SRU falls in PSAC grid final

Rock still qualifies for Div. II playoffs

November 15, 2021 Cranberry Local Sports

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KUTZTOWN — Kutztown's ground game ran through Slippery Rock. Opportunities slipped away from The Rock as well.

It all added up to a 38-32 PSAC Football Championship Game loss for SRU Saturday at Andre Reed Stadium.

“Too many mistakes,” Rock coach Shawn Lutz said. “We just didn't play well. You can't expect to win a championship game playing like we did today.”

The loss snapped The Rock's 11-game road winning streak, dating back to the 2018 playoffs. SRU (9-2) did qualify for the NCAA Division II playoffs, however, securing the No. 6 seed in Super Region One.

SRU will travel to third-seeded Notre Dame (Ohio) Saturday, kickoff time to be announced.

“Things didn't go our way (Saturday) but we're not going to apologize for being one of the 28 teams in the country to reach the playoffs,” Lutz said.

“If someone would have told me before the season that we'd be in the playoff field at the end of the year, I'd have taken that in a heartbeat.”

The Rock will take an injury-riddled unit into postseason, however. Playing Kutztown without starting defensive linemen Jeff Marx and Garrett de Bien, defensive backs Dalton Holt and Savion Harrison — all out with injuries — SRU's lineup grew thinner during the game.

Receiver Jermaine Wynn Jr. was carted off the field with a knee injury in the first quarter and is done for the season. Safeties Hunter Merritt and Eddie Faulkner IV left the game with injuries as well.

“We won't use injuries as an excuse,” Lutz said. “I feel badly for the guys we've lost, but it's a next man up mentality. You have to keep going.”

Kutztown (10-1) secured the No. 1 seed in the region with Saturday's win. The Golden Bears racked up 389 yards on the ground while throwing only 11 passes all day. One of those passes resulted in a screen toss to Jerome Kapp that went for an 84-yard touchdown.

Kutztown also scored on runs of 50 yards by quarterback Eric Nickel and 61 by running back Jeremiah Nelson. Nelson had 23 carries for 223 yards and two touchdowns. He was named the game's MVP. Nickel rushed for 74 yards and two scores.

SRU was the beneficiary of two fumbled punts by Kutztown, one inside the Golden Bears' 15-yard line, the other inside the 25. The Rock scored on neither opportunity.

Rock quarterback Noah Grover was intercepted in the end zone by Justin Harris to kill the first opportunity. SRU turned the ball over on downs on the second one.

“We needed to cash in on those. That was a big part of this game,” Lutz admitted.

Grover threw for 298 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted three times. Tim Smith rushed for 125 yards and two scores for The Rock. SRU trailed 38-20 late in the fourth quarter before tacking on two late scores.

Henry Litwin had 11 catches for 112 yards, giving him 217 career receptions at SRU. That broke the previous program mark of 215, set by Greg Hopkins in 1994.

Litwin needs 34 receiving yards to break Hopkins' career record of 3,382 in that department.

“Records are made to be broken,” Lutz said. “It's a different game today, so much more passing. But Greg Hopkins had an outstanding career in arena football. Getting that record is a great accomplishment for Henry.”

Notes: The Rock is 3-4 in state title games over the past 10 years. ... Butler graduate Tim Vernick and Trysten McDonald had nine tackles each defensively. ... Chad Kuhn recorded his 29th career sack for The Rock. ... Wynn ends his SRU career with 202 catches, 2,858 yards and 32 touchdowns. He led The Rock in all-purpose yardage this season with 1,224. ... Every four-year member of the SRU program since the freshmen class of 2008 has won a PSAC West title and played in at least one PSAC Championship Game.

Slippery Rock 10 7 3 12 — 32

Kutztown 7 17 0 14 — 38

First Quarter

SRU — DJ Opsatnik 32 field goal, 10:19

K — Jerome Kapp 84 pass from Eric Nickel (Nick Coppolino kick), 4:40

SRU — Tim Smith 4 run (Opsatnik kick), 1:11

Second Quarter

K — Nickel 50 run (Coppolino kick), 13:36

K — Jeremiah Nelson 5 run (Coppolino kick), 11:12

SRU — Max Maciejewski 29 pass from Noah Grover (Opsatnik kick), 9:04

K — Coppolino 23 field goal, 3:30

Third Quarter

SRU — Opsatnik 26 field goal, 12:43

Fourth Quarter

K — Nickel 1 run (Coppolino kick), 11:53

K — Nelson 61 run (Coppolino kick), 6:25

SRU — Smith 2 run (pass failed), 3:39

SRU — Henry Litwin 17 pass from Grover (run failed), :43

Individual Statistics

Rushing: SRU, Tim Smith 16-125, Noah Grover 10-3, Chris D'Or 3-3, TEAM 1-(-7). Kutztown, Jeremiah Nelson 23-223, Eric Nickel 9-74, Jordan Davis 12-66, Zaire Jones 7-35, TEAM 3-(-9).

Passing: SRU, Noah Grover 29-49-298-3. Kutztown, Eric Nickel 5-11-130-1.

Receiving: SRU, Henry Litwin 11-112, Max Maciejewski 5-66, Kenyon Johnson 2-37, John Eakin 1-26, Kyler Sheets 4-23, Cinque Sweeting 3-16, Jermaine Wynn Jr. 2-9, Tim Smith 1-9. Kutztown, Jereome Kapp 2-96, Kaden Hastie 1-20, Derek Anderson 1-14, Jordan Davis 1-0.

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John Enrietto

John Enrietto

I graduated with a Journalism degree from Ohio University in 1979. I started at the Eagle on August 24, 1997. My awards include 2nd place in feature writing from Ohio Associated Press (while working for the Steubenville Herald-Star), media award from Lernerville Speedway and 3rd place in a Pennsylvania AP contest for story feature.