By: Alex Bourdakos – Staff Writer
Finding themselves down 13-0 five minutes into the first quarter, the Flyers rallied around redshirt senior running back Connor Kacsor to secure their third win in a nail-biter against the Kennesaw State Owls. The final score of the contest was 31-27 in favor of the Flyers, with three of the Flyers’ touchdowns courtesy of Kacsor.
The Flyers looked like they had come ready to play with senior cornerback Cameron Stubbs returning the opening kickoff to the 50-yard line with an explosive run. Momentum quickly shifted to the visiting Owls, however, as Dayton’s redshirt first-year quarterback Alex Jeske threw an interception on his opening pass.
Then, Owls running back Chaston Bennett bursted for an 80-yard touchdown run on the following play, Kennesaw State’s first offensive play of the game. After blocking the extra point, the Flyers were down 6-0 with less than a minute gone in the game. The Owls soon scored again on a six-play, 48-yard drive that lasted only 2:48. Now down by 13 points, with less than five minutes of the game gone, the Flyers needed to respond.
“I don’t think anybody was nervous, we knew that we are a second half team,” senior cornerback Cameron Stubbs said. “To us it’s zero-zero the whole game. We are just going to play our hearts out until the end.” Stubbs finished the game with two interceptions and some big plays on kick returns.
The Flyers bounced back with a punt return by sophomore cornerback Christian Searles. With great field position, the Flyers marched the ball with a lighting-quick, 48-yard, 1:17 drive capped off by a 20-yard touchdown pass from Jeske to senior wide receiver Cory Stuart.
Kennesaw State responded to the score with one of their own on a 6:52 drive, which ended on a run by redshirt junior quarterback Trey White into the end zone. On the ensuing kickoff, the Flyers special teams once again set up great field position with Stubbs returning the ball to the 46-yard line. The Flyers drive ended abruptly when Jeske was intercepted for the second time on the night.
The Flyers soon got back the ball when Stubbs snagged an interception of his own at 11:07 in the second quarter. Back in possession, Dayton drove down the field on a 74-yard drive that heavily relied on Kacsor on the ground and ended with Kacsor scoring a two-yard touchdown, cutting the KSU lead to just six points, 20-14.
Kennesaw State would not let up, however, and on their next drive scored another touchdown, again extending their lead to 13 points. Set up once again by great field position, courtesy of Stubbs, the Flyers completed another touchdown drive with Kacsor scoring a three-yard touchdown. The half would end with the score reading 27-21, in favor of the Owls.
Having allowed 27 points in the first half, the Dayton defense regrouped in the second half and started the third quarter by forcing a Kennesaw punt.
The Dayton offense rode Kacsor’s running down to the one-yard line but was stopped short of the end zone on fourth down.
After forcing another KSU punt, the Flyers were back with the ball and great field position courtesy of a return to the 14-yard line by Searles. This time in the red-zone the Flyers scored with four plays, all Kacsor runs, leading to a two-yard touchdown.
“When you are on the one yard line and can’t get the ball in, it’s tough,” Kacsor said, “but to come out and have Christian [Searles] have that huge punt return and then to come out here and actually put the ball into the end zone is an incredible feeling.”
With the Flyers leading for the first time in the game, 28-27, the defense made another huge play with an interception by Stubbs, his second of the game.
On the following possession, the Flyers marched down the field and scored a field goal, on their second attempt because of running into the kicker penalty. Down 31-27, the Kennesaw offense was no match for the Flyers defense, who held the Owls offense scoreless in the second half and forced a game-deciding turnover on downs with 4:46 left in the game. The Flyers would go on to win the game by running out the clock.
The win clinched an undefeated 3-0 record in nonconference play for the Flyers before they head into Pioneer Football League play next weekend, and head coach Rick Chamberlin had one word to describe both the game itself and how the team will use the result.
“Momentum,” Chamberlin said. “This is a great win, these have been three great wins against good teams, but now it’s PFL. That adds even more onto it there, and being on the road on your first PFL game is never easy. We really got to have a good week and focus at practice”.
The Flyers will look to extend their record to 4-0 against Stetson away next week for their first matchup with a PFL opponent.
Photo of Connor Kacsor catching one of his three touchdowns Saturday by Multimedia Editor Chris Santucci.