Entering the second half of their season, the Millersville football team has taken the last two of their three games, pushing their season record to 3-6.
The most recent victory for the team came this past weekend against Kutztown at home in a 41-35 double-overtime thriller. The sub -.500 record clearly is not where the team envisioned it would be at this point in the season, however, it is already a vast improvement over their one-win season a year ago.
The Marauders began the second part of their season three weeks ago when they traveled to Cheyney University. After thumping the Wolves a year ago, the Marauders took it to Cheyney again with a 47-36 win. Senior running back Brad Lantz and junior running back Cardoza Jacks had a combined total of 158 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Junior wide receiver Jamal Smith hauled in seven catches for 87 yards and two touchdowns from junior quarterback Bill Shirk, who finished the day going 15-30 for 225 yards and three touchdowns and one interception.
Millersville needed all the offense they could muster up, because the defense struggled again. However, when it was needed most, the Marauders defense stepped up and forced the Wolves to turn the ball over on downs twice in the fourth quarter.
The following week, the Marauders hosted C.W. Post and could not get their offense or defense to play well and lost the game 35-3. The Pioneers scored all 35 of their points in the first half, and racked up 328 yards on the ground against a porous Millersville defense.
Still, the loss could not be completely on the defense’s shoulders. The defense did what it could and created four turnovers, but the offense could do nothing to turn those into points as they produced the worst offensive output of the season. The team was only able to produce 102 total yards, and Shirk struggled all day as he finished 4-15 for only 47 yards to go with two interceptions.
“As an offense it is our job to put up points to win games. We look at it as it’s our job to score as much as possible to take the pressure off the defense,” Smith said.
Junior linebacker Jeff Longley finished the day with seven tackles, a forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. Freshman safety Brian Knell and sophomore defensive back Gary Tillman each picked off passes for the Marauders on defense.
Millersville rebounded on Homecoming against Kutztown and pulled out a 41-35 victory in the second overtime in front of a crowd of 4,236. Smith had a monumental day and hauled in a school-record four touchdown receptions and finished the day with a total of five catches for 133 yards. Lantz led the team on the ground, finishing with 90 yards and a touchdown. A fourth quarter collapse by the Marauder defense forced the game into overtime. The Marauders held a 21-9 lead heading into the final quarter, but gave up three touchdowns, the last of which came with 36 seconds left in the game. Kutztown had a chance to take the lead on the final score, but for the third time in the game, the snap and hold during the extra point was botched and Kutztown failed to go ahead and instead the game went into over time.
The Marauders had a chance to win the game in the final seconds as they drove the ball into field goal range with time running out, but a 37-yard field goal by Senior John Banzhof sent the game into overtime.
Millersville scored on the opening possession of overtime on a touchdown pass from Shirk to Smith. Kutztown answered with a touchdown of their own and forced a second overtime. The Golden Bears opened the second overtime with the first possession and on a fourth and 28, Tillman picked off a pass. Millersville took possession, and needing only one score to win the game, ran the ball seven times, with Lantz scoring from two yards out on the last carry.
Millersville currently sits at sixth place in the eight team PSAC East division. With just one conference game remaining in the final two games of their schedule, it is likely that the team will miss the playoffs again this year.
“We’re not throwing in the towel yet, from our record I know we probably won’t make the playoffs,” Smith explained, “But our coaches are still pushing us to practice hard, because these last two games of the season are our most important yet.”
However, the team is making strides for next season which promises to be better than the last two. “I’m happy with the way this team has come together as the season has progressed,” Smith said, “We’ve come together as a team every week, and when you’re not winning and things are not going your way, that makes it hard, but the majority of us have stuck together.”