SALISBURY -- Top-ranked Salisbury State has barely been pushed while pummeling opponents this spring, but the Sea Gulls got the fight they expected from visiting No. 2 Gettysburg yesterday. For 30 minutes.
Gettysburg left the Sea Gulls with their first halftime deficit of the season. But all the Bullets really did was awaken the sleeping giants of Division III. Salisbury State opened the third quarter with seven unanswered goals, then blew out the Bullets, 18-10, before 1,797 at Sea Gull Stadium.
The Sea Gulls (8-0), in the midst of their second straight undefeated season and bent on returning to College Park next month to repeat as national champions, confirmed their status as the class of Division III. They won their 24th consecutive game and extended their regular-season winning streak to 45 games by overcoming a rare bumpy ride.
Salisbury State entered the contest having outscored its opponents by an average of 26-5 and having put away most of its victims long before halftime.
But yesterday, the Sea Gulls started poorly on offense -- dropping passes, committing penalties, losing faceoffs, blowing easy shots -- and fell behind by two goals for the first time all year. They left the field trailing 6-5 at the break.
In the third quarter, Salisbury State, mainly senior attackman Sean Radebaugh (Loyola), roared, and the Bullets (7-1) blinked. With Radebaugh scoring all six of his goals in that period, the Sea Gulls outscored Gettysburg 12-2 to take a 17-8 lead at the end of the quarter.
"It was unreal," said Radebaugh, who added three assists. "We're a team that gets a lot of runs. Every game, we have that five- or six-goal spurt, and it's usually when the game is tight. It was just a matter of time. I give credit to Gettysburg. I think they are the second-best team in the nation, and they really outplayed us in the first half."
Jason Coffman, the team's leading scorer, had a game-high eight goals, and he kept the Sea Gulls' sputtering offense afloat with four first-half goals.
"We're so used to just coming out and handling teams, that it's almost like if we don't beat a team by 10 goals, we're not winning," Salisbury State coach Jim Berkman said. "I wanted this kind of a game. They haven't had to deal with this kind of emotion before today. In the third quarter, they responded with a lot of good decisions."
For the entire day, the Sea Gulls responded with terrific defense. Noted primarily for their quick-strike attack, the Sea Gulls showcased Division III's deepest midfield and best defense, led by senior goalie Rich Betcher, a 25-year-old transfer from New York who last played at Towson State in 1991 and is in his final season of eligibility.
Betcher was spectacular, making 10 of his 22 saves in the first period, when Gettysburg outshot the Sea Gulls 16-9 but was in a 3-3 tie at quarter's end.
The rest of the unit was just as stingy as Betcher. Led by senior Chris McQueeney (Southern), who is bothered by a hip pointer, the Sea Gulls allowed only four goals over the last 36 minutes and shut out top scorer Tim DeMore. The defense also gave up two goals in 11 man-down situations.