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October 22, 2007

 

Dragons feast upon many Montclair miscues in rout

Dragons

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Red Dragon tacklers Zacc Guaragno (80) and Kyle Pierce (11) wrap up Montclair kick returner Mario McLean (84) in the second quarter of Saturday’s NJAC game. Red Dragons rolled to 43-13 victory.

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

The resplendent rainbow emerging from the clouds as the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard clock provided the perfect conclusion to this latest SUNY Cortland success.
Mother Nature’s impressive, artistic touch was final sign that all is well in Dragon-land, that not much had gone wrong on this Saturday afternoon for a feisty football bunch that feasted on Montclair State miscues during a decisive 43-13 victory.
Though there was no pot of gold as a reward for reeling off 33 unanswered points to upend a highly-regarded opponent that came into the game ranked nationally in two different Division III polls, Cortland will settle for a fifth straight New Jersey Athletic Conference victory as a more coveted prize.
Standing at 5-0 in the conference and 6-1 overall, the Red Dragons head to Ewing, N.J., this coming Saturday afternoon to face The College of New Jersey (4-0 in the conference and also 6-1 overall) in a first place showdown. The new D3football.com national poll ranks TCNJ 18th and Cortland 25th.
Montclair State (2-2 NJAC, 5-2 overall) can only shake its head over all that went astray before a crowd of 5,136 at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex. There was the blocked punt that helped hand the Red Dragons an early touchdown, the muffed punt that started the visitor’s second half woes and the two Greg Steward fourth quarter interception returns that provided 14 additional points for the Red Dragons.
Senior cornerback Steward finished off the scoring and the Red Hawks by weaving 87 yards with his second theft for the game’s final touchdown, diving the final three yards past a Montclair tackler to complete the second longest interception return in school history.
“Once we get clicking, it’s ours,” said Steward, referring to the second half where Cortland out-scored Montclair State 27-zip to win going away.
“It was a total team effort, and it’s going to be the same thing in New Jersey,” said team captain and senior fullback Mike Sveda during Cortland’s post-game glee, looking ahead to the upcoming showdown.
Sveda had been on the receiving end of a halfback pass from Andrew Giuliano that began Cortland’s second half point surge. Tailback Giuliano also ran for a touchdown, quarterback Ray Miles threw for two scores and kicker Matthew Mintz drilled three field goals over the course of this cloudy afternoon.
But it was the field goal Cortland decided not to let Mintz attempt, in the final seconds of the opening half with Montclair State ahead 13-10, that turned this game around.
FACING A THIRD down from the Montclair 32, and with just 3.2 seconds left before intermission, Cortland was lining up for a 49-yard field goal for Mintz. Montclair called for a timeout, and Cortland changed its mind and put the offense back out on the field looking for one last shot at the end zone.
After another Montclair timeout, Miles finally tossed the ball up for grabs in the back of the end zone where Red Dragon Zacc Guaragno came up with a remarkable catch for an apparent touchdown. Unfortunately, Guaragno was flagged for an illegal shift on the play. That wiped out the dramatic TD and cost the Red Dragons five yards of real estate.
It also gave Cortland the chance to do it again despite time having expired — which they did with similar success. This time Miles had to roll to his right before launching a pass Guaragno once again latched onto in the corner of the end zone for the go-ahead 37-yard touchdown pass play.
The decision to go for the TD instead of the field goal wasn’t all that hard for Cortland head coach Dan MacNeill. “It was a pretty long one, and they thought they had a pretty good match-up. They were right. They were right twice,” he said.
“They didn’t expect us to do it again, I guess,” said sophomore Guaragno, a 6-foot-2 wide receiver out of Lansing. “Miles did a great job getting the ball to the corner and it made it easier for me to box him (the Montclair defender) out. That gave us something to look forward to coming out for the second half.”
Montclair State was never the same.
Though Cortland’s Brian Bert had blocked a Red Hawks punt to set up Cortland’s first touchdown, a 4-yard Miles pass to Keith Greene, the visitors used a couple of 80-yard drives to take control of the game. Third down efficiency was crucial to those touchdown marches, capped by a quarterback Michael Jump’s 21-yard pass to wide receiver Jeff Papcun and a one-yard run by running back Jeff Bliss.
In between those drives, Cortland did manage the first Mintz field goal of the game — a career best 41-yarder.
“The blocked punt, I thought we recovered from that pretty well,” said Montclair coach Rick Giancola. “The end of the half play was critical, and the muffed punt. We just kept trying and the more we tried the more mistakes we made.”
The muffed punt came after Cortland’s opening second half drive went nowhere, Guaragno picking that mishandled ball in stride and carrying it into the end zone. But since you can’t advance a muffed punt, Cortland took over from the 28 and scored three plays later when Giuliano swept to his right and tossed a six-yard halfback pass to Sveda into the end zone.
From that point on, the rout was on.
AFTER RUSHING for a grand total of nine yards in the opening half, Giuliano (12x60) and starting tailback Dustin Bowser (14x74) finally go things going. Of Cortland’s 125 rushing yards, 94 came in the third quarter.
After having depended on Miles’ throwing of late, Cortland proved it could run the football after all. Or as Sveda said: “It was just a matter of time. I knew we’d get the running game going this week,”
A 38-yard Bowser jaunt and a 16-yard Giuliano pick-up on back-to-back plays set up a 35-yard Mintz field goal and a 26-13 third quarter lead.
Steward then picked off a pass three minutes into the fourth quarter and returned it 28 yards to the Montclair 2-yard line. Two plays later, Giuliano bounced off a first hit and tumbled into the end zone.
Freshman safety Colan Shue — seeing his first extensive action after team interception leader Ricky Case was lost to a shoulder injury making a second quarter tackle — picked off a pass on Montclair’s very next play. That led to the third Mintz field goal of the game from 33 yards out.
Veteran Steward, back in the starting lineup because Ronny Rodriquez was out with an injury, finished things off with his long distance interception TD return with 4:40 left. It was the fourth Montclair State turnover in the game, not counting the blocked punt.
By comparison, Cortland had zero turnovers. That helped the Red Dragons overcome being out-gained 334 to 295 in yards in the Red Hawks.
“It was total team effort — special teams, defense, offense. We out-shone them, and they’re pretty good,” summed up MacNeill.

Dragon Tales: Mintz earned NJAC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his three field goal production, though he did see his school record streak of consecutive PATs snapped at 70 when Montclair blocked an attempt after Guaragno’s TD reception to close the opening half. Montclair’s Jeremy Mercer blocked that PAT, the 6-foot-4 junior now with four blocked PATs and two blocked field goals on the season... For the fourth time this season, freshman linebacker Brian Haas was named the NJAC Defensive Rookie of the year. He had a career-high 14 tackles, Montclair held to just five net yards rushing in the second half...  Asked if Rodriquez was going to get his starting cornerback job back after his two-interception day, Steward said: “I guess not.” The longest TD return of an interception at Cortland came from Steve Armstrong, who went 94-yards in a game against New York Tech in 1981... Getting a lead and getting Montclair State out of its ball control offense was a Cortland game plan coming in. “It’s tough playing catch-up. You have to try to do different things,” said Montclair’s Giancola, who had QB Jump throw the ball 42 times. Jump was sacked three times by Haas, linebacker Kyle Pierce and defensive end Ben Nagle... Senior Montclair starting tailback Ryan McCoach did not play because of a shoulder injury suffered last week. Back-up Bliss filled in well, running for 78 yards on 27 carries and catching five passes for 48 yards... Beating TCNJ would clinch an NCAA Division III playoff spot for the Red Dragons. The worst they could finish with be 6-1, and only TCNJ could match that record with the tiebreaker being the head-to-head result. Cortland finishes league play hosting Rowan Nov. 3. Rowan was upset by Kean in OT Saturday.
 


 

Trojans done in by Caz

By TOM VARTANIAN
Staff Writer

CAZENOVIA — It was simple domination on both sides of the line of scrimmage for Cazenovia Saturday afternoon in the Section 3 Class B football quarterfinals.
The second-seeded Lakers capitalized on two first-quarter interceptions to bolt to an early 19-0 lead as the ball never crossed the 50-yard line en route to a 59-6 romp over seventh-seed Homer Central.
Cazenovia, ranked third in the New York State Class B poll, improves to 8-0 and will meet third-seed Solvay (7-1) at Chittenango Saturday at 2 p.m. Fifth-seed Marcellus (6-2) squares off against top-seed Westhill (8-0), ranked fourth in NYS Class B, in the other semifinal Friday at Corcoran, beginning at 5 p.m.
Technically, the ball did cross midfield on the second Joey Rivers interception that Lee Namy grabbed at the Laker 48 and returned to the Trojan 41 to set-up the second Cazenovia scoring drive, and on a Talon Sprouse punt fielded by Ben Dewan at the Caz 46 and returned to the Homer 38 to start the third scoring drive.
“Some of the kids on this team returned from last year and some of the kids are new to the program,” said Cazenovia head coach Tom Neidl. “They have all come together and today was simply the way every game has gone this year. The guys all played well together. They get along really well and it is a pleasure to coach them.
“It was a great team effort,” Neidl added. “A lot of guys did contribute on both sides of the ball. Our second unit, the Gold team, came in and did a great job.”
On offense, Cazenovia raked up 368 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground, led by quarterback Cole Koesterer (11 carries-143 yards, 2 TDs) and tailback Chris Course (9-117, 3 TDs). Koesterer also completed four-of-eight passing attempts for 94 yards and two touchdowns. Nourse caught two passes for 78 yards and one TD with Aaron Race grabbing the other two completions for 16 yards on one TD.
On defense, the Lakers picked off three Rivers passes as the junior completed just two-of-12 attempts for three yards. The only big play was a halfback option pass from Will Connery to Kane Hartnett for 56 yards that set up a four-yard K.J. Reese (19 carries-77 yards) touchdown run. Team receiving leader Mike Carboine did not have a catch the entire game and the Trojans gained just 124 yards in the ground.
Homer had a four-game win streak snapped, the Trojans 4-4 on the year.
“WE STAYED IN our normal defensive sets most of the time,” said Neidl. “The scouting report showed a few tendencies and we keyed on them.
“I thought Tom (Cottrell) and Gary (Podsiedlik) did a good job calling the offensive plays and mixing things up,” Neidl added. “They had us back on our heels a few times and we did make a couple of changes. We had a couple of cross-ups, but we were disciplined most of the time. Staying disciplined really helped out a lot.”
“I know we gave up a couple of big plays early,” said Homer head coach Gary Podsiedlik. “We did make a couple of defensive adjustments and actually took it to them a little. That showed that the kids were willing to listen and willing to learn, but we made too may mistakes. Cazenovia made the plays when they needed to in that first half.
“Cazenovia is an outstanding football team,” Podsiedlik added. “Our guys have done a great job this year. We beat a team with more talented players in Phoenix and a lot more talented players on the Skaneateles team. We found a way to win those games. We also were right in the Solvay and Marcellus games. We just could not capitalize today and then, like Westhill, the bottom fell out.”
Coach Podsiedlik also saw something else that he had not seen since Westhill.
“I saw those same nervous looks in some of the guys’ eyes,” said Podsiedlik. “When you are playing a team that his physically stronger than you are and are executing well, you see that. Our guys were nervous and frustrated in the wrong way early, but we did keep our cool and we did not do anything foolish.
“All we can do is regroup,” he added. “We will look to play our best next week against whoever we play. We will just come out and play our best. If we do that and played our best game of the season, then there cannot be any complaints.”
After the first Rivers interception, Nourse scored on a 46-yard run the second time he touched the ball for a 6-0 Cazenovia lead with 9:54 left in the quarter.
Nourse scored on a nine-yard burst with 7:29 left in the quarter after the second interception to cap the six-play before Mike McGinnis scored on an eight-yard run for the 19-0 cushion with 3:52 still to play in the first quarter.
IN THE FIRST minute of the second quarter, Homer was deep in its own territory and Race blocked Talon Sprouse’s punt. One play later, Koesterer tossed an 11-yard scoring strike to Race for a 26-0 lead.
The Trojans answered with their lone score to cut the deficit to 26-6 with 9:46 left in the first half, but a 12-yard Nourse run and five-yard Koesterer scamper ballooned the Cazenovia lead to 40-6 by halftime.
Koesterer opened the third quarter short swing pass that Nourse turned into a 70-yard touchdown by running between Trojan defenders for six more points. Koesterer then run 47 yards for another score and the lead was 52-6.
Back-up quarterback Carter Franz capped the scoring with a  34-yard scramble for the final touchdown of the game with 8:13 left in the fourth quarter.
Homer will look to regroup as the seniors will close out their careers on George Butts Field Friday night. The opponent is who many local fans wanted, a season finale with the Cortland Purple Tigers (3-5 overall). Kickoff will be 7 p.m.

 

 

 

Lions keep crown

DRYDEN — Pat Streeter drilled a low shot that deflected off a defender’s leg and into the goal for the only score in the Interscholastic Athletic Conference championship game Saturday night at Tompkins Cortland Community College.
That goal lifted the Purple Lion boys (15-1-2 overall) to its second straight overall championship over a stubborn Spencer-Van Etten (15-2-1) squad.
“It was very exciting and very intense game,” said Dryden coach Laszlo Engel. “Either team could have won it and it will help both of us prepare for the upcoming sectional tournament.”
T.J. Weaver made three saves to earn the shutout for the Purple Lions. It was the 12th shutout of the season and Weaver has allowed just two goals all season long. The Dryden senior now shares something special with his older brother Andrew, a forward-midfielder four years ago for the Purple Lions.
Andrew Weaver won the IAC championship in his senior season (2003) with a 2-1 win over Spence-Van Etten. That was the first of the three overall titles for Dryden. Both Weavers love soccer and were starters in their senior season and Engel has coached both brothers to their titles.
LANSING GIRLS claimed their overall title Saturday at TC3 with a 2-0 shutout of Newark Valley. The LadyCats (17-0) got goals from Ryann Cretney and Rachel Palladino. Lansing totally stymied Newark Valley (12-4) as the Cardinals did not get a single shot on goal.