By: Eric Belair, Communications Director
It was a tale of two halves for the Syracuse Strong as they used the second half to propel themselves to a 38-0 win over the visiting Sussex Stags.
It was a back and forth first half as each team had quick drives that were stunted short by the opposing defenses. Syracuse found the back of the end zone for the game’s first score after the Stags muffed a punt return, this set up a 16-yard touchdown run by Travon Burke.
This 7-0 lead lasted through the rest of the half, but the second half was an entirely different story for the Strong.
Syracuse came out of the halftime gates like a different team. The Strong scored touchdowns on their first three possessions of the third quarter. Each score was a product of their tremendous ground game.
“We have an I-formation package with Burke at tailback, then [Greg] Tobias in the spread game,” said head coach David Johnson about his running backs. “You can’t beat that duo back there.”
Syracuse opened up the half with a 39-yard run by Tobias and the drive was finished off with a 13-yard touchdown run by Burke.
The Stags could not handle the ensuing kickoff from Eric Wojtaszek, giving Syracuse another possession. Burke bulldozed his way to his third touchdown of the game on a short 7-yard run. Burke finished the game with 14 carries for 155 yards.
Blair Taylor intercepted the Stags quarterback Dante Monaco, which was the first of the two interceptions that Syracuse had on the evening. The interception led to a Tobias touchdown. Tobias received the handoff to the right and got to the outside. Once he rounded the corner, he sprinted 35 yards for a touchdown, which gave the Strong a 28-0 lead.
Tobias finished the night with a game-high 16 carries for 215 yards.
“100 percent of the success that we have now is the [offensive] line,” said Johnson. “Once we can open the holes, the backs have a place to run.”
Syracuse had the ball to start the fourth quarter and the scoring continued. Wojtaszek connected on a 30-yard field goal for the 31-point lead.
The final touchdown came from backup quarterback Shakem Buckmon on a 35-yard read option play.
Starting quarterback Dan West finished with 111 yards in the air on 6 of 14 passing and one interception.
Syracuse’s defense had another solid performance as they held the Stags to a lowly 3 of 21 passing for 29 yards and two interceptions on a combination of three different signal callers. To go along with this was a total of 18 yards rushing by Sussex starting running back Raheem Ridley.
The stifling defense of the Strong totaled five sacks on Sussex, along with three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
“Our defense has been stellar all season. We can’t say enough about the whole defensive unit,” said Johnson. “The front seven can get great pressure, it’s tough to move the ball against them.”