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Fisher football season ends with 45-23 loss in quarterfinal

Nationally-ranked St. John Fisher College fell to No. 3 ranked University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (UMHB) 45-23 in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division III Football Championship Saturday in Belton, Texas.

Mary Hardin-Baylor advances to the semifinals and improves to 13-0.  Fisher finishes the season 10-3 overall.

Trailing 31-12 the Cardinals went on a 15 play 80-yard drive early into the final quarter.  Brendan Carey converted a 26-yard field goal to make it a two possession game, 31-15, two minutes into the fourth quarter.

The teams traded non-scoring drives, until Mike Guinta intercepted Zach Anderson and returned it into UMHB territory.  It was Gunita's third straight game with an interception and seventh in the last eight games.  Guinta's eight interceptions on the season is a school record.

It took the Cardinals just :47 seconds to find the endzone as Fenti hooked up with Nathan Nigolian for a 19-yard score.  The Cardinals converted the two-point conversion as Fenti found Ryan Sweet to make it a one possession game, 31-23, midway through the final quarter.

On the ensuing drive backup quarterback Brian Gallagher found running back Elijah Hudson who used his feet to scamper 70 yards into Fisher territory.  Gallagher scored on a quarterback keeper later in the drive to put the Crusaders up 38-23 at the 5:48 mark.

Sitting at the UMHB 43-yard line on the next possession, Crusaders defensive lineman Teidrick Smith forced a sack-fumble to take over the possession with under five minutes to play.  The Crusaders sealed the victory on the next drive as Gallagher used his legs for a nine-yard score with 1:37 remaining which would prove to be the final score.

UMHB got on the board first, thanks to a 75-yard punt which pinned Fisher inside its own 2-yard line. Fenti was flagged for intentional grounding on third down which resulted in a safety and a 2-0 Crusader lead four minutes into the contest.

The Fisher defense was up for the challenge following the free kick, holding the Crusaders to a three-and-out.  Fisher's offense took the field, but an Andy McAteer interception at the Fisher 36-yard line helped set up a 47-yard field goal to give the Crusaders a 5-0 lead midway through the opening quarter.

Two possessions later the Crusaders defense came up with another big play.  Brodrick Cain intercepted Fenti and scampered 36 yards into the endzone.  The Crusaders led 12-0 after the opening quarter which saw both teams combine for just 60 total yards.

UMHB started out with possession in the second quarter and marched down to the Fisher 26.  Facing a fourth and 10 the Crusaders elected against a field goal and the Fisher defense held.

Fisher's offense carried that momentum following the the defensive stand.  The Cardinals marched 75-yards on 13 plays capped off by a two-yard touchdown run by Cody Miller.  Silvio Diaz blocked the ensuing PAT and UMHB led 12-6.

After struggling to get things going on offense side of the ball, in large part due to the defensive effort of the Cardinals, UMHB marched down the field on its next possession.  UMHB found the endzone on a one-yard touchdown from Hudson to take a 19-6 lead into the half.

UMHB started out the third quarter with a bang, as Anderson completed a 53-yard pass to Eric Nelson to move inside the Fisher red zone.  The stingy Fisher defense was able to hold the Crusaders to just three points for a 22-6 margin.

The Cardinals looked to respond on the next possession.  Throwing off his back foot, Fenti heaved a pass in the air which Dan Rudy snatched in the middle of the field taking it 69 yards to the UMHB 20.  However the Cardinals were halted on a fourth an one to kill the drive.

Following a defensive stand, Kevin Francis was stripped on the return to give the Crusaders excellent field position.  Marcus Wimby found Michael Carpenter to push the UMHB lead to 29-6 midway through the third quarter.

On the next possession, Miller found paydirt for the second time in the game on a 12 play 75-yard drive to make it 29-12.  Fisher opted to go for the two-point conversion but Fenti was intercepted by Cody Jones who went the length of the field to make it 31-12 with under three minutes to play in the third quarter.

Fenti finished the game 37-60 for 411 yards and in doing so set the College's single season record for completions in a season with 259.  

Francis finished with 11 catches for 108 yards.  Francis became just the third wide receiver in school history to top 1,000 receiving yards in a season (1,092).  Fellow classmate Dan Rudy also grabbed 11 balls for 167 yards.

Miller collected 15 yards rushing to finish with 1, 081 for the season.  Miller closes out his illustrious career with 3,279 yards on the ground, third on the all-time list.

Sean Preish racked up a team-high 11 tackles to finish the season with 128 tackles, putting him seventh on the single season list.

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Washington Times