Blocked punt gives Lions 6-0 win over LaSalle

The College’s football team narrowly edged Division I-AA LaSalle 6-0 on Saturday afternoon to improve to 2-0 on the season.

Faced with a horrendously rain-soaked field, the Lions’ defense held the Explorers scoreless. Sophomore running back Cory Schoonover blocked a punt and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown and the only score of the game in the second quarter, coming away with the win.

“As we went from playing on a grass field to a quagmire, whoever scored first was really going to have the leg up because it became so difficult to get into the end zone,” head coach Eric Hamilton said.

The blocked punt came with LaSalle pinned on their own 30-yard line and junior place kicker Blake Abbot followed by missing the extra point attempt.

That was all the scoring the College would need though, as their defense kept a tight hold on the Explorers the whole game, limiting them to 27 total yards and just three first downs on 47 total tries.

“Our defense is really starting to come together,” senior defensive back Steve Andrews said. “Since the goal line stand at Cortland, we haven’t given up 50 yards I don’t think. It really set us off and we have kept it going.”

The muddy field and rain turned out to be to the Lions’ advantage as it kept LaSalle away from their strong passing game.

“They throw the ball a lot but today you couldn’t do that,” Andrews said. “Our front seven is too strong against the run. If we play an offense who runs the football a lot, the game won’t be close because those guys are really just that good. LaSalle was forced to play to our strength and I think the stats show that they didn’t have much too much success.”

Hamilton said the weather had a tremendous effect on the game.

“It changed everything you try to do and changes the way you want to play,” he said. “With their offense and defense, the weather played right into our hands but it hurt us offensively as well, which is why we struggled to get into the end zone.”

Although they were held scoreless offensively, the Lions did have more success moving the ball on offense than the Explorers, managing 147 total yards on 64 plays. Junior running back Gregg Silvesti netted 89 yards on 27 carries and freshman quarterback Jeff Struble came off the bench to complete 3-of-10 passes for 38 total yards.

The tight win was a good measure of retribution for the Lions, who blew a 24-7 halftime lead last season against LaSalle.

“Because it was a game last year that we let get away, this was a good opportunity to play better and avenge a tough loss,” Hamilton said.

Andrews agreed. “We knew we were better than them and we were out for revenge,” he said. “Last year we were better than them but we didn’t get the job done so we wanted to win this one a lot.”

Senior lineman Justin Mannick led the Lions’ defensive effort with eight tackles, four of them for a loss.

Senior linebacker Steve Vogt and sophomore defensive back Miles Shanklin recorded six stops each and Shanklin added an interception to stymie a fourth-quarter drive from LaSalle.

The Lions will look to improve to 3-0 as they host their home opener Saturday at 1 p.m. against Southern Virginia University.

“They were a relatively young program last year and we didn’t know much about them,” Hamilton said. “It’s going to be important for us to come out this year and get the leg up on them seeing as how it’s our first home game of the year.”