SELINSGROVE — In its first meeting with Wilkes since 2011, the Susquehanna River Hawks put the Colonels through nearly four hours of boot camp.
Susquehanna capped a perfect 6-0 record at home without missing a beat in any phase, as Da’Avian Ellington set a school single-game record with six rushing touchdowns, Michael Ruisch fired four TD passes, and the River Hawks’ “Wild Dogs” defense forced four turnovers in an 88-24 rout of Wilkes in the Centennial-MAC Bowl series Saturday afternoon at Doug Arthur Stadium.
“All three phases of the game played very well,” said SU head coach Tom Perkovich. “With that many points, a lot goes into it.”
A lot of execution, and perhaps, some frustration of missing the NCAA Division III playoffs by the slightest of margins.
“We wanted to send a message to the NCAA that they made a mistake with not putting this team in (the playoffs),” said senior captain Mitch Carsley.
Three of Carsley’s punt returns, spanning 40, 45 and 49 yards, helped set up Susquehanna touchdowns. Carsley also threw a 27-yard pass to set up another touchdown, and added a 45-yard reception to set up a fifth. Though he didn’t score himself, Carsley helped set the table for SU’s explosive day.
“Coach (Alan) Zemaitis really prides himself on special teams and makes us pride ourselves in it,” Carsley said. “The game plan was to fake like I was going outside, put a foot in the ground, and go.”
Ellington, meanwhile, rewrote SU’s record books with his six-touchdown performance, breaking the single-game mark of five previously held by Montoursville grad Cam Ott in 2016.
“I was on defense my first year and saw Cam play,” Ellington said. “He was a good back. I really didn’t think about the numbers, but 19 is a good number to enter the senior cam
Ellington ended SU’s (10-1) season with 1,235 yards and 19 touchdowns on 183 carries. Ruisch, meanwhile, carved up Wilkes’ defense for 219 yards and four touchdowns, two to Kyle Good and one each to Robert Marks and Frank DePaola.
Defensively, SU allowed 333 yards passing and a trio of touchdowns by Colonel dual-threat quarterback Jose Tabora, but otherwise, the River Hawks were their usual, relentless selves.
“We struggled a little bit early on,” said senior linebacker Craig Roumes. “But the offense picked us up.”
Roumes scored his third defensive touchdown of the season Saturday, returning a fumble 22 yards to make it a 21-3 game in the first quarter. Tabora put up numbers passing, but he was held to 19 yards on 11 carries and did not score a touchdown. The Colonels’ ground game was held in check as well, registering only 47 yards on 27 carries against SU’s defense.
“That was the game plan, attack the quarterback,” Roumes said. “That’s the game plan all the time. It feels great to go out a winner, but what we tried to tell the guys in this is just the beginning. They need to keep this going.”
The 88 points scored marked SU’s third-highest single-game total in school history, trailing only the 1902 (104 pts v. Lykens) and 1919 (95 vs. St. Francis) squads.
“Winning at home is important to us, and we want them to understand that this is a tough place to play,” Perkovich said. “We started a ton of drives over the 50 today, and with our offensive firepower and explosiveness, that’s big for us.”
The River Hawks posted their first 10-win season since 1991, improved to 6-3 all-time in postseason play and set a new school record for points in a single season, with 476.
SUSQUEHANNA 88, WILKES 24
Wilkes`3`14`7`0 — 24
Susquehanna`21`34`21`19 — 88
SU-Kyle Good 25 pass from Michael Ruisch (Elijah Hoffman kick)
W-FG Justin Pollack 33
S-Da’Avian Ellington 2 run (Hoffman kick)
S-Craig Roumes 22 fumble return (Hoffman kick)
S-Good 79 pass from Ruisch (Hoffman kick)
S-Ellington 10 run (kick failed)
S-Ellington 1 run (Hoffman kick)
W-Nate Whitaker 47 pass from Jose Tabora (Pollack kick)
S-Ellington 5 run (Hoffman kick)
W-Derek Nelson 21 pass from Tabora (Pollack kick)
W-Whitaker 79 pass from Tabora (Pollack kick)
S-Ellington 1 run (Hoffman kick)
S-Robert Marks 18 pass from Ruisch (Hoffman kick)
S-Torey Brown 5 run (kick blocked)
S-Ellington 47 run (Hoffman kick)
S-Marks 7 pass from Hezekiah Patterson (pass failed)
RUSHING — Wilkes: Kamaal Reed 10-21; Josa Tabora 11-19; Malachi Clore 3-7; JaQuan Sheals 2-4; Kevin Gonzalez 1-minus-4. Susquehanna: Da’Avian Ellington 20-175, 6 TDs; Torey Brown 12-52, TD; Craig Roumes 1-20; Hezekiah Patterson 2-11; Michael Ruisch 4-7; Samuel Darrell 1-3; team 3-(-5).
PASSING — Wilkes: Jose Tabora 22-44-2 for 333 yards, 3 TDs. Susquehanna: Michael Ruisch 7-15-2 for 219 yards, 4 TDs; Hezekiah Patterson 4-6-0 for 46 yards, TD; Mitch Carsley 1-1-0 for 27 yards.
RECEIVING — Wilkes: Derek Nelson 6-66, TD; Nate Whitakter 5-142, 2 TDs; Jordan Jones 5-49; Aboubacar Fofana 2-42; Mike O’Donnell 2-20; Richard Ermeus 1-8; Jason Schweizerhof 1-6. Susquehanna: Samuel Darrell 3-64; Robert Marks 3-50, 2 TDs; Kyle Good 2-104, 2 TDs; Frank DePaola 2-16, TD; Mitch Carsley 1-45; Jaden Buchanan 1-13.