The Ithaca Football team improved to 5–2 on the season, defeating Springfield College 23–14 Saturday at Butterfield Stadium.
Senior quarterback Rob Zappia passed for a career-high 301 yards and senior wide receiver Thomas Vossler set a new career-high with 12 catches and led all pass catchers with 121 yards and a touchdown.
“We knew coming into this game we’d be able to move the ball through the air,” Zappia said. “Things really opened up for us offensively and the offensive line gave me time to make the throws.”
The Bombers were able to sustain their offense, holding a 36 to 24 minute advantage in time of possession, and kept Springfield, the nation’s third ranked offense coming into the game, off the field.
“The coaches preached just getting back to basics this week,” Vossler said. “[Zappia] didn’t force any throws and just looked for the open man.”
The Bombers jumped out to a 9–0 lead at halftime, backed by their defense which held Springfield, who came into the game second in the country in rush yards per game, to just 64 yards on rushing on 25 carries and two first downs.
Senior defensive end Matt Dibble said the Bombers knew they had to stay on their assignments, a tough task against the triple option.
“The coaches told us to just stay on our man and not try to do to much,” Dibble said. “There’s so much deception thorough fakes that you cant try to follow the football and we did a pretty good job of that.”
Dibble finished with 11 tackles including five for a loss.
South Hill squad was able to keep the momentum right out of halftime, going 81 yards in 10 plays to extend the lead to 16–0 on a four-yard touchdown pass from Zappia to senior tight end Dan Higgins.
The play of the game however came one play before when Zappia connected with senior tight end Matt Crandel for 31 yards. Crandel made the catch in the air despite being double covered and having his helmet ripped off by the defender trying to make the tackles.
“It was definitely one of the best catches I’ve ever seen,” Zappia said. “I saw he had the linebacker beat and I tried to put it in a place where the defenders couldn’t make a play and he went up and got it.”
After Springfield scored two quick touchdowns to cut the lead to 16–14, the Bombers’ offense put together their fourth scoring drive of nine plus plays, going 74 yards in 10 plays to increase the lead to 23–14. Head Coach Mike Welch said he was confident his team would bounce back after seeing their lead quickly diminish.
“We’ve been in some tough games this year.” Welch said. “Games where we’ve had big leads and our opponents have come back, but we’ve able to keep our composure and just keep playing.”
Welch said the leadership of his senior playmakers on offense was vital to the win.
“ They really stepped up and made plays for us today,” Welch said “Zappia was able to get out of some pressure, and Vossler, Higgins, Ruffrage, and Crandel all seemed to find open spaces in the defense and make plays.”
The Blue and Gold victory, coupled with St. John Fisher losing to Alfred has put the Bombers in a three-way tie for first place in the Empire 8 Conference. Ithaca will look finish the season undefeated at home Saturday, as they will take on Utica College at Butterfield Stadium on senior day.