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By Jamie Belfer || Contributing Writer 

Franklin & Marshall football is off to a fantastic start, winning all of their first four games.  While they routed their first two opponents, Lebanon Valley (44-21) and Juniata (40-17), the Diplomats had close victories against McDaniel (21-14) and Susquehanna (14-7).

The Diplomats faced off against the Susquehanna River Hawks in a nail-biting thriller on Saturday, September 22.  Franklin & Marshall won the coin toss and deferred; therefore, the River Hawks started with possession.  Susquehanna got off to an explosive start as they marched down the field, unable to be stopped, all the way to the Franklin & Marshall’s 3-yard line.  The River Hawks quarterback barreled into the end zone for a touchdown.  After about 5 minutes into the game, the Diplomats trailed Susquehanna 0-7.

Franklin & Marshall’s first drive down the field was unsuccessful.  Susquehanna failed to score on their second drive due to F&M’s strong defense including a sack by Defensive Lineman Brendan Kilkenny. Franklin & Marshall had the ball at Susquehanna’s 45-yard line at the end of the first quarter.

The Diplomats pieced together a strong offensive drive at the start of the second quarter.  Following a nice 10-yard rush by Keshon Farmer, quarterback Tanner Erisman had a 20-yard completion to wide receiver K.J. Pretty, securing a Diplomat first down at Susquehanna’s 22-yard line.  After some short gains, the Diplomats had a 3rd and Goal at the 7 yard-line.  Erisman made a great throw to Pretty in the end zone for the Diplomat’s first touchdown of the game.  After 7 minutes into the second quarter, the score was 7-7.

The Diplomats forced Susquehanna to have a 3 and out in their first possession of the third quarter.  F&M marched down the field in their second drive of the second quarter.  Running back Joe Hartley-Vittoria’s short rushes and Erisman’s 22-yard completion to wide receiver Timothy Walter moved the F&M offense to Susquehanna’s 9-yard line.  Unable to find the end zone, the Diplomats attempted to kick a field goal.  However, it was blocked and recovered by Susquehanna.      

In their final drive of the half, Susquehanna reached Franklin & Marshall’s 1-yard line.  However, linebacker Sebastian Silva-Muniz prevented a touchdown by forcing a River Hawks fumble recovered by F&M’s defensive back Nick Leone.  Franklin & Marshall had possession of the ball for the last 13 seconds of the second half.

Going into the second half, both teams were eager to break the 7-7 tie.  However, both Franklin & Marshall and Susquehanna struggled to get any kind of offensive rhythm in the 3rd quarter.

In the 4th quarter, possession went back and forth between the two teams.  With about 2 minutes left in the game, the River Hawks fumbled the ball on a punt return which was recovered by Mack Focht on Susquehanna’s 41-yard line.  On Franklin & Marshall’s first play after recovering the fumble, Erisman was sacked by the River Hawks who ultimately forced him to fumble.  Susquehanna recovered the ball at their 45-yard line.  With 1 minute and 16 seconds left in the game, the Susquehanna offense was halted by a strong F&M defense, forcing the River Hawks to go 3 and out.  With 52 seconds left, F&M failed to score, making the game to go into overtime with a 7-7 score.

In overtime, the Diplomats started on Susquehanna’s 25-yard line.  In the first play, Hartley-Vittoria rushed for a 4-yard gain.  On 2nd and 6 at the 21-yard line, Hartley-Vittoria juked past the defense and rushed for 21 yards into the end zone for a touchdown.  Kicker Drew Tomlinson’s extra point was good.  The Diplomats now led 14-7.

With their last chance to score, the River Hawks started at Franklin & Marshall’s 25-yard line.  After reaching the 5-yard line, defensive back Marlen Fenstermacher intercepted the pass from River Hawks quarterback to secure a victory for Franklin & Marshall, 14-7.

The Diplomats play at Johns Hopkins next Saturday, October 6th in hopes of continuing their undefeated season.

First-year Jamie Belfer is ta Contributing Writer. Her email is