WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ — Sacred Heart (3-6, 1-5) defeated the Monmouth Hawks (3-5, 3-2) 26-25 in a thrilling game at Kessler Field. The Pioneers were led by running back Marcel Archer who ran 18 times for 86 yards and four touchdowns, including the game winner. Afterword, both head coaches were in very different moods. All Sacred Heart head coach Paul Gorham wanted to talk about was Archer.
“I think I have a good one-two punch with him and Greg Ibe,” Gorham said. “It keeps both those guys hungry, and he [Archer] runs so hard. He had a great game.”
Meanwhile, Monmouth head coach Kevin Callahan was visibly frustrated afterwards.
“We got off to a slow start today,” Callahan said. “That’s probably my responsibility for not making sure we were ready for a fast and an explosive start. You have to credit Sacred Heart for that. I thought we did a great job of getting ourselves back into it and retaking the lead. But unfortunately, we didn’t finish.”
The first half for Monmouth did not go well at all. They entered the locker room down 14-3. They needed a spark. They turned to Andrew Mandeville at quarterback. It nearly worked.
Having the same effect as he did in the season opener against Colgate, Mandeville ran for 110 yards, scored a touchdown, while passing for 89 yards and throwing another touchdown. It all started on the opening possession of the second half, as Mandeville led the offense on a five play, 49 yard drive that resulted in a Nick Romeo 13 yard rushing touchdown. And with 11:39 left in the third quarter, Monmouth was right back in it, with the score 14-10 Pioneers.
After having loads of problems getting the Pioneers off the field in the first half, the Hawk defense made a stand, forcing the Pioneers to punt.
Mandeville then led the Hawks offense on an eight play, 44-yard drive that resulted in an Eric Spillane 23-yard field goal, which set the Monmouth record for most field goals made in a single season, at 14. With 5:34 left in the quarter, it was 14-13 Sacred Heart.
Once again the Hawks defense made a stand, forcing the Pioneers to punt once again, and as the fourth quarter started, the next possession led to one of the first questionable coaching calls of the afternoon.
On the ensuing Hawks offensive possession Mandeville successfully led Monmouth on a 12-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in a Balial Sloan El three yard touchdown run. However, Callahan decided to go for two and it failed, so with 12:55 left, it was now 19-14 Monmouth.
“We needed to make that,” Callahan said. “At that point in the game, in the 4th quarter, we needed to make that stand up. We needed [it] so that a touchdown alone wouldn’t beat us.”
Sacred Heart answered right back, helped by a late hit out of bounds penalty on Monmouth defensive back Kenny Amsel. QB Dale Fink led his offense on a six-play, 81-yard drive, resulting in a 20-yard touchdown for Archer. But they also elected to go for two and they also failed, so with 11:10 left in the game, it was now 20-19 Sacred Heart.
The back and forth action continued as on the next Monmouth offensive possession, Mandeville hit Romeo for a 60-yard touchdown reception, and the Hawks took the lead again. But they went for two again – seemingly needing to make up for the last failed attempt – and failed again, with Mandeville throwing an interception. So with 9:24 left in the ball game it was now 25-20 Hawks.
The Hawks once again forced the Pioneers to punt, and with about seven minutes left, Mandeville got the ball back with a chance to seal the win. And they nearly did so.
He led the offense 61 yards in five plays, including a 52-yard scramble, setting up a 41-yard field goal attempt from Spillane. The field goal missed wide left, however, and the number one passing offense had 3:39 to see if they could pull the game out. And they did.
Fink led his team on a nine-play, 76-yard drive that included plays of 10, 15, 16, and 23 yards. It all led to a one yard rush from Archer, his fourth touchdown of the game. The two-point conversion that followed failed and they gave the ball back to the Hawks with just 51 seconds left, ahead by one, 26-25. Fink finished with 21-38 passing for 220 yards.
Callahan reinserted his more passing-oriented quarterback, Kyle Frazier into run the offense but a sack by Sacred Heart defensive end Justin Embler ended the Hawks chances and ultimately the game, and the Pioneers hung on to win 26-25.
Sacred Heart returns home to face Albany next Saturday.
Monmouth goes on the road next Saturday to face Wagner at 1 pm. They will need to get past this loss fast to start focusing for Wagner.
“It’s really frustrating,” Romeo said. “Basically every game we’re in until the end. We’re just not finishing. It really hurts. I look forward, I guess, to next week.”