November 23, 2009
Red Dragons beaten in Bowl finale
PITTSFORD — While SUNY Cortland wide receiver Eric Hajnos and quarterback Alex Smith had a record-setting finish to their football careers, this was not the way the Red Dragons were looking to close out the season.
Led by quarterback Tim Bailey’s 256 passing yards, St. John Fisher scored a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to pull away for a 34-20 victory over visiting Cortland in Saturday’s ECAC Northwest Bowl contest at Growney Stadium.
That wrapped up a 7-4 season for the Red Dragons, who were making their 15th post-season appearance and seventh over the past eight years. After finishing third in the New Jersey Athletic Conference, Cortland closes with back-to-back road stumbles against Empire 8 conference schools. This setback arrived after a 24-21 loss at Ithaca College in the annual Cortaca Jug regular season finale.
Senior Hajnos caught a pair of first half touchdown passes to break the school’s single-season school record. His 10 touchdown receptions were one better than the previous mark of nine shared by four players, including himself.
Hajnos also tied the school career touchdown record of 23 previously set by Neal Heaton Jr. when he was catching passes for Cortland from 2001-04.
Signal-caller Smith threw for 198 yards and three touchdowns in his final game as a Red Dragon. That capped a storybook season which began with the graduate student serving as an assistant coach on the team and out of uniform.
When two starting quarterbacks were lost to injury, Smith was granted an extra-year of eligibility by the NCAA — having missed most of his senior season following a second knee injury — and was making his sixth straight start since answering that SOS call.
The three touchdown passes thrown against St. John Fisher gives Smith 48 for his career, tying the school record set last year by quarterback Ray Miles — who ironically took over in the 2007 season when Smith was injured in a season-opening game against Morrisville.
AGAINST ST. JOHN Fisher (7-3), Cortland held a 20-13 lead when Smith threw his third touchdown passes to the most unlikely of targets — completing a 3-yard end zone toss to senior defensive end Bryan Wiley who had been inserted on offense in a goal-line situation with 5:06 left in the third quarter. That go-ahead touchdown was set-up by linebacker Bobby Somerville’s interception.
Bailey, who completed 24-of-41 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns, brought the host Cardinals back. Fisher tied the game at 20-20 with 2:48 left in the third quarter on Bailey’s 7-yard pass to Paul Deckard. A 23-yard TD pass from Bailey to Dan Witkowski gave the Cardinals a 27-20 lead with 14:05 left
Cortland drove into Fisher territory on its next two drives only to be stopped by on interceptions by Dave Vosburgh at the 5-yard line and Mike Leavell at the 27-yard line. Fisher responded to the second pick-off with a 65-yard scoring drive, capped by a Brad Carlton 2-yard TD run with 2:19 left.
Cortland pushed one final drive to the Fisher 20-yard line, but eventually a fourth-down sack by Chris Sawyer sealed the Cardinals’ victory.
Sophomore cornerback D.J. Romano led Cortland’s defense with 11 tackles while linebacker Will Schroeder was in on nine stops. Romano’s outing earned him New Jersey Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Junior running back Dom Sair rushed 20 times for 76 yards for the Red Dragons. Hajnos caught 11 passes for 90 yards, while senior Wayne Wheeler latched onto four Smith tosses for 37 yards.
St. John Fisher grabbed a 6-0 lead on the game’s first drive, a 70-yard march ending with Bailey’s 10-yard TD run. The extra point was wide. Cortland tied the game later in the quarter on a Smith 4-yard pass to Hajnos, but the Red Dragons’ extra point also missed wide and the game was knotted at 6-6.
Smith’s 11-yard TD pass to Hajnos with 5:45 left in the half put Cortland ahead 13-6. Fisher knotted the game at 13-13 on a Bailey 11-yard pass to Ryan Schmidt with 38 seconds left before intermission.
THE NORTHWEST BOWL was one of six ECAC post-season contests played Saturday, including NJAC runner-up Kean beating Ursinus 35-14 in the Southwest Bowl. In other contests, Springfield beat Plymouth State 42-13 in the Northeast Bowl, Union thumped Hartwick 39-21 in the North Atlantic Bowl, Franklin & Marshall nipped Wilkes 29-24 in the South Atlantic Bowl and Lebanon Valley toppled Salisbury 37-21 in the Southwest Bowl.
— In a Division III first round playoff game, NJAC champion Montclair State defeated Maine Maritime 38-22. The Montclair State reward will be a trip to defending champion and No. 1 ranked Mount Union in this Saturday’s second round contest.
To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe