In what will be their last game playing for The Rock, the seniors of the Slippery Rock University football team put on a show for their home fans one final time in a 57-15 rout of East Stroudsburg University.
All 21 seniors were honored prior to the game. Many of the seniors were recognized alongside their parents, some with their girlfriends, wives or kids and one senior in particular had a special recognition. Senior defensive end Cody Conway was the last player to be recognized. He was joined by his parents and his girlfriend of three and a half years, 2013 SRU graduate Alissa Kelty. During Conway’s recognition, freshman linebacker Patrick Minenock walked up to the group and handed Kelty a bouquet of flowers. Kelty assumed the flowers were for Conway’s mother, but when she turned around to give them to her, instead of Conway’s mom Kelty saw Cody Conway down on one knee proposing marriage. On the field where they met, surrounded by the entire Rock football team, in a stadium full of people Cody Conway and Alissa Kelty agreed to spend the rest of their lives together.
After all the initial celebrations, there was still a football game needed to be played.
Slippery Rock started off the game slow. After failing to move the ball on their first possession, SRU was going to punt the ball away, but freshman punter Josiah Davis could not handle a low snap and ESU took over at the Slippery Rock 25 yard line.The Rock defense would hold strong though, holding the Warriors to a field goal despite the good field position.
On their next drive, senior quarterback Don King III and his receivers started to click. King connected with four different pass catchers to move down the field 75 and take the lead on a senior Drew Scales 13 yard touchdown reception. This was the beginning of what would be an unbelievable day for King.
East Stroudsburg would kick two more field goals to take a 9-7 lead before King would connect with junior Marcus Johnson for another 13-yard touchdown right before the half.
In the second half, Slippery Rock showed that they were the better team and started to pull away. King hit Johnson twice for two more touchdowns to open the half and give The Rock a 35-15 lead. The defense would force East Stroudsburg to a safety. Senior linebacker Anthony Zappone tackled the ESU running back his own end zone for the two points and then Zappone ran off the field to celebrate with his mom who was standing on the sidelines for the game.
King would throw another touchdown, this time to junior Andrew Bridgeforth for a 44-15 lead at the start of the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter, King would throw his seventh, and final, touchdown pass to Scales and Zappone would intercept an ESU pass and take it all the way for a defensive touchdown to open up the final 57-15 lead. King finished with a single-game record for passing yards (527) and passing touchdown (seven) and Johnson broke the single-game record for receiving yards with 237.
King, who was playing in his second game since returning from a concussion, said he was just lucky to be able to play at all.
“These last two games have been, I’d say, pretty tough because I had to knock the rust off because I hadn’t practiced in two weeks,” King said. “I just want to give thanks to God for just allowing me to finish the season. When I got injured I thought I was done and God changed that and gave me the opportunity to come out and compete again and do it for one last time.”
Johnson said that, regardless of the kinds of numbers, he has he is just happy to help the team win.
“I enjoy every game,” Johnson said. “I just love being out there helping my team score and helping my team win.”
One of the longest tenured Rock players was senior linebacker Bob Vernick, who has played in 44 career games in his four-year Rock career. Vernick said that it had not really hit him that Saturday was his last football game and that next year he will not know what to do with himself when football season come around. SRU defensive coordinator Dom Razzano said that Vernick was the best linebacker to ever come through the Slippery Rock system.
In the end, Slippery Rock will finish with a 7-4 record and miss the playoffs for the first time in five years, but the way the team celebrated Saturday, nobody would have ever guessed.