FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Here’s something they haven’t said on Grymes Hill in quite awhile: The Wagner Seahawks are tied for first place in the Northeast Conference football standings.
Sure, it was only the conference season opener for Wagner, and it got a bit hairy at the end, but the Seahawks held on for a 17-10 win over Sacred Heart Saturday, and for a program that began the day 2-36 since the start of the 2019 season, that had to feel like a Super Bowl.
Wagner (1-2 overall) had a 17-0 lead through three quarters, then started to give way a little as the Pioneers (0-1 NEC, 0-3 overall) found some rhythm with their running game.
The ground attack produced a touchdown run by Jalen Madison two plays into the fourth quarter and a field goal with 2:35 remaining to make it 17-10 and give the Pioneers hope.
However, Wagner recovered an onside kick at the SHU 45, ran three plays followed by three SHU timeouts and went to punt formation at the SHU 39 with 2:03 to go.
Sacred Heart was flagged for roughing Wagner kicker Bailey Marzola, giving the ball back to Wagner, which ended the game with three kneel-downs.
The Seahawks got the early edge when linebacker Junior Wily picked off a first-and-10 pass by Rob McCoy — it was Wagner’s third pick of the first half — and took it 52 yards for a TD to open the scoring. The over-the-middle pass was a bit behind the slanting receiver and deflected to Wily, who motored down the left sideline.
Ryan Liszner hit the extra point and tacked on a 42-yard field goal just before the half to put Wagner up 10-0.
Sacred Heart punted to Wagner with two minutes gone in the third quarter and Seahawk quarterback Steven Krajewski (10 for 26 passing for 86 yards and one TD) capped a 12-play, 56-yard drive with a 10-yard TD pass to Justin Wolf. Liszner’s kick made it 17-0 with 8:52 left in the third.
After the Madison TD — a 2-yard run that capped a nine-play, 77-yard drive — Wagner thwarted a SHU drive and took over on downs with 7:22 left in regulation. That possession had three runs by Zachary Palmer-Smith (24 carries, 89 yards) but it did move the clock and Marzola’s punt gave the ball to SHU at its 38 with 4:58 left.
A couple of strong runs by Malik Grant (27 carries, 133 net yards) helped the Pioneers get to the Wagner 7, but McCoy missed on two throws to the end zone and SHU settled for Sam Renzi’s 24-yard FG.
Then came the onside kick and the roughing penalty to close the door and let Wagner enjoy a view from the top of the NEC.