Marist football went down to central Florida and beat the Stetson Hatters by a score of 45-31. If any game should be described as a back-and-forth firework affair, it should be this one.
With the game tied at 31 late in the fourth quarter, Marist made their two biggest plays of the game – and they both came from their best player, Clayborne Fields III. First, he returned a punt 89 yards to the house, giving Marist a 38-31 lead. This play was already electric enough, but Fields had more in his bag.
On Stetson’s drive to tie the game at 38, Fields picked up his first interception of the season, jumping Meitz’s pass and taking that all the way for his second touchdown of the game.
The matchup on paper wasn’t favorable for Marist (2-3, 2-1 in the PFL) as Stetson is a team that loves to throw the football, and Marist was prone to the passing attack in their prior matchup against St. Thomas. True sophomore quarterback Brady Meitz had been averaging 327 passing yards per game coming in.
Early on however, Stetson did not look like this type of team at all.
On their opening drive, Stetson ran a quarterback sneak on third down and long, looking like the New York Giants. Was Joe Judge secretly making the decisions for the Hatters? They even wasted a timeout on fourth down this very drive, proving that there was definitely some sort of confusion with the offense.
On the next possession, Meitz threw an ill-advised interception on what seemed to be a screen play. Graduate student linebacker Arthur Pinckney made an incredible catch, pressing the football to the helmet of a Stetson defensive lineman, a strange variation of the David Tyree helmet catch.
Brock Bagozzi had started the game at quarterback for Marist, but after the offense went nowhere on the first few possessions, head coach Jim Parady put in redshirt freshman Diego Arroyo.
Arroyo ran onto the field with the white #11 jersey, usually the number of redshirt freshman QB Josh Ehrlich. However, Marist doesn’t have duplicates of their white jerseys, so Teddy Wright wore the #5 jersey while Arroyo wore #11 since Ehrlich was probably not going to see playing time.
In his first snap of the day, Arroyo ran a play action in the pistol formation and lobbed the ball up to redshirt junior tight end Max Mazzella who caught it for a touchdown. This was Arroyo’s first touchdown pass of his career, a big moment for a young quarterback who has struggled in the limited playing time he has had.
Stetson countered this quickly with a home run 40-yard touchdown run by their backup running back Kaderris Roberts, cutting in-and-out and eluding Marist defenders all the way to the house.
Strangely enough, after it looked like Arroyo was set in the QB role for the rest of the game, Bagozzi came back in, and he came back with a bang. He threw a 60-yard touchdown dart to redshirt junior receiver Trevor Sterry, his first touchdown reception of the season.
Immediately after this, on the ensuing kickoff, Jalen Mason caught the kick and busted through the Red Fox special teams unit, taking it to the house for a 94-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14.
A few defensive possessions later, Aaron Acosta came up huge with an interception. This would once again giving Marist the ball in Stetson’s redzone. Marist would settle for only a 33-yard Luke Paladino field goal, but these were free points that were generated by the defense.
Marist entered halftime with a lead, going up 17-14.
This pacing would set the tone for the half, as the back-and-forth nature of the first half would not be prevalent here. In a way, it was almost the opposite of last week’s game against St. Thomas where the first half was slow and the second had all the excitement.
The excitement came with 2:30 left in the third quarter, when redshirt senior Glenmour Leonard-Osbourne showcased his world class speed on an 80-yard touchdown sprint. Once he broke the second level, you knew no one was catching up.
It was all well and good for Marist, but like last week, the Red Foxes made their biggest mistakes when it mattered most.
First, after an offensive pass interference that was called on redshirt senior Brandon Lombana, Brock Bagozzi threw an interception after his intended receiver dropped the ball into the hands of star Stetson cornerback Ja’Veon Ensley, giving the Hatters the ball in Marist’s redzone.
Stetson would cash in on the pick, scoring a touchdown on a six-yard Devon Brewer run a few snaps later.
Arroyo would come in at QB the next possession, but then he threw an interception as well. This time it was all the fault of the quarterback, throwing it with his intended receiver draped in coverage.
After this play, the game went into a 20-minute pause after sophomore offensive lineman Jake Anapol was down on his stomach motionless. He had taken a knee to the back of his head during the interception return, which seemed to be the cause of the injury.
Both teams went down on a knee as they put Anapol on a stretcher and away from the vicinity of the stadium. As the stretcher rolled away, all the Marist players ran to Anapol, sending their love to him and his family who accompanied him to the ambulance.
When the field cleared, it was back to game action, and Marist couldn’t get back on their feet. Meitz had his best individual drive of the game, concluding with a 16-yard touchdown pass to receiver Quinton Lane, giving the Hatters a 31-24 lead.
Marist quickly found their footing, as their next drive ended up being their best of the day. The Red Foxes went on a 91-yard drive with Bagozzi at QB taking what the Stetson defense gave him and not trying to force anything. This drive culminated with a touchdown by Amin Woods to tie up the game with 4:40 to go in the contest.
Then, came Fields’ heroics which sealed the game and Marist’s second win of the season.
Fields is tied for first on the team with two individual touchdowns, which is rare for a defensive player to hold five weeks into a season.
The Red Foxes will return to Tenney Stadium next week to take on the Dayton Flyers. Kickoff is set for noon.
Edited by Jonathan Kinane
Photo from Kira Crutcher