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Sacred Heart Rushes Past Leopards in Home Opener

Sept. 9, 2017

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EASTON, Pa. -- Sacred Heart racked up 504 yards of total offense, including 287 on the ground, to spoil the Leopards' home opener, 38-24, on Saturday night a Fisher Stadium.

In his second career start, freshman Sean O'Malley completed 25-of-44 for 287 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Sophomore Nick Pearson was O'Malley's favorite target on the night, setting career highs nine catches for 107 yards and a touchdown.

After stalling out on their first drive, the Leopards were beneficiaries of Andrew O'Neill's muffed punt. Eric Mitchell finished off O'Neill after he dropped the ball and Trent Crossan was on hand to recover it and give the offense a short field. O'Malley saw his potential TD pass slip through his receiver's hands in the end zone, forcing the Leopards to settle for a 34-tyard field goal by Jeffrey Kordenbrock.

The Leopards defense' started out the game on the right foot as Phillip Parham intercepted Kevin Duke's pass, once again setting the offense up with excellent field position. O'Malley escaped a sack and completed a pass to Pearson to push the offense forward. After a short run, O'Malley hit DeSean Brown on a swing route in the flat and he did the rest, diving into the corner of the end zone to give the Leopards a 10-0 lead with nine minutes to play in the first quarter. It was Brown's first career receiving touchdown.

The Leopards kept the Pioneers (2-0) out of the end zone with a stout defensive effort near the end of the first quarter. A Sacred Heart chop block penalty slowed the drive and the Leopards eventually forced the Pioneers into a 4th-and-1. Brandon Bryant and Matt Rothrock stuffed Eli Terry's run and Lafayette took over on downs.

The second quarter saw the teams battling for field position until Sacred Heart got on the board with eight minutes left. The Pioneers drove the length of the field, but the Leopards' defense stood tall once again, forcing Sacred Heart to settle for a 19-yard field goal that brought the score to 10-3. Just before intermission, the Pioneers got the ball back with less than a minute to play. The two-minute offense was effective. Duke led the Pioneers the length of the field. A string of penalties kept Sacred Heart out of the end zone at first, but the visitors broke through as Duke hit O'Neill on a slant route. The PAT attempt was good, leveling the score at 10 apiece heading into halftime.

The momentum started to swing in Sacred Heart's favor at the start of the second half, as a Lafayette penalty on the kickoff gave the Pioneers a short field. Sacred Heart covered 48 yards in nine plays capped by Ose Imeokparia's eight-yard run to give the Pioneers their first lead of the night, 17-10. The Leopards' first drive of the third quarter brought more focus on the aerial attack, as Lafayette was moving down field when O'Malley hit Pearson for 13 yards to push Lafayette across midfield. The drive stalled following several penalties.

Sacred Heart controlled the remainder of the third quarter, using a strong rushing attack to manage the flow of the game. A nine-play, 69-yard drive ended in a one-yard touchdown run by Jordan Meachum to bring the score to 24-10 in favor of Sacred Heart.

The fourth quarter started with O'Malley pushing the Leopards downfield. A pass interference call on Sacred Heart spurred the offense Pioneers' 10-yard line. O'Malley rolled out to his right and was intercepted by Khaamal Whitaker, who returned the ball 82 yards to the Lafayette 16. Sacred Heart turned to its rushing attack, as Ose Imeokparia punched in his second touchdown of the night, extending the Pioneers lead to 31-10.

The Leopards next drive saw them march 54 yards through the passing game. O'Malley kept the chains moving when he broke through an arm tackle and delivered the ball to Matt Mrazek, who caught a pass for his 30th straight game. Two plays later, O'Malley rolled out to his left and hit Pearson right between the numbers for Lafayette's second touchdown of the night to bring the score to 31-17 with 8:11 left to play.

Sacred Heart tacked on another score with 3:32 to go. Jordan Meachum added 22 yards onto his rushing total as the play finished a three-play drive with Sacred Heart leading 38-17. Lafayette (0-2) pieced together one final scoring drive at the end of the fourth quarter. The Leopards drove 57 yards in eight plays out of the no-huddle, with O'Malley finding Mrazek in the back of the end zone to bring the final score to 38-24.

Defensively, Lafayette gave up 506 yards of total offense, led by nine tackles from Bryant and eight stops apiece from Yasir Thomas, Phillip Parham and Michael Root.

The Leopards travel to Villanova on Sept. 16 in a 6 p.m. kick off in a game that can be seen on ESPN3.