RPI football dominates St. John Fisher behind balanced effort

Defensive exploits enable offense to put game away early


George Marinopoulos got an early hook Saturday, usually a bad sign for any quarterback that comes out of a game early. 

In the case of his team’s game against visiting St. John Fisher, Marinopoulos’ break was well deserved.

Doing damage with his right arm early and often, Marinopoulos tossed five touchdown passes in the first half before giving way to backup Matt Petercuskie late in the third quarter as RPI raced to a 34-0 halftime lead before eventually dispatching the Cardinals 41-7 in the team’s final non-league contest of the regular season. 

Marinopoulos connected on 18 passes in 20 attempts in the opening half for 218 yards with three of the touchdowns going to senior Peter Lombardi. 

“We just came out, executed our stuff, we looked good in that first half,” Marinopoulos said. “We’ve been wanting to see this consistently in our last three games and I think the first half today, it all came together for us, and we want to keep building on that.” 

The RPI defense intercepted three passes in the first half, two by Francis Perry, and put the offense in prime position to put the game away early.

“I don’t know if anything is ever the way you draw it up, it was important for us to get a good start and get the lead and then we got those turnovers that we were able to convert into points,” RPI coach Ralph Isernia said. 

RPI (4-0) assumed control of the game during the opening possession, driving 66 yards in eight plays, and took a 6-0 lead when Marinopoulos deftly faked an inside handoff on a read/option play and pulled the ball back before tossing to Lombardi in the left flat for a seven-yard touchdown with 10 minutes, 11 seconds left to play in the opening quarter.

The pair hooked up again late in the quarter on a 10-yard post play with 1:27 left in the quarter, one play after Marinopoulos hit Riley Conboy for a 21-yard pass on a fourth-and-two play from the St. John Fisher 31-yard line. 

Lombardi had 10 catches for 86 yards in the first half and was in sync with his quarterback from the opening drive of the game.

“This has been years in the making, I’m a senior and he (Marinopoulos) is fifth-year (senior),” Lombardi said. “It is things in practice, things you don’t see in practice, the whole quarantine, we didn’t have practice, but we were out of the field ourselves working on routes every single day, getting things right. It shows out here, all the time you put in.”

On the first play of the next drive, Perry intercepted Cardinal quarterback Michael Krafty for the second time, a turnover RPI turned into a touchdown four plays later when D.J. Palmer hauled in a deep ball from Marinopoulos for a 34-yard touchdown and a 20-0 Engineer lead. 

St. John Fisher (2-2) drove deep into RPI territory deep in the first half but was stopped on downs, setting up a 92-yard drive by RPI, capped by a Marinopoulos touchdown pass to Gil Goldsmith with 2:55 left in the half.

Making his first collegiate start in place of injured starter Hunter Walsh, Krafty was intercepted again late in the half by Carlos Davis, who returned the ball to the Cardinal 12-yard line with 20 seconds left in the half, setting the stage for a Lombardi one-yard touchdown reception on the final play of the half.

“The touchdown right before halftime was important,” Isernia said. “We weren’t going for three in that situation, we wanted seven there. George got us into the right call, it is something he checked us in to. It is good to have a guy like that.”

RPI opens Liberty League play next week when it hosts the University of Rochester Saturday at noon.

Sean Martin, a local freelance writer, is a frequent contributor to the Times Union.