September 30, 2013


St. John Fisher rallies to upend Red Dragons

PITTSFORD — Feasting on four turnovers helped put SUNY Cortland in position to topple a nationally-ranked football foe on Saturday afternoon.
Then the Red Dragons turned the ball over on their opening three possessions of the final quarter, and that turnover trouble enabled host St. John Fisher to rally for a 33-25 victory in a non-league match-up of perennial upstate powers played before 4,865 spectators at Growney Stadium.
St. John Fisher quarterback Tyler Fenti completed 28-of-40 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns — and also scrambled for 88 yards and a score — as the 18th-ranked Cardinals improved to 3-0 on the season while scoring 19 unanswered fourth quarter points.
Cortland, now 1-2 heading into this coming Saturday’s 1 p.m. hosting of Kean University in New Jersey Athletic Conference play, did its best offensive work through the air. Junior wideout John Babin led the way, latching onto nine passes for 173 yards and a touchdown.
Coach Dan MacNeill used both of his junior quarterbacks in the game. Tyler Augliano came off the bench to complete 18-of-30 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns, while starter Tyler Hughes finished 5-for-6 through the air for 31 yards and ran seven times for 42 yards and a TD.
For the third straight game, Cortland was well on the short end in the time of possession department. St. John Fisher converted 8-of-17 third down snaps while possessing the football for 38:07 compared to Cortland’s 21:53. The hosts ran off 88 offensive plays compared to Cortland’s 60.
St. John Fisher grabbed a 7-0 lead on its first drive of the game – a 10-play, 62-yard series capped by a 41-yard scoring pass from Fenti to Rob Riggio. The Red Dragons got on the board with 11:43 left in the second quarter on a Nick Daley 36-yard field goal on his first field goal attempt of the season.
The Cardinals had two good scoring opportunities thwarted by Cortland in the red zone later in the quarter.
St. John Fisher drove from its own 16-yard line to the Cortland 14-yard line on the possession following the Daley field goal, but Cortland junior safety Andrew Tolosi forced a fumble on a first-down run that was recovered by senior defensive end Joe Kirchner. On its next series, Fisher faced 3rd-and-12 at the Cortland 18-yard line and Fenti was intercepted by sophomore safety Andre Green in the end zone.
Cortland trailed 7-3 at halftime, but took the lead on its second possession of the third quarter.
The Red Dragons started the drive at midfield after a punt, but quickly moved into the red zone on one play. Hughes completed a 14-yard pass to tailback Dylan Peebles and Fisher was flagged for two penalties — a roughing the passer call and a late hit out of bounds — that advanced the ball to the 11-yard line. Three plays later, Hughes ran in from two yards out on an option keeper and Cortland led 10-7.
St. John Fisher responded with an eight-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in a Fenti 6-yard TD run and a 14-10 lead with 4:34 remaining in the quarter.
Cortland, however, opened the next drive with a 33-yard pass from Augliano to Babin. The Red Dragons were eventually forced to punt, but the Cardinals fumbled the return and John Stephens recovered on the 22-yard line. On the next play, Augliano hit Babin for a 22-yard touchdown reception and a 17-14 Cortland lead.
The Cardinals mounted an 85-yard scoring drive on their next series. The big play was a 36-yard pass from running back Ryan Kramer to wideout Nathan Nigolian on a trick play to the Cortland 4-yard line. Two plays later Fenti hit Nigolian on a 5-yard scoring pass, though the extra point failed and Fisher led 20-17.
Cortland had been turnover-free for the first three quarters, but coughed up the ball on its first three possession of the fourth quarter.
The first came on the ensuing drive on a fumble that Dalton Donk returned 15 yards to the Cortland 17-yard line. Kramer later ran for a TD on 3rd-and-goal at the 2-yard line to put the Cardinals up 27-17.
Cortland then fumbled at midfield on the second play of its next drive. Fenti quickly hit Nigolian on a 28-yard pass play and ran for 11 yards to the Cortland 11-yard line. Running back Cody Miller rushed three yards for a score two plays later and, after another missed PAT kick, Fisher led 33-17.
Augliano quickly led Cortland from its own 22-yard line to the Fisher 11-yard line on four straight completions, but on the next play a throw to the end zone was tipped up into the air and eventually intercepted by Ballard to end the threat.
Cortland held Fisher on downs at the Red Dragon 33-yard line with 4:20 left, then drove 67 yards in 11 plays. Peebles completed the drive with an 8-yard TD catch, and Babin’s two-point conversion catch from Augliano made it a one-score game at 33-25 with 2:35 remaining.
Daley attempted an on-side kick that bounced up high after just over 10 yards before being recovered by St. John Fisher. The Cardinals converted a 3rd-and-4 at the Cortland 41 with an 11-yard pass from Fenti and Nigolian, and Fisher took a knee three times to run out the clock.
On defense for Cortland, safety Tolosi was in on 13 tackles and forced two fumbles that led to turnovers. Freshman linebacker Tristan Laurore recorded 12 tackles (eight solo) and freshman cornerback Carson Lassiter finished with 10 tackles and three pass breakups.
Lassiter was named the NJAC Defensive Rookie of the Week, while kicker Daley was the NJAC Special Teams Player of the Week.


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