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October 11, 2010

 

Red Dragons’ defense posts another shutout

Football

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland’s Matt Kaufmann (91) and James Lenhart (2) bear down on Brockport quarterback Jon Williams after he fumbled the ball Saturday at the Stadium Complex. Cortland cruised to a 35-0 victory.

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

SUNY Cortland is taking this stretch of defensive stinginess pretty seriously these days.
Certainly a memorable goal-line stand staged by the determined Red Dragons just before halftime was the defining moment in this fifth consecutive New Jersey Athletic Conference football victory, as late-arriving Brockport was throttled 35-0 by their unbeaten hosts on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
“These kids don’t want to relinquish a point,” admired head coach Dan MacNeill of his Cortland defense that has now blanked Western Connecticut State, The College of New Jersey and upstate rival Brockport on consecutive weekends.
Though kickoff was delayed because the Brockport busses were caught up in a Syracuse-area traffic jam en route to the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex, the Golden Eagles still arrived averaging 438 yards and 27 points per contest.
But the only time the Golden Eagles (1-3 NAACO, 1-4 overall) sniffed the goal-line was just before halftime, after forcing Cortland quarterback Dan Pitcher to fumble the ball away on his own 28-yard-line with 2:39 on the clock. Helped out by a fourth down pass interference call in the end zone, Brockport had 1st-and-goal from the Cortland 3-yard line looking to put a dent into a 21-0 deficit.
Fullback Adam Erickson lost three yards on a carry, wideout Matt Luke was tackled two yards short of pay-dirt after catching a short pass and Erickson picked up a mere yard on third down.
Following a time-out with 18 seconds still left in the half, 6-foot-4 and 265-pound Brockport quarterback Jon Williams tried to sneak over for the score. After bobbling the snap a bit, the junior actually lost a yard as strong safety Chris Hanlon and linebacker James Lenhart were the main Red Dragon tacklers preserving the shutout streak.
“It was a huge momentum swing, but the coaches work those situations with us in practice every day and every week, so we’re ready for whatever comes. We love those situations,” said leading Cortland tackler and inside linebacker Cody Allen. The junior had a team-high 13 tackles and one of four Red Dragon interceptions in the blanking.
“You can’t let them get where they want to go,” added defensive end Matt Kaufmann. The senior was in on four of the eight quarterback sacks collected by Cortland while filling in more than admirably for injured starter and team captain Evan Wyler.
“It’s either you or them, and who’s going to be the better man,” added Kaufmann of the goal line stand. “It just shows we’re the bigger team, the better team, and we have more heart then they do.”
So now conference leader Cortland (5-0) has not allowed a point since a third quarter Buffalo State touchdown pass back on Sept. 18.
“IT’S ONE OF THOSE things that’s hanging in the air right now,” said Coach MacNeill of the shutout string. “I enjoy it, don’t get me wrong. You can hang you hat on things like that, but it’s just about the win at this point. The kids are winning in high fashion. They’re scoring a lot of points and defending well.”
A Family Weekend crowd of over 3,000 got to see touchdown-maker Justin Autera find the end zone three times in the first quarter to get nationally-ranked Cortland off to a 21-0 getaway — a 22-yard burst coming between shorter leaps into the end zone. The swift sophomore now has 13 touchdowns through five contests, and rushed for 163 yards on 23 carries to lead a 244-yard Cortland ground game.
Junior Bill Smith continues to be an amazing two-way success story, coming up with 10 tackles at linebacker and breaking off a 16-yard third quarter touchdown run as a fullback. That was his lone carry of the day, blocking being his main offensive duty.
Senior wide receiver Anthony Giuliano latched onto five Pitcher passes, including an 18-yard touchdown reception with 4:41 left in the third quarter that concluded the day’s scoring. Cortland High grad Pitcher had modest success clicking on 9-of-17 passes for 137, but key completions were featured in four of Cortland’s five scoring drives.
There was the 20-yard fourth down toss to Giuliano on the game’s opening possession, a Pitcher-to-Giuliano 28-yard pass play to the Brockport 22 that led to Autera’s TD run on the next snap, a stretching Mike Humphrey grab good for 22 yards to set up the third Cortland TD and a clutch Giuliano 20-yard reception on a 3rd-and-2 snap late in the third quarter.
Pitcher and Humphrey also hooked up on a two-point conversion pass after Cortland’s third touchdown to make up for having Marc Corrado’s second PAT kick blocked.
“They had played a lot of two-high safeties coming into the game, but against us today they played us entirely with a one-high safety. They actually played a defense today that is very similar to what our defense plays, so we’ve had a lot of practice against it,” said Pitcher. “The slant pass was there, the way they were playing those outside linebackers, and we took advantage of it.”
Cortland ended up with a 386-222 edge in total yardage, despite going just 1-for-13 in third down conversions.
“I’m in a great position right now, because I’ve got a defense that doesn’t give up any points and we have a running back and an offensive line who are running the ball great,” said Pitcher of his QB responsibilities. “It’s all about making smart decisions with the football and hopefully we’ll keep rolling the way we have been.”
THE DEFENSE IS DOING its part heading into this coming Saturday’s crucial noontime visit to face third-place Rowan (4-1). Brockport running back Alex Hendrickson came into the game off a 315-yard rushing performance in a loss to Morrisville State, but was held to 39 yards on 14 trips.
“We always look at the stats, and always keep it in the back of our heads, but it’s pretty much a faceless opponent for us,” said linebacker Allen. “Every week we come in we know our jobs and we know what we’re suppose to do. It’s all about Cortland.”
Allen, cornerback Joe Lopez and back-ups Conor Kelly and Mason Ellis all had interceptions for Cortland.
Williams, with more mobile quarterback Joe Scibilia out with an injury, was a target for Cortland pass rushers throughout — though his 170 passing yards provided most of Brockport’s offensive success. Cortland’s eight sacks were the most since a 10-sack performance back in 2006 in a 17-10 win over Brockport.
“He’s one of the bigger quarterbacks we’ve seen, too,” said the 6-foot-7 Hoffmann, who also came up with a crushing special teams hit along with linebacker Tom Lewis. “My coach, the D-line coach (Jason Rebovich), said hit him hard if you have the chance, and that’s what I did.”
“Obviously, without their other quarterback it makes them a little different and allows us to tee off and get after this kid, who’s not quite as athletic,” said Coach MacNeill of Cortland’s ability to get to Williams, including three consecutive third quarter sacks by Kaufmann and nose tackle Lou Crispo. “But take nothing away from our kids. They’re playing well and are great competitors.”

 

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