September 18, 2006


Red Dragons ‘D’ saves the day

Turns back late Brockport TD bid to earn 17-10 win


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
The SUNYCortland defensive line stops Brockport runner Garet Lynch (3) on 4th down inside the five-yard line in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter Saturday. Play saved 17-10 Red Dragons victory.

Sports Editor

In this rugged home opener filled with peril, the SUNY Cortland defense saved the day.
On a warm Saturday afternoon when the Red Dragons were almost too gracious as hosts, considering they turned the football over to Brockport on six occasions, the defense made a determined and dramatic last minute stand to preserve a 17-10 victory.
The Red Dragons did more than just stuff Brockport third and fourth down running plays from their own 4-yard-line with the visitors on the verge of a tying touchdown. They also sacked Golden Eagles sophomore quarterback Zack Luke 10 times in this early season defensive battle between upstate rivals looking to go 2-0.
“You could tell both teams were tired. We knew we had to keep them from getting a touchdown,” said senior captain and defensive end Rich Coyne of Cortland’s last stand. Coyne would be credited, along with safety Stef Sair, for the tackle on the fourth down Brockport failed to convert with 41.8 seconds showing on the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex clock.
The bigger play may have been earlier in the decisive drive, started after Cortland (2-0) lost a fumble with 3:59 left to play to give Brockport (1-1) this final scoring chance from the Red Dragons 46-yard line.
Three snaps later, Brockport sophomore Garet Lynch broke free off left tackle for a 21-yard run that looked like a sure six points before defensive end Brian Robison barely tripped up the tailback from behind. Lynch tumbled to the Cortland 13. Two running plays later, it was 3rd-and-1 for the Golden Eagles four yards away from the end zone.
That’s when back-up tailback Jeremy Darron was crushed to the ground by All-America defensive tackle Adam Haas for no gain. That’s when Lynch came back on the field, only to find nowhere to go on his off-tackle carry.
The Cortland offense had its moments against an ornery Brockport defense. That included a 42-yard touchdown run by Dustin Bowser early in the fourth quarter that put the Red Dragons ahead for good.
But a staunch defense led by inside linebacker Matt Montpetit, who had two sacks among his 10 tackles, made up for a bunch of Red Dragon mistakes. Cortland lost four fumbles, had two Alex Smith passes picked off and were flagged for seven penalties.
“The coach said all week, ‘Pressure, pressure,’” said Coyne of the plan to harass promising signal caller Luke. Coyne went on to say the Red Dragons are very intent on surpassing last season’s school-record 52 sacks.
Luke completed just 7-of-20 throws for 90 yards, and was picked off by corner back Dequan Howard. Ten different Red Dragons were in on the sacks of Luke. Dave D’Aurelio made nine tackles, two sacks and a huge special teams hit that forced a fumble and set up Cortland’s first touchdown.
“The reality is, they did a good job,” said Brockport coach Rocco Salomone of the Red Dragons harassment of Luke, a stellar 130-yard rushing day by Lynch almost off-setting those woes.  “Zack became a little tentative and as a result started looking at the rush and not at_the receivers.“
CORTLAND SPECIAL teams were very special in this victory, too — starting with a 49-yard punt boomed by Jimmy Cunneen midway through the second quarter in a scoreless game. On the return, D’Aurelio’s hit forced a fumble recovered by Red Dragon Ronny Rodriquez at the visitors’ 11-yard line.
Two plays later, Smith lofted a perfect pass into the corner of the end zone caught by senior wideout Drew Lascari and Cortland had a 7-0 lead.
“He threw it where only I could catch it,” said Lascari, who caught three passes covering 46 yards despite playing with a special silicon cast to protect torn ligaments in his thumb.
Cortland had a chance to add to the lead when Howard picked off a pass moments later, though the Red Dragons would be stopped when Matt Rickert lost two yards on a 4th-and-1 run from the Brockport 23.
The Golden Eagles, starting with a 30-yard Lynch run and a 20-yard Luke pass to Darron, would drive inside the Cortland 20 before stalling out. Adam Lanctot’s 37-yard field goal would bounce off the crossbar and through the uprights to get Brockport within 7-3 with 19.4 seconds left in the half.
Brockport successfully pulled off on onside kick to stat the second half to add to that momentum. “I figured we were going to go after them, took the approach we’re here to win the game,” said Coach Salomone.
Brockport turned the ploy into a 48-yard touchdown drive, the final two yards covered when Luke flipped a two-yard pass to fullback Robert Miles who had slipped out of the Brockport backfield. Two costly Cortland penalties on back-to-back fouth down plays helped the visitors on the TD march.
An interception and fumble spoiled the next two productive Red Dragon drives. But back-to-back wayward Brockport center snaps in shotgun formation — the Golden Eagles having lost starting center Dave Burgess to an ankle injury earlier — started the Cortland comeback late in the third quarter.
The Dragons just missed covering up the second botched snap in an end zone scramble. Brockport kept Cortland from a touchdown, but the two-point safety trimmed the lead to 10-9.
THAT’S WHEN THE special teams came through again.
Jeff Beck, also the starting cornerback, weaved his way 40 yards with the ensuring free kick to put Cortland at the Brockport 42.
On the next play, Bowser found a hole over right tackle, cut back against the grain and was off the races. He just beat a Brockport defensive back to the corner of the end zone for the go-ahead TD. In a span of 42 seconds, including Smith’s PAT pass to Anthony Morat, Cortland had scored 10 points.
“I turned back, knew the (Brockport) kid was coming up and my legs were getting a little rubbery, but I knew I was going to score,” said Bowser of his decisive run. The junior led Red Dragon rushers with 61 yards on seven carries backing up starter Rickert.
Cortland would keep Brockport in the game with two additional turnovers, would still need the defense to come up big to finish the job, however.
“I thought we were the best team, it was just the turnovers,” said Bowser. “We’ll clean it up and go to Buffalo State and make another statement there.”
Cortland visits Buffalo State next Saturday at 1 p.m. to begin New Jersey Athletic Conference play.
“We’ve got the chance to be pretty good,” said Cortland head coach Dan MacNeill, frustrated by the turnovers and untimely penalties. “If we don’t learn from this, learn from our mistakes, we might be setting ourselves up for some future disappointment.”



Trojans triumph at CHS

Brandon Simonetta scored three touchdowns Saturday as Homer Central boys improved to 3-0 on the season as the visiting Trojans defeated Cortland High 27-12.
Simonetta caught touchdown passes of 75 and 56 yards from Joey Rivers as Homer raced to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter. Nate Compton opened the scoring for the Trojans on a four-yard run. Matt Dugan kicked two extra points and Cortland blocked one.
Cortland cut the Homer lead to 20-6 in the third quarter as Dyquan Barlow ran up the middle and raced 74 yards into the end zone.
Simonetta added a scoring run of 10 yards in the fourth quarter for the final Trojan touchdown while Barlow answered for Cortland with a 79-yard punt return.
Simonetta finished with 131 receiving yards on two catches while rushing for 84 yards on 10 carries.
Kyle Griffin made nine tackles for Homer and blocked one punt while Mike Park recorded eight tackles. The Trojans allowed just 21 yards passing and 110 yards rushing, 74 on that one play.
Homer football will return to action Saturday when the Trojans travel to Solvay for a 10 a.m. kickoff while Cortland will travel to Oswego on Thursday.