Image Courtesy of CUA Football Twitter
By Jack Cherico
The Catholic University Cardinals took on the Endicott Gulls at noon on Saturday, September 18. Saturday’s game marks the first meeting in the all-time series between these two programs, and it was not looking to be an easy game. The Massachusetts-based Gulls traveled to DC on the back of a comeback win against WPI in which they had outscored their opponents 49-14 in the second half. Coming off a tough loss to Randolph Macon, the Cards needed a big performance from sophomore quarterback Madden Lowe and a defensive masterclass, led by senior linebacker Dieter Kerat. It is safe to say that everyone at Cardinal Stadium had a good time, as the matchup had everyone on the edge of their seats.
Endicott’s momentum was not the only storyline of the game. CUA junior running back Kevin Licciardi suited up against his brother Matthew Licciardi, a sophomore linebacker for the Gulls.
“Playing against my brother was a surreal moment. I have always played with him my whole life, so it didn’t feel right going against him. It was a once in a lifetime experience though,” the senior Licciardi said.
CUA started the game very strong, with an interception on the first drive by Gage Hurlbut, giving CUA possession on the Endicott 40-yard line. They followed the turnover up with a 40-yard touchdown pass on fourth down from Lowe. After the successful 2-point conversion, CUA started with an 8-0 lead with 8:49 on the clock. After Endicott changed their quarterback, benching starter Joe Leonard for sophomore Clayton Marengi, they answered CUA’s score with a rushing touchdown with 2:52 left. However, as many football fans know, special teams is an essential facet of the game, and a CUA-blocked point-after-touchdown attempt kept the score at 8-6.
After a Lowe interception and a Marengi rushing touchdown from the 4-yard line, the score held at 13-8 with 10:44 in the second. CUA proceeded to drive down the field, converting on third down twice, and set up a touchdown pass from Lowe to Derrick Aikens to make the score 15-13 with 7 minutes left. After multiple penalty-ridden drives and a failed CUA two-minute drill, the first half ended at 15-13, with CUA on top.
CUA started the 2nd half slowly, with a Lowe interception setting up a 35-yard field goal to put the score at 16-15 in favor of Endicott. However, CUA could not capitalize on a 50-yard kickoff return by freshman Malachi Hansen, whose blistering speed was a significant factor throughout the game. A penalty flag reversed a 20-yard touchdown from Lowe to senior receiver Preston Jeffrey, so CUA had to settle for a 41-yard field goal, making the score 18-16. A few stifled drives end the quarter, with the most exciting parts of the game yet to come.
The fourth quarter was electric, and after Marengi exited the game after a roughing-the-passer penalty, Leonard came back in relief to set up a touchdown for Endicott, putting CUA in a 22-18 deficit. Licciardi, who had a decent first half, exploded for a 24-yard touchdown after a Endicott three-and-out, to put CUA up 25-22 with 5:03 left in the 4th. Endicott prepared for a drive to bring the game back even, but the CUA defense held firm, with a 4th-down stop on the Endicott 45-yard line and less than 3:30 on the clock. Licciardi saw his opportunity to put the game away, and he took it, taking a screen pass 50 yards for the touchdown and seemingly taking the wind out of Endicott’s sails with less than 2:30 left. However, in college football, is the game ever really over?
After the CUA kickoff and a personal foul, Endicott scored within seconds to make it CUA 32, Endicott 29, with an onside kick to come. Some shenanigans occurred, with the ball not traveling 10 yards before contact, setting CUA up to burn as much clock as they could. Endicott used all their timeouts, and were given the ball on the 22-yard line with less than a minute to go. However, the CUA defense held strong again, preventing Endicott from getting a good pass off and winning their second home game in a row, 32-29. Licciardi, who finished with 128 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, was the driving force behind the win.
“With the team this season, it is a completely different culture than it was my first two years here. Everyone on the team is dedicated and wants to win. After Christopher Newport next week we are into conference play and we have our eyes set on winning the conference,” Licciardi said after the game.
From what Cardinal players have said all across the field, this year is different, and CUA is in a great position to challenge for the conference championship.