CLEVELAND – Senior running back Kenny Riordan (Spring Grove, Ill./Richmond-Burton) rushed for a game-high 96 yards with two total touchdowns to lead the Case Western Reserve University football team to a 21-17 triumph versus Trinity University (Texas) on a blustery Saturday afternoon at DiSanto Field.
The Spartans even their record at 3-3 headed into the University Athletic Association portion of the schedule. The Tigers also see their record evened to 4-4.
The game marked the first meeting between the two schools, and it was the 100th for Greg Debeljak (70-30) as head coach of the Spartans.
Riordan scored the deciding touchdown with 6:05 left to play when he pounced on a fumble in the endzone that followed a 15-yard catch and run by freshman wide receiver Brendan Lynch (Sarver, Pa./Freeport Area). The Spartans stopped the ensuing Trinity drive as senior safety Austin Webb (Alliance, Ohio/Marlington) intercepted a pass at his team's 25 and returned the ball to the visitor 43.
Riordan's 96 yards rushing came on 15 carries. Senior quarterback Erik Olson (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park) completed 16-of-21 passes for 143 yards and two TDs, while junior wideout Sean Lapcevic (Presto, Pa./Chartiers Valley) finished with a game-high seven receptions for 56 yards.
Defensively, sophomore linebackers Gavin Sandidge (Pittsburgh, Pa./Central Catholic) and Everett Dishong (Chagrin Falls, Ohio/Chagrin Falls) led the way with 13 and 12 tackles, respectively. Webb added five tackles to his clinching interception.
Trinity marched 51 yards on the opening drive of the game, but a series of penalties forced the Tigers to opt for a 33-yard field goal which was well short thanks to the gusting wind from the south end of the stadium.
The Spartans then pieced together an 80-yard drive on 16 plays that was kept alive early when Olson found Lapcevic for 19 yards on a 3rd-and-14. The possession was capped when Olson rolled out and found sophomore fullback Adam Hochman (Austin, Texas/Anderson) for a three-yard touchdown pass in the right flat of the endzone. Freshman kicker Nick Bavaro (Medina, Ohio/Medina) sent the extra point through the uprights to make score 7-0 with 45 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Tigers quickly responded with a score of their own when Stephen Smith threw a 23-yard strike to wide receiver Matt Kennemer who split the Spartan safeties for a score. Kevin Wise added the extra point to tie the score 7-7 with 13:08 to play in the second quarter.
The next two drives resulted in punts before Spartan sophomore cornerback Mike O'Donnell (Imperial, Pa./West Allegheny) ended a promising Tiger drive with a leaping interception at the home 17 yard line.
The ensuing Case possession quickly resulted in a punt and set the Tigers up at their own 47. A steady drive followed and ended with a 24-yard field goal by Wise as time expired on the first half clock. The Spartan defense held at its own four and forced Trinity to scramble onto the field for the attempt without a timeout.
The second half opened with the Spartans at their own 38 after a kick return from Lapcevic. A few plays later, Olson hit Lapcevic on a well-executed pass to convert a crucial 4th-and 5 at the Tiger 35. On the next play, Riordan took a pitch right, reversed field and cut up the middle for an untouched, 35-yard dash to the end zone. Bavaro tacked on the extra point, and the Spartans led, 14-10, with 11:28 to go in the third quarter.
Trinity answered once again on its following drive. After converting a 4th-and-1 at the Case 32, the Tigers' drive looked to be headed toward another field goal attempt after Spartan senior defensive end Brandon Bryant (Rockville, Md./Rockville) batted down a 3rd down pass. The Tigers lined up for a field goal attempt, but Kenneman, the holder, took the snap, rolled out left and tossed a high, floating pass into the end zone to sprawled out tight end Sam Harford. The score and extra point pushed the Tigers back in front, 17-14, at the 4:13 mark of the third quarter.
Four possessions followed before the Spartans marched 54 yards on six plays for the winning drive.
For the game, Trinity was led by Smith with 306 yards passing, 84 of which went to Kennemer. Defensive back Camden Joubert led the Tiger defense with a game-high 15 tackles.
The Spartans play at home for the final time in 2013 on Seniors' Day versus the University of Chicago next Saturday, November 2 at 1:00 p.m. at DiSanto Field.