---- — By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE -- McDaniel coach Mike Hoyt decided to throw conventional wisdom to the wind with Saturday's game on the line.
With his team trailing by a point after a touchdown with 17 seconds left, Hoyt sent his offense back onto the field for a game-winning 2-point conversion try.
The gamble paid off with a dramatic reception of a tipped pass and the Green Terror shocked the Crusaders, 43-42, in a back-and-forth Centennial Conference battle at Nicholas A. Lopardo Stadium.
Hoyt decided to take a chance with his one-win team rather than send the game into overtime with an extra-point kick. McDaniel quarterback Seth McFall dropped back on the attempt, looked left and threw a pass for the end zone but Adrian Bernard jumped and deflected the ball into the air, seemingly stopping the Green Terror and allowing the Crusaders (1-8, 1-7 CC) to survive.
However, the ball spun backwards on the tip and fell into the waiting hands of Britton Hastings, who stepped across the goal line to push McDaniel ahead by a point.
"As I just said to the team, I don't know why the ball's not bouncing our way this year," Susquehanna head coach Steve Briggs said. "It's been from week one. We're not getting breaks. We're not causing breaks."
The 2-point conversion attempt almost didn't happen as the Crusaders forced McDaniel into fourth-and-11 from the Crusaders' 25 on that final drive. Mike Oliveto settled into open space in the middle of the field and McFall connected with him for a first-and-goal. Three plays later, McFall lofted a ball over the Crusaders defense to Nick O'Melia in the back of the end zone to make it a 42-41 game.
The Crusaders had one final chance to pull out a win as Mark Rosenbaum completed a pass over the middle, but a pitch to keep the play alive was bobbled and McDaniel recovered the loose ball to seal the win.
The McDaniel defense loomed large early in the game in moments that became increasingly important as the game wore on. A blocked extra-point early in the second quarter kept the Crusaders' lead at six, and a blocked field goal attempt late in the second quarter led to McDaniel taking its first lead of the game, 21-20, into the half.
Before the ball bounced McDaniel's way in the waning seconds, the game appeared destined for overtime.
With the game tied at 35 midway through the fourth quarter, the Crusaders quickly moved down the field on the ground using a combination of Tim Wade and former Lewisburg standout Merle Moscarello to gash the McDaniel defense. After Moscarello gained 46 yards with a pair of runs, the drive nearly stalled before Rosenbaum rolled to his left and fired a pass into the end zone to a well-covered Pat Murtha, who brought the ball in to give the Crusaders a seven-point lead, 42-35.
Early in the game, there were no signs of a shootout as the Crusaders contained the conference's leading rusher, Joe Rollins, in the first quarter and held McDaniel (2-7, 2-6) to negative yardage for the first 15 minutes.
However, Rollins quickly brought his team back into the game.
After the Crusaders pushed their lead to two scores at 20-7, Rollins made one move near the line of scrimmage and sprinted 77 yards untouched for a score.
"I thought we did some good things but obviously gave up big plays to (Rollins)," Briggs said.
The threat of Rollins breaking a play helped ease McDaniel into its passing game, with McFall throwing McDaniel into the red zone before a short run gave the Green Terror the lead.
Moscarello capped the opening drive of the second half with a touchdown to put the Crusaders back in front. McDaniel closed the third quarter with 14 straight points to take a lead into the fourth.