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Momentum-building win on Saturday helps Salisbury football in conference title race

After a thrilling 37-34 overtime upset of then-No. 6 St. John Fisher on Oct. 4, Salisbury coach Sherman Wood was understandably guarded about how his team would respond to a visit from fellow Empire 8 Athletic Conference foe Utica.

After a back-and-forth first half, the Sea Gulls allayed their coach's worries by outscoring the Pioneers, 22-6, in the final two quarters en route to a comfortable 36-19 victory at Sea Gull Stadium in Salisbury on Saturday.

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Wood said Thursday morning that he was pleased with his team's effort.

"One of the concerns going into the Utica game was overconfidence after coming off of a huge win and beating the No. 6 team in the country," he said. "Obviously, we prepared for Utica because they're a pretty good football team. They were averaging 30 points per game. So I thought we came out a little sluggish in the first half. Fortunately, we were winning 14-13 at halftime, but I really thought that after a few adjustments and just reminding the guys that we can play much better, they came out – especially on the defensive side of the ball, where we gave up just six points in the second half and that was huge for our momentum. From there, we just finished off the game against a pretty good football team."

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Salisbury improved to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the league and got some assistance from Buffalo State, which upended then-No. 13 Ithaca, 38-27, on Saturday. Buffalo State (5-1, 3-1), Ithaca (4-1, 3-1) and St. John Fisher (4-1, 3-1) sit in a three-way tie atop the conference, while the Sea Gulls are in fourth place.

Despite being a half-game behind the leaders in the Empire 8, Wood said he considers it a four-way tie for league supremacy.

"That's our mindset," he said. "We have four teams with one loss each. Everyone else has played an extra game than we have because we had the bye week, but that's the way we see it so far. But at the same time, we realize that the Empire 8 has been voted the No. 1 conference in the country, and when you look at the top four teams with one loss, St. John Fisher is still ranked, Ithaca is ranked, and Buffalo State and Salisbury have both received votes. With those four teams, it's a coin flip. It's a toss-up. We're paying attention to it now, but at the same time, what we've felt is that once we defeated St. John Fisher, our goal was to go one conference game at a time, and we do realize that we have to win out to at least get to the playoffs."

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