose ball after a bad snap. Diez ran for two yards before Erney had back-to-back runs of 21 and nine yards, the second getting into the end zone. Miller's PAT pushed the Moravian lead to 14-3 with 3:09 left in the third quarter.

Neither team was able to move the ball with the punts continuing. Late in the fourth quarter, Petros punted for the 11th time in the game, tying Jason Navarro's record of 11 set on September 18, 1999 against Albright College.

McDaniel was able to move the ball and eventually scored on an eight-yard touchdown pass by Tyler Palermiti with 1:05 to play. The two-point conversion failed and the Greyhounds recovered the ensuing on-side kick to seal the victory.

"We'll evaluate where we are, and I think we came out of the game healthy," Pukszyn commented. "Hopefully, we'll have another good week of practice each day. I think this team has done a great job on focusing on the day and getting better. Right now, good things have been happening for us on Saturday's and I couldn't be more proud of the guys."

The Hounds are slated to return to action on Saturday, September 15 when the squad hosts nationally-ranked Johns Hopkins University in a Centennial Conference game at Rocco Calvo Field with kickoff set for 2:05 p.m. on Moravian's Family Day. The contest will be aired live by TV-2 Sports.