September 29, 2006


Pioneers provide Dragon grid test

Sports Editor

One sign of the maturity this SUNY Cortland football team possesses came last Saturday, when a long pass play enabled host Buffalo State to score a first quarter tying touchdown.
“Nobody panicked,” recalled head coach Dan MacNeill. “It was right back to business and before you knew it, it was 31-7 at halftime.”
The Red Dragons would go on to a 38-20 victory that was not as close as those numbers indicated, an impressive showing that prompted former Buffalo State coach and its current athletic director Jerry Boyes to come up to old friend MacNeill afterwards to say Cortland might have something special brewing.
Another trait that makes this undefeated 3-0 team — ranked 10th national poll in the American Football Coaches Association Division III national poll, 14th by Don Hansen’s Football Gazette and 19th by — go is its work ethic throughout the week.
“It’s a unique group, even last year,” said MacNeill. “We haven’t had to whip kids. We’ve had kids get banged up, because they work so hard, but as practice goes there has never been a problem. They have had a hard-hat mentality to always come to practice and work hard.”
And with all these senior and junior veterans at hand, Cortland knows the importance of every game, knows the danger lurking in every opponent.
That will be vital when William Paterson visits for Saturday’s 1 p.m. New Jersey Athletic Conference match-up. Though the Pioneers are 0-3, though Cortland has won nine of 10 meetings against the school from Wayne, N.J., the Red Dragons know this is a dangerous, talented foe.
Two of the three William Paterson losses came against teams that were in the NCAA playoffs last year. Two weekends ago the Pioneers led Hobart College — the team that knocked off the Red Dragons in the NCAAs last season — 21-7 at halftime before suffering a 31-27 home field loss.
And last year, William Paterson upset Rowan. That shocker enabled Cortland to share first place in the conference with Rowan, both with a league loss.
“We’re getting there,” said William Paterson coach Mike Miello, now in his second season after a long coaching career that included spending time as an assistant at Rutgers and 23 seasons running a successful Ramapo High program in New Jersey.
THE PIONEERS have senior linebacker Shadee Davis leading the defense, the pre-season All-America with eight quarterback sacks a year ago. This year he has been in on 16 tackles.
Free safety Todd Gorski and linebacker Kyle Harkins are two other seniors who play key roles on a pretty good defensive unit. Gorski had 25 tackles against Hobart and forced a fumble, while Harkins has 25 tackles on the season.
Miello likes his backfield of junior Calvin Johnson and sophomore fullback Mike Vicci. Johnson rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns against Hobart, while Vicci is the team’s leading receiver with 15 catches.
Cortland’s MacNeill is worried about the speed of William Paterson’s wide receivers, sophomore Patrick Cobourne and junior Kareen Moon. Both latched onto touchdown passes against Hobart.
Still, when asked what William Paterson had to improve on to knock off Cortland, Miello says: “Everything, everything. We’re going to have to execute our offense and take time off the clock, to give them as few opportunities as possible on offense. It’s easier said then done, because their defense gets after it.”
The Cortland defense may be without senior inside linebacker Matt Montpetit, who was hoping to play despite suffering a separated shoulder injury in the win at Buffalo State. Montpetit and fellow linebacker Bill Hauser lead the Red Dragons with 21 tackles apiece. Dave D’Aurelio has 20 tackles from his linebacker post, 10 coming at Buffalo State.
Linebacker is a spot where the Red Dragons lack depth because of injuries, junior Kyle Pierce expected to see time if Montpetit sits. And freshman Marcus Johnson out of Elmont has moved up the depth chart at the position.
Cortland has been able to build some depth, having gotten everyone on the travel squad playing time in wins at Morrisville and Buffalo State.
“If we’re going where we want to go, we need depth,” said MacNeill. “We have to transcend from good to great.”
SPECIAL TEAMS have been a concern for William Paterson, especially in the loss to Hobart. That’s an area that has been a plus for the Red Dragons, including a pair of punt returns by Stef Sair that set up touchdowns against Buffalo State last weekend.
Coach MacNeill was happy to see his special teams had a 53-yard edge in the win over Buffalo State, a 38-yard edge the previous weekend in beating Brockport at home.
Jeff Beck is ranked fifth nationally in kickoff returns with a 34-yard average and Sair is 29th in punt returns averaging 13-years per return. Punter Jimmy Cunneen is averaging 37 yards per punt, while Matthew Mintz is a perfect 12-for-12 on PAT kicks and has connected on 2-of-3 field goal attempts.
Special teams provide good field position, which helps out an offense that has tailback Matt Rickert with a team high five touchdowns. Quarterback Alex Smith — who will get senior receiver Anthony Morat back after sitting out the Buffalo State game with an injury — has completed 60 percent of his throws.
“I think every week for us, as always, we need to concentrate on Cortland. We have to get better and better and better each week,” said MacNeill, who knows the Red Dragons will have to be at their best against the Pioneers
“Last year the game got away from us,” recalls Miello, a 10-0 deficit just before halftime growing into a 31-0 loss in New Jersey. “If we can do some things offensively, you never know.”
Dragon Tales: The Cortland C-Club and Athletic Department will be honored last spring’s Red Dragon conference champions at halftime. Next week when Kean visits, the NCAA Division III national champion lacrosse team will take bows.. Cortland ranked third in the latest New York State Division III poll behind Hobart and St. John Fisher.. Senior linebacker Josh Jablonski, a graduate student who is the all-time blocked kick leader at Cortland, may miss the entire season with an ankle injury suffered playing basketball this past summer. He did some some action against Brockport.. In an on-going battle, junior Matt Berman gets the starting nod over classmate Dan Yaeger at safety. MacNeill indicated both will play.. After scoring the game’s opening 13 points, Cortland JVs played well in a 37-25 loss to Division I Cornell earlier this week.. QB Smith has 29 career TD throws, fourth all-time at the school. Safety Sair is still an interception shy of a school record, the senior with a dozen picks.



Soggy sports scene

Thursday’s wet weather claimed a trio of Cortland High events Thursday.
The field hockey game with visiting Liverpool was called during the first half due to wet weather, while the golf match against Jamesville-DeWitt at Drumlins and the girls’ tennis match at Fulton were postponed. None had been rescheduled as of press time.
The CHS field hockey squad hosts Holland Patent in an 11 a.m. non-leaguer Saturday. The golf team hosts Fulton at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Cortland Country Club. The girls’ tennis team was to host Chittenango at 4 p.m. today and the OHSL Invitational Tournament at 9 a.m. Saturday.
THE HOMER CENTRAL tennis team had its match at Jamesville-DeWitt postponed Thursday. The Trojans will travel to J-D for the make-up match at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday.
THE DRYDEN HIGH Athletic Department is sponsoring their First Annual Chicken BBQ Oct. 7 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Clark’s Supermarket in Dryden. Tickets can be purchased from any fall athlete or at any school office.



Lions rally past Bobcats

DRYDEN — James Holman scored in the 55th minute as Dryden High boys overcame an early 1-0 second-half deficit to defeat Lansing in a big Interscholastic Athletic Conference soccer crossover soccer match on a rainy Thursday afternoon.
The Purple Lions improved to 10-0-1 with the victory.
In other IAC boys’ action, Marathon posted a 3-1 win over Spencer-Van Etten, Newark Valley nipped Candor 1-0, Trumansburg shut out Moravia 4-0 and Union Springs pounded Newfield 7-1.
Dryden 2, Lansing 1: The winning goal for the Purple Lions came off a rebound opportunity. Holman blasted a shot that rebounded right back to him around the 18 yard-line, and he did not miss the second chance to break the 1-1 tie.
After a scoreless first half, Lucas Heffron gave the visiting Bobcats (8-2-1) a 1-0 lead as his slippery shot slid out the hands of Dryden goalkeeper Brad Waterman (five saves) and trickled over the goal line.
“Brad made a good play on the ball, but it slipped away from him,” Dryden coach Laszlo Engel said. “Brad has been getting much better and gaining confidence in goal since taking over Spencer Hoyt, who was injured in the Marathon game.
“Most importantly, the guys did not panic. They refocused and came back to win the game.”
Dryden tied the game when Nick Lange scored on the rebound of his own penalty kick.
“Teagan (Barresi) guessed right on the penalty kick and made the initial save, but Nick kicked it so hard that the ball bounced right back to him,” Engel said. “Nick fired the next shot right into the goal.”
Dryden will host Newark Valley in Division I action Monday night_at 6:30.