BALTIMORE, MD – Visiting St. John Fisher ate more than 14 minutes off the clock in the first quarter and never let host Johns Hopkins get comfortable as the Cardinals topped the Blue Jays, 23-12, in the first round of the NCAA Division III Football Playoffs at Homewood Field Saturday afternoon. The win propels Fisher (9-2) into the second round and a trip to Delaware Valley, a 62-10 winner over Norwich on Saturday. Johns Hopkins ends the season at 10-1 and had its school-record 15-game wining streak snapped.
The Cardinals led just 13-12 after Johns Hopkins’ Scott Barletta capped a 12-play, 87-yard drive with a one-yard run midway through the third quarter. As they had done early the game, the Cardinals answered with a long drive that Cody Miller polished off with a two-yard scoring run of his own. The eight-play, 75-yard drive took just less than three minutes and was highlighted by a 42-yard pass form Ahmed Hassanien to Ryan Francis that set the Cardinals up at the Blue Jay 22- yard line. Miller went over five plays later to make it an eight-point game.
Hopkins had a chance to pull even early in the fourth quarter, but a 10-play, 58-yard drive came up empty when senior quarterback Hewitt Tomlin missed senior running back Nick Fazio on a swing pass from the Fisher 11 on a fourth-and-six play that turned the ball over on downs.
St. John Fisher moved the ball out to midfield on its ensuing possession before punting the Blue Jays deep in their own territory. Faced with a fourth-and-two from their own 34, the Blue Jays failed to convert and the Cardinals moved in for what proved to be the decisive score as Chad Monheim converted his third field goal of the game, this one from 23 yards out, to make it 23-12.
From there, the Cardinal defense came up with three big plays to seal the victory. Dave Vosburgh intercepted Tomlin on the first play after Monheim’s field goal and Troy Sant stopped Fazio one yard shy of a first down on a fourth-and-five play on the JHU’s next possession. The Blue Jays had one final chance late in the game, but a quick, nine-play, 74-yard drive ended when Tyler Schier picked off Tomlin in the end zone to kill the threat in the final minute and secure St. John Fisher’s date with Delaware Valley.
Despite rolling up 13:45 in possession time in the first quarter, the Cardinals led just 3-0 at the end of the period as Monheim’s 26-yard field goal capped a game-opening 16-play, 60-yard drive that took more than eight minutes off the clock for the only points of the first quarter. He added a 28-yard field goal on the second play of the second quarter to make it 6-0, but the Blue Jays answered with a 13-play, 60-yard drive of their own.
After a 19-yard loss on the first play of the drive, Tomlin converted a third-and-25 with a 30-yard strike down the middle to senior Tyler Porco- one of three, third-downs the Blue Jays would convert on the drive. Despite the success on third downs, it was actually a fourth-down play that resulted in JHU’s first touchdown as Tomlin fired a strike to sophomore Dan Wodicka from six-yards out to pull the Blue Jays even. The extra point was blocked.
Fisher sandwiched interceptions by Vosburgh and Wade Kline around a seven-yard touchdown pass from Hassanien to Francis to carry a 13-6 lead into halftime. Hassanien had relieved starting quarterback Ryan Kramer, who left with a hip injury after a two-yard run from the Blue Jay nine-yard line. On his first play of the game, Hassanien hit Francis and Monheim’s drilled the extra point to give the Cardinals the lead for good.
In a huge swing of momentum, it appeared the Cardinals were about to take control when they worked their way to the Blue Jay nine-yard line, but Miller’s fumble on first-and-goal was recovered by junior P.J. Caufield and the Blue Jays took over at their own 13-yard line.
Mixing the run and pass effectively, the Blue Jays moved deep into Fisher territory and Barletta’s one-yard run drew the Blue Jays to within 13-12 with 6:35 remaining in the third quarter. Porco and junior Jonathan Rigaud combined for 46 rushing yards and Tomlin connected on three passes to Wodicka to fuel the drive, but the extra point was wide right and Miller’s two-yard run followed three minutes later to give Fisher the eight-point lead that Hopkins couldn’t crack.
The Cardinals did a tremendous job of mixing the run and pass themselves as Miller’s 82 yards led a ground attack that accounted for 162 yards. Hassanien and Kramer combined to go 16-of-25 for 234 yards with the one score and no interceptions. Ryan Schmidt had 11 receptions for 124 yard and Francis added five catches for 110 yards and the one score – no other St. John Fisher player had a reception on the day.
A trio of Cardinals – Vosburgh, Schier and Travis Jones – led the way on defense as each had 11 tackles and Vosburgh added two of St. John Fisher’s five interceptions on the day.
Rigaud totaled 137 yards rushing and a career-high 230 all-purpose yards for the Blue Jays, who also got 224 yards passing from Tomlin and solid days from Wodicka (12-83-1) and junior Scott Cremens (10-89-0). Facing a St. John Fisher defense that rushed just three and dropped eight into coverage to prevent the big play, Tomlin was forced into a season-high five interceptions, but was still 31-of-52 for the 224 yards.
The Blue Jay defense kept Hopkins in the game with timely stops and by holding the Cardinals to three field goals on trips deep into the red zone. Senior Ryan Piatek totaled 15 tackles, including 1.5 for losses, while junior Taylor Maciow (11 tackles) and senior Michael Milano (10) also hit double figures in tackles. The Blue Jays came up with seven tackles for losses on the day and only one of JHU’s five turnovers on the day ended in points for the Cardinals, but an effective Fisher attack kept the Blue Jays just off balance enough to advance.