Springfield (1-2, 0-1 Empire 8), ranked 18th in this week’s D3football.com poll, came into Saturday’s contest averaging 32.5 points per contest, but was kept off the scoreboard until Sharpe’s two-yard TD run with 1:45 left in the third. Earlier in that quarter, Sharpe outdistanced Springfield's all-time career rushing leader, Kevin Cahill (1997-2000). Cahill's record had been 3,209 yards. Sharpe finished the day with 3,264 yards.
Alfred (3-0, 1-0 Empire 8) scored on three of five first-half possessions to take a 21-0 lead at intermission. Senior wide receiver Saucobie Riley then returned the second-half kickoff 88 yards for a score and AU led 28-0. The Saxons added a safety with 5:29 remaining in the third, and a minute later Riley caught a four-yard pass from senior quarterback Paul Keeley to put the Saxons up 37-0.
Alfred’s offense, which averages 40 points per contest, clicked all game long. Keeley completed all 10 of his first-half passes fore 157 yards and finished the game 15-of-18 for 212 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Sophomore tailback Vinson Hendrix, who entered the contest as the third-ranked rusher in Division III (181.5 yards per game) ran for 97 first-half yards and a touchdown and finished with 121 yards on 19 carries.
Hendrix’s 15-yard run five minutes into the game gave AU a 7-0 lead. After Alfred forced Springfield to turn the ball over on downs at the AU 24-yard line, the Saxons marched 76 yards on six plays, with senior defensive tackle Don Miller plowing in from a yard out, and giving Alfred a 14-0 lead with 1:56 left in the opening quarter. Keeley completed three passes on the drive for 65 yards.
Alfred had a chance to pad its lead, driving to the Springfield 2-yard line with just more than six minutes left in the second quarter before failing to score on three successive runs. AU forced Springfield to punt with 40 seconds left in the half and drove 53 yards in three plays, with Keeley connecting with junior wideout Trevor Bork on a 21-yard touchdown with 19 seconds left.
Springfield entered the game with the top defense in the Empire 8, allowing only 238 yards of offense per game. But Alfred, the top offense in the conference, finished with 417 total yards. Bork had a game-high five catches for 94 yards, and Riley added four catches for 39 yards. Hendrix added 32 yards on three catches and sophomore wideout Jared Manzer caught two passes for 38 yards. Senior tailback Elmer Newsome had 51 yards rushing on nine carries.
Sharpe, who entered the game ranked second in the nation in rushing with 183 yards per game, ran for 106 yards on 22 carries and completed one pass for 15 yards. Fullback Andrew Jackson (Pennsville, N.J.) and halfback Derron Walker (White Plains, N.Y.) added 63 and 49 yards, respectively, as Springfield churned out 272 rushing yards, 74 yards below the Pride’s per-game average entering the contest.
Junior free safety Brian Nitsche led the Saxon defense with 10 tackles (nine solo, two for loss) and a pass breakup. Junior middle linebacker John Soule had nine tackles (five solo) and junior cornerback Ron Smith had six solo tackles and a pass breakup.
Free safety Jarred Burrell (Cranston, R.I.) had nine tackles (six solo) to pace Springfield’s defense. Linebacker Tom Caporale (Closter, N.J.)and tackle John Ward (Stoughton, Mass.) each had seven tackles (three solo) and end Jason Bakoulis (Norwich, Conn.) had three tackles, including a sack.
The Pride will play its fourth-consecutive away contest to open up the 2007 campaign at Utica next Saturday. Kick-off is slated for 12:30 p.m.