Spartans break open close game, oust Vicenza
MONS, Belgium – Thirteen fourth-quarter points swung a defensive battle SHAPE’s way on Saturday as the Spartans knocked off Vicenza 20-9 in a Division II quarterfinal matchup.
SHAPE scored the only points of the first half on a second-quarter run by Conner Manning. But Vicenza had the answer after halftime, as Mario Molina completed a 67-yard touchdown pass to Jerome Farmer and kicker Adrian Guerrero converted a 27-yard field goal to push the visiting Cougars ahead 9-7 entering the fourth quarter.
That’s when the Spartans stepped up. Eimad Ismail put the home team back on top with a 3-yard run, and Manning stretched the lead to two possessions with a 1-yard run.
As he’s been all season, Manning served as both a yardage-gobbling workhorse and a timely playmaker for SHAPE. He carried 24 times for 169 yards, caught two passes for another 16 and accounted for 12 of his team’s 20 points. Clay Coon paced the Spartan defense with six solo tackles, while Austen Eperjesi made an interception.
Molina was efficient under center for Vicenza, completing six of 13 attempts for 157 yards and a score. Farmer accounted for 87 receiving yards.
SHAPE, the No. 2 seed in the Division II North region, advances to a showdown with the South’s top seed next Saturday. The Spartans will travel to unbeaten Ansbach in search of a trip to the European championship game Nov. 2.
Vicenza can look back on a successful campaign defined by a season-opening win over rival Naples and a postseason berth, positive steps after last year’s last-place finish in the South region.