September 24, 2007


Dragons recover behind QB Miles


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland’s Will Loeb (27) stiff arms Buffalo State’s Peter Nguyen (5) on a kickoff return in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s NJAC football opener. Cortland ralled for 30-27 victory.

Sports Editor

The three punts Buffalo State blocked in the first half of this New Jersey Athletic Conference football opener put SUNY Cortland in a pretty perilous position.
Those miscues, along with an interception, enabled the opportunistic Bengals to score the opening 17 points on this warm Saturday afternoon gathering before some 3,000 folks at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex.
But it was the fourth quarter boot the visitors just missed getting to, being flagged for a roughing the punter penalty instead, that proved to be Buffalo State’s undoing. That 15-yard walk off and automatic first down bailed the Red Dragons out of 4th-and-16 trouble and set the stage for the fourth touchdown pass of the day thrown by quarterback Ray Miles.
The unflappable Miles located tight end Michael Zielinski in the end zone for the go-ahead 3-yard touchdown pass play with 8:54 left to play, finishing off a decisive 84-yard scoring drive. That put the Red Dragons ahead for keeps, providing the final points in this 30-27 test of character.
“There was a little bit of panic,” admitted Miles of falling behind by 17 points and being unable to get much going on offensive in the early going. “We hung in there. We’re a good team and we knew we could get it together. We persevered.”
The defense still had to stop two last Buffalo State chances. A penalty and dropped pass stalled the visitors’first attempt to regain the lead. After an exchange of punts favored the Red Dragons, Kyle Peterson lining a 46-yard boot out of bounds at the Buffalo State 21-yard line, the defense came up with one last big play.
On a 3rd-and-4 snap from the Bengals’ 27, defensive tackle Lou Crispo stripped the ball out of the grasp of Buffalo State quarterback Dan Aquilio for a fumble Red Dragon linebacker Kyle Pierce finally secured with 1:28 on the clock. Buffalo State would not touch the ball again after its fourth turnover of the game.
“We had to fight for it at the end. It wasn’t a pretty pile,” said team captain Pierce with a smile, recalling the fumble recovery that wrapped things up. That left the Red Dragons 2-1 on the season and off to a good start as defending NJAC co-champions.
Buffalo State exits at 1-2 with a second consecutive loss. And senior back-up offensive tackle Matt Martins, back in his Cortland hometown for this occasion, echoed a sentiment his head coach Paul Shaffner had shared earlier in the week.
“We’re still trying to learn how to win here,” said the former Cortland High standout.
“THEIR BEST OFFENSIVE play was the blocked kick,” said Cortland head coach Dan MacNeill. “I can’t say enough about the defense, the way they played considering the positions we put them in. And then the offense got going.”
Cortland struggled early, and trouble arrived when Buffalo State’s Peter Nguyen blocked a punt that junior Brian Lavis returned 30 yards for a first quarter touchdown.
After a hit by linebacker Puka Hoching forced Miles into an errant throw picked off by Jermaine Rose and returned to the Cortland nine, Buffalo State cashed in with an Eric Beyler field goal. And after Nguyen blocked another punt in the second quarter, Buffalo State struck on the very next play when Aquilio launched a perfect 38-yard pass to the back of the end zone that Jarrett Smith caught in stride despite being defended by two Red Dragons.
That’s how you fall behind 17-0.
The damage could have been a lot worse of the Red Dragon defense had not stood its ground, Buffalo State not able to turn the other blocked punt into points. Cortland ended up with a 363-234 edge in total yards, the Bengals held to just 47 rushing yards.
“We stuck with it and pulled things out at the end. We stuck with it and persevered,” said Pierce. “We take pride in our defense. We play hard all the time.”
Pierce was moved to an outside linebacker for this game so freshman Brian Haas could make his first start. All Haas, the younger brother of Red Dragon All-America tackle Adam Haas, did was come up with a team high 12 tackles in his first start.
He was named the NJAC Defensive Rookie of the Week for his efforts.
“Little Haas really stepped up in there,” said junior inside linebacker Jim Smith, who was in on 10 stops and caused a key third quarter safety that handed Cortland two points. “It was a fun game, because we’ve got to win the NJAC. We played well on defense, all 11 of us played well, and then the offense stepped up.”
THE OFFENSE was held to just 36 total yards in the first quarter before coming on.
Miles, the strong-armed junior out of Port Byron making his second start this season after senior Alex Smith was lost to a knee injury in the opening game, threw for a career high 304 yards and earned NJAC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Miles delivered two crucial second quarter scoring strikes to regain Cortland confidence, speedy senior wideout Keith Greene breaking open to haul in TD passes of 15 and 36 yards.
Down 20-14 at halftime, and after a bad snapped botched a Cortland close range field goal try in the third period, Cortland got two points when Smith forced Aquilio to throw the ball away out of his own end zone. The Buffalo State senior was flagged for intentional grounding, Cortland awarded a safety.
Cortland got good field position off the ensuing free kick to set up Miles’ 37-yard pass to a wide-open wide receiver Eric Hajnos that put Cortland ahead for the first time at 23-20 with 3:14 left to play in the third quarter.
And though Buffalo State recovered, getting the lead back when Aquilio threw the sideline strike to senior classmate Greg Meyer for a 25-yard touchdown late in the third quarter, Cortland responded with its biggest drive of this young season.
Sure the roughing the penalty flag helped on that 84-yard trek, but Miles completed a key third down pass to Greene early in the drive and then found Hajnos open again for a 42-yarder to the Buffalo State four that set up the winning touchdown toss.
Greene caught six passes for 97 yards, while Hajnos had three catches covering 90 stripes.
THAT’S HOW CORTLAND survived, picking up some momentum with two NJAC road games up next starting with Saturday’s trip to William Paterson.
Though MacNeill felt the game was somewhat on the ugly side, the way his team hung in there was awful pretty. “That was the best thing you could say about this. It was a gut check and we showed some good guts,” the coach said.




Purple Tigers, Trojans return to winning ways

Coming off rare losses, Cortland High and Homer Central girls regained their winning soccer touch over the weekend.
After back-to-back setbacks, CHS recovered and rolled past Henninger 6-0 in a non-league outing in Syracuse on Saturday. Katherine Hunsberger led the Purple Tigers with two goals and two assists.
Meanwhile, Kaylee Benz scored two goals as Homer got back on the winning track with a 3-1 non-league win over visiting New Hartford Saturday on George Butts Field. The Trojans improve to 6-2 overall.
“We really dominated most of the play Saturday,” said Homer coach Jim Baranello. “New Hartford is a good team, but we were faster and took advantage of that.”
Cortland 6, Henninger 0: Cortland dominated play and finished with a 20-3 edge in shots taken while improving to 4-2 on the season heading into this evening’s 7:30 p.m. visit to Chittenango.
Natalie Muka opened the scoring 16 minutes into the game for the Purple Tigers, receiving a through ball from Caitlin Cottone, beating a defender and shooting into the far right-hand side of the goal.
Hunsberger then scored twice within a minute of each other, Cottone and Muka picking up assists. The firs, and Cortland was on its way.
Aubrey VanGorder chipped a shot over Henninger goalie Jessica Peterson’s head early in the second half for a 4-0 lead, Hunsberger with the assist. Katie Apley made it 5-0 with 31:16 left to play, finishing off a shot Hunsberger had taken that Peterson got a touch on. Casey Marks finished the scoring with 25:25 left, hitting a shot from the right side into the upper left hand corner of the goal.
Hannah Polanko-Baker and Katie Apley teamed up in goal for the shutout.
Homer 3, New Hartford 1: Benz opened the scoring in the 18th minute has she took a pass from Jaclyn Yonta and put a shot passed New Hartford goalkeeper Emily Zippin (five saves).
Alison Buzzard broke away with the ball after a long free kick by Elizabeth Stanek and beat Danielle Reygers (five saves) to even the score at 1-1 in the 36th minute.
Benz broke the tie seven minutes into second-half play as she picked up a ball near midfield. Benz dribbled down the field, beat all defenders and delivered the winning shot inside the far post.
Erika Trivisonno gave the Trojans an insurance goal with 70th minute by beating the goalkeeper after a nice crossing pass from Danielle Swarm.
Homer will return to OHSL Freedom Division tonight at 6:30 at Syracuse CBA to start off a tough week. The Trojans will then travel to Cortland Wednesday for a 6 p.m. match.




Devils’ Phillips shows the way

AUBURN — The best effort among the local cross country runners at the Auburn Invitational Saturday was turned in by Jason Phillips.
The Moravia junior took first-place honors in the Boys’ Varsity C/D race with a time of 17:16.78.
In the team competition, only Homer boys and Groton boys had complete teams. The Trojans placed 10th in the A/B Division with 245 points while the Indians were ninth in C/D with 294 points. Moravia and DeRuyter boys were incomplete as were the Homer, Groton and Moravia girls.
“Jason ran a very smart race in hot, humid conditions,” said Moravia coach Jan Hunsinger. “He got out to a fast start and led the first mile. Jason fell to second during the second mile, but he made a strong move to pass the Jordan-Elbridge runner (Jeff Donohue) with one-half mile to go and cruised to the win.”
“We ran well as a team, but it was not our best showing,” said Groton coach Scott Weeks. “Micah Kern ran a strong first half of the race, but faltered in the second half. Jonah Hebdon ran the race of the day for us. He should gain some confidence to run where he is capable of running the rest of the season.”
Kern placed eighth in the C/D race in 18:12.81 while Hebdon was 16th in 18:36.93.
Xuan Zhan was the top finisher of four DeRuyter runners as he placed 79th with a time of 23:57.95.
JACKSON RANDOLPH led the Trojan boys in the A/B race with his 32nd place finish in 18:18.14 while Andrew Gregg four spots back after a time of 18:39.61.
“Jackson had a great break-out race finishing as our number one runner,” said Homer coach Jim Baldwin. “He and Andrew have been pushing each other every week, making each other stronger runners. It just happened that Jackson finished ahead of Andrew this week.
“Our pack time of 2:17 is getting shorter with each race,” Baldwin added.” Our number five and number six runners are themselves pushing each other. Hopefully, as the season continues and everyone gains strength and experience, we will improve even further.”
JESSICA BRAMHALL finished eighth and Heather Wilson was 13th as the only two Homer runners in action in the Girls’ Varsity A/B race. Laura Niederhofer was home sick while both Caitlin McMahon and Megan Harmon did not compete due to nagging knee problems. Bramhall posted a time of 20:59.34 while Wilson posted 21:19.84.