It looked as if the Pioneers winning streak would stay at three games when they were trailing the East Stroudsburg Warriors 23-7 in the second quarter of their game on Saturday, October 15th, but the Pioneers found a way to overcome those odds. After trailing by 16, the Pioneers found a way to score 24 unanswered points to give them a lead, and the team never looked back, holding on to win 34-30.
A good deal of the credit for the comeback has to go to Steven Laurino; the redshirt freshman quarterback had his best game to date, throwing for 332 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for an additional 131 yards. Those numbers earned him PSAC Offensive Player of the Week.
The Warriors won the toss and quickly got on the board first, kicking a 43-yard field goal. The Pioneers sputtered on offense, giving the ball back to the dangerous Warriors offense. Wagner tossed his first of five interceptions of the day when sophomore linebacker Rob Bright picked him off to give the Pioneers back the ball. Steven Laurino and the offense took advantage of the interception, driving 30 yards on seven plays to find the end zone, when Laurino found Kyle Hardy to take a 7-3 lead.
The Warriors took the lead back quickly when Wagner found Jordan Hallman for a 73-yard pass. The point after was good to give the lead back to East Stroudsburg 10-7. On the Pioneers’ next possession, they drove down the field and found themselves just one yard away from the end zone, but the Warriors successfully stopped them from scoring, even though the Pioneers had three chances. In what looked to be a big moment of the game, the Warriors had gained the momentum. It was tough for the Pioneers to bounce back from the failed attempts at the time, especially after the Warriors were able to quickly get another touchdown. It took Wagner and the Warriors’ offense just 1:25 to go 99 yards, the big play being a 61 yard pass to Robert Bleiler, who found the end zone.
But, the Warriors weren’t done yet, getting another touchdown from Hallman to increase their lead to 23-7.
Redshirt sophomore Joe Botti was a large part of the Pioneer offense in 2010, but he was limited to just a few plays in the first few games of the 2011 season. But, Botti had a career day against East Stroudsburg, catching 7 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns. His first touchdown catch of the day cut the Warriors lead to just 23-14. Jeff Mack made it a one-possession game a moment later, when he rushed it into the end zone to make it a 23-21 game, still in favor of the Warriors.
If Botti’s touchdown catch started to mount momentum on the Pioneers’ side, then when Lou Scala intercepted Wagner with just less than two minutes in the first half, it was fully on their side. Moments later, Joe Botti made one of the greatest plays of the season, leaping up and catching a 44-yard Hail Mary pass from Laurino. The catch gave the Pioneers a 28-23 lead going into the half, and they never let go.
In the second half, the offences cooled off, and it became a defensive game. The Pioneers managed to add three points to their lead on a Marc Montana field goal, but the Warriors came back to make it a one-point game when Thomas Tippert rushed one yard to find the end zone and bring the score to 31-30.
Montana added another field goal, but before he did, Ciwan McCoy and Lou Scala intercepted Wagner, giving the Warriors’ quarterback five interceptions on the day and wrapping up the 34-30 victory for the Pioneers; their fourth straight after three consecutive losses to start the season.
The Pioneers look to win their fifth straight game on Saturday, when they take on Kutztown for Homecoming at Hickox Field. Coverage on 88.1 FM and wcwp.org will begin at 12:30 p.m., followed by a special alumni broadcast at 1 p.m.