Despite fumbling seven times during a torrential downpour in the second half, the Lions were able to clutch onto a 21-14 victory over New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) SUNY Cortland Red Dragons.
The Lions (2-0, 1-0 NJAC) defeated their first NJAC rival with a strong first half offense, and a consistent defense throughout the game.
The Red Dragons came close to tying the game, when Lion senior punter Jon Mizglewski fumbled the ball on fourth down on the Lions 18-yard line. Tutwiler attempted a pass in the end zone to sophomore receiver Paul DeSantis but was tipped by senior defensiveback Jason Julio.
“Offense did a great job in the first half, we weren’t quite as intense in the second half,” sophomore tight end Jeff Lebb, said. “We were underdogs going into the game.”
“It was nice to play at home, it was an exciting and competitive game,” head coach Eric Hamilton said. “I don’t think both teams played their A-games, but both played hard. It’s an NJAC game so it puts us up in the NJAC conference.”
Sophomore defensive back Steve Andrews rushed two touchdowns during the first half, one just 21 seconds before the first half expired. Andrews’ first touchdown consisted of a 33-yard run early in the first quarter.
After the Lions first goal, Red Dragon sophomore tailback Michael Stepnick had a 10-yard rush with 50 seconds left in the first quarter. Senior running back Jon Hedgepeth scored the only touchdown pass for the Lions from senior quarterback Bob Schurtz with less than four minutes in the first half.
Throughout the game, Schurtz threw 105 yards, went 7-14 and threw a touchdown and an interception.
“I liked the way the offense came out in the first half and did some business,” Hamilton said.
“We put our penalties down, which was a focus,” Hamilton added. “But I was disappointed in special teams. I was happy that all three units played together.”
During the rain of the second half, the Cortland Red Dragons rallied in an attempt to obtain the lead, as senior quarterback J.J. Tutwiler hit freshman wide receiver Anthony Morat to narrow the Lions lead, 21-14.
“I was a little disappointed with the second half,” Hamilton said. “I don’t know if it was a matter of the weather and the turnovers, but defensively we had some big stops.”
Linebacker juniors Michael Sykes and Ray Bateman had eight tackles each. Sykes and Bateman led the Lions successful defense, stopping several Cortland drives in the second half. Senior defensive back Jeremy Julio also aided the College’s defense when he recovered a fumble deep in Lions territory.
“I think the 21-7 lead had us a little overconfident, so we didn’t play as well in the second half,” sophomore running back Jim Dabrowski, said. “The weather conditions were a big factor.”
The Lions host LaSalle University Explorers on Sept. 19, at 7 p.m.
“LaSalle is a team that creates problems for us, they spread out and throw the ball,” Hamilton said. “We don’t know much about them because we don’t play them and all we know is what we have seen on the tapes.”
“They made a big mistake taking off Sunday because we had practice,” Lebb said.