CLARION, Pa. (Sept. 25) – Sophomore running back Lamont Smith (Penn Hills, Pa./Central Catholic/Phoenix) rushed for 185 yards and the defense forced four interceptions and allowed only 133 yards of total offense on Saturday night, as the No. 4 California University of Pennsylvania football team claimed a 24-9 victory over Clarion in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West-opener for both teams.
With the win, the Vulcans start the year at 4-0 overall for the third time in nine years under head coach John Luckhardt (2002, 2007). Cal U also has now won its last six and eight of its last 10 PSAC West-openers. Meanwhile, after posting their best record since 1996 last year, the Golden Eagles remain winless this year at 0-4 overall and 0-1 in divisional play.
For the third-straight week, Smith established season highs in both rushing yards and attempts, finishing 189 yards on a gaudy 39 attempts. He also added a six-yard touchdown to seal the win with 2:46 remaining in the game. The former Central Catholic standout entered the weekend as the 11th-leading rusher in NCAA Division II and is now averaging 138.5 yards per game.
The Vulcans stymied the Golden Eagles’ offense, allowing only 29 rushing yards and nine first downs. Cal U allowed only one drive to cover more than 30 yards and forced Clarion into punts on five of their first seven possessions (interception, touchdown). Clarion senior running back Alfonso Hoggard – last year’s PSAC West Offensive Player of the Year – was limited to only 24 yards on the ground after leading the league in rushing yards per game in 2009.
After a scoreless first quarter despite two red zone trips by Cal U, the Vulcans took a 3-0 lead when senior kicker Marc Domonkos (Johnstown, Pa./Bishop McCort/Lock Haven) hit a 21-yard field goal with 3:27 left in the second to cap a 16-play, 91-yard drive. Senior quarterback Josh Portis (Woodland Hills, Calif./William H. Taft/Maryland) twice extended the drive with third-down completions.
Portis finished the game with 201 passing yards on 22-of-30 attempts with one touchdown and one interception. He has now thrown for at least one score in 18-straight games.
On the ensuing Clarion possession, senior cornerback Mike Brown (Newark, N.J./St. Peter’s Prep/Virginia) made his first interception of the season to give the Vulcans possession near midfield. However, a 42-yard field goal attempted by Domonkos missed of the left upright resulting in the Golden Eagles gaining possessing with 37 seconds left in the half. Clarion marched down to the Cal U 1-yard line before redshirt sophomore quarter Eric Coxon connected with senior wide receiver Jacques Robinson for a touchdown as time expired, 7-3.
Cal U regained the lead on its first possession of the second half when Portis threw an eight-yard score to junior wide receiver Chedrick Cherry (Cincinnati, Ohio/Moeller), who finished with 110 yards on a career-high eight receptions – his second-straight 100-yard game.
After the Golden Eagles pinned a punt at the 1-yard line, the Vulcans marched 99 yards on 20 plays with junior running back Jordan Scott (Phoenix, Ariz./North Canyon/Idaho State) capping the drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge, 17-7. Clarion made it a one-score game with a safety midway through the fourth quarter before junior safety Erik Harris (New Oxford, Pa./New Oxford) halted the ensuing drive with an interception. Cal U capitalized on the turnover when Smith added a six-yard touchdown run with 2:46 left in the game.
The Vulcans ended the next two Golden Eagles with interceptions by redshirt junior cornerback Patrick Swearinger (Waldorf, Md./Thomas Stone) and junior safety Shawn Anderson (Pittsburgh, Pa./Penn Hills).
For the third time this season, Harris led the team in tackles with five stops (three solo). Senior transfer cornerback Tommie Campbell (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa/Edinboro) and senior linebacker Anthony Roberts (Phillipsburg, N.J./Phillipsburg/Iowa Central C.C.) each collected four tackles.
The Vulcans return to action on Saturday, Oct. 2, when they host Lock Haven at Adamson Stadium for a 1 p.m. start on Family Day. The game will broadcast live on Pittsburgh CW with the weekly coach’s show broadcasting at 12:30 p.m. on Pittsburgh CW. Fans can also follow the game on-line through live stats, watch it live on both ESPN3.com and America One (formerly B2 Networks) and listen live on WCAL (91.9 FM).
Notes: Cal U was whistled for nine penalties for 73 yards, while Clarion was penalized only twice for 17 yards … The Vulcans dominated time of possession, holding nearly a 30-minute advantage (45:18-14:42) … Cal U converted only four-of-seven trips inside the red zone … The Vulcans punted for the only time in the game with 1:01 left in the fourth