By Matthew Digiacomo
The 1968 Allegheny Gators football team was honored for its 45th anniversary at halftime of the game between AC and Hiram on Friday.
The ’68 squad was a beast. It won the schools’ first Presidents’ Athletic Conference title with perfect 6-0 loop record. Six members of the team are now in the Allegheny athletic Hall of Fame — head coach John Chuckran, assistant coach Bob Garbark, halfback John Boughton, lineman Jim Stoker, quarterback Mike Ganey and wide receiver Jay Lewis.
This year’s Gators have a lot of work to do if they want to be remembered in the same light 45 years from now.
Allegheny was held out of the end zone and Hiram got a big game from running back Caleb Jones as the Terriers won a 20-0 decision at Frank B. Fuhrer Field. The loss was the third straight for AC (0-3, 0-2 NCAC). Hiram improved to 2-1 overall and 1-1 in the conference.
“It is a team game,” said AC head coach Mark Matlak. “You have to do the basic fundamentals of blocking and tackling and we are not doing that right now. We are making too many errors.”
All told, the game was much closer than the score.
Hiram took a quick 7-0 lead thanks to a 65-yard touchdown run by Jones on the first play from scrimmage. It was just the start for the senior, who finished with 32 carries for 197 yards and two scores. It also marked the first big play that hurt the Gators.
“You can not give up big plays like that,” said Matlak. “And it is because people are not lining up properly, don’t make the right read or get themselves out of position. At this point, you would like to see progress, but we keep making the same mistakes.”
Jones made it hurt again in the second quarter.
Facing a third-and-1 from Allegheny’s 49-yard line, Jones bolted to the outside. With nothing but wide open space in front of him, the senior jaunted 39 yards before Allegheny’s Cody Stolar made a TD-saving tackle at the 10. AC’s defense muscled up and held Hiram to a field goal.
Stolar would make his presence felt again later, but not before Hiram increased its lead.
This time it was Richard Simpson with the big play for the visiting squad. The senior wide receiver took the hand off on the reverse and scampered 42 yards. Julian Henderson came through with a game-saving tackle at the 16 before the Gator ‘D’ held the Terriers to another field goal.
“We played better,” said Stolar. “We had a couple big stops there. We just couldn’t make it pay off.”
The second half was fairly non-dramatic. Hiram scored once more — a 1-yard run by Jones — in the fourth quarter to account for the final tally.
As for Allegheny, Stolar did what he could to make things interesting on special teams. As one of AC’s top gunners, Stolar sprinted down field three times and rocked the return man before he knew what hit him. Twice, the returner fumbled the football, although both times the ball went out of bounds before AC could recover and capitalize.
“I really don’t know how that (kept) happening,” said Stolar. “I just went out and tried to do my job. We are getting better in certain areas, but we have to keep trying to get better. We need to work harder.”
The offense for AC also seemed to pick things up a bit.
About four minutes into the third quart, Allegheny took over possession at its own 20-yard line. What followed was easily the squads’ best drive of the game. Eating 7:18 off the clock, AC marched 71 yards in 17 plays before an interception cut the momentum short.
“There is no magic in what’s wrong offensively,” said Matlak. “We just don’t block well enough. (Jon) Nigro is the best guy we have, but we have to block for him, give him time to get something going.”
AC embarked on another decent drive in the fourth (11 plays, 35 yards) But the home squad just could not find the end zone, going 0-for-2 in red zone opportunities. Hiram, in comparison, was 3-for-3.
Nick Deichler led Allegheny with 73 rushing yards. Nigro passed for 50 yards for AC.