CANTON Former Indian River standout Zane Fish made the most of his first opportunity to start at quarterback for the St. Lawrence University football team this season, throwing for four touchdowns to help the Saints to a 32-15 victory over the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in a Liberty League game Saturday.
Fish, who was SLUs starting quarterback last year, filled in for injured starter Mike Lefflbine. Fish also played most of the game last week in SLUs 21-20 loss at Springfield.
It was pretty clear once Mike went down it was my job to step in, Fish said. The game plan was more specific to my attributes than Mike. We have somewhat different skill sets. It was good on the coaching staff to do things that are a little more built for me.
Fish and the Saints (6-2 overall, 4-1 conference) got off to a rocky start Saturday as a wet ball slipped away from him in the end zone, giving WPI a safety with 8 minutes, 48 seconds left in the opening quarter.
After SLUs ensuing kick, WPI moved 62 yards on 11 plays and extended the lead to 8-0 on a 3-yard run by Zach Grasis. Grasis had rushed for what he thought was a 62-yard touchdown earlier in the drive, but it was wiped out by an illegal block.
We faced adversity early, but it was great to see us overcome it, Fish said. Every game right now is kind of a playoff game.
The Saints answered WPI with a scoring drive of their own, moving 75 yards on 12 plays and cutting the deficit to 8-6 on a 7-yard pass from Fish to Max Johnson with 13:06 left in the first half.
SLUs defense then made its first of many big plays Saturday as James Holley-Grisham intercepted a pass on his own 37, setting up another scoring drive.
Fish came up with two big running plays on the drive, gaining 11 yards on a first down and then rushing for 10 yards on a 4th-and-10 play on the WPI 23.
I was looking for deeper (passes), Fish said. Im still making my read, but once the deep throw wasnt there I kind of took off. I had a good block on the outside and went straight for the pylon.
Two plays after that run Fish found Mike Tateosian on a 9-yard pass giving the Saints a 12-8 lead they would not relinquish with 7:10 left in the first half.
Tailback Maurice Irby got the Saints going on their next possession, opening a drive with a 40-yard run from his own 12 to the WPI 48.
It felt great, Irby said. I was a little tired there at first, but when I got through (the line) my adrenaline was going. My team was hyping me up. It was good.
Irby added a 15-yard run later in the drive and then on a 4th-and-7 play Fish completed a 24-yard touchdown pass to Evan Shifley to extend SLUs lead to 19-8 with 35 seconds left in the first half.
Colby Johnson sparked the Saints in the second half by returning the opening kickoff 61 yards to the WPI 14 and then Irby broke through for a 15-yard touchdown run on a 4th-and-1 play to make it 26-8.
We felt we let one get away last week and we wanted to make sure it didnt happen today, Saints coach Mark Raymond said. The kids just kept driving. They have a great attitude. They are determined and they have great will and they stuck together. Thats what happened today.
WPI (2-6, 1-4) also scored on its first possession of the second half, moving 74 yards on seven plays and cutting SLUs lead to 26-15 on a 25-yard run by quarterback John Antonopoulos.
The Saints scored the final touchdown of the game early in the fourth quarter on another 4th-and-1 play, with Fish tossing a 1-yard pass to Tateosian.
SLUs defense forced five turnovers, intercepting three passes and recovering two fumbles. WPI completed just 4 of 18 pass attempts and gained only 263 total yards.
Andrew Cox led the Saints with nine tackles and Alec Dietsch added eight. Connor OBrien and Saahil Fruitwala also intercepted passes and Michael Phalen and Liam Ryan recovered fumbles.
It was huge, Cox said. We had to win it. It was a must win. We keep on working. It was kind of weird to be behind for the first time, but we played good defense. We got off the field on third down, that was important. We had some pretty big turnovers, which was awesome.
Saturdays win sets up a potential Liberty League championship game next weekend when the Saints travel to face undefeated Hobart College, the defending conference champions. Should SLU win that game, and defeat the Merchant Marine Academy in its home finale, it would claim the conference title.
We know the road to the championship runs through Geneva, to Hobart, and we are going to go there Saturday, Raymond said.
To see video highlights and interviews from this game, go to: http://wdt.me/tggqzJ