The Lions football team improved to 4-1 on the year and 2-1 in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) with a 22-14 victory over William Paterson University Friday night. The College has now won 11 consecutive games against the Pioneers.
The win did not come easily, as the College had to stave off a late comeback attempt from the Pioneers. With a 22-0 lead and six minutes remaining in the game, the Lions gave up 14 points and had to rely on an onsides kick that bounced out of bounds with 32 seconds remaining to keep the Pioneers from getting a final chance to tie the game.
“When you play 54 minutes of a 60-minute game, that’s a concern,” head coach Eric Hamilton said. “You can’t do that. We’re looking for some more consistency.”
The Lions built a 16-0 halftime lead behind a pair of rushing touchdowns from sophomore back Cory Schoonover, who rushed 15 yards for a score in the first quarter and 22 yards for another in the second quarter. Schoonover netted a career high 140 yards on 20 carries for the game.
The College put its first points on the board with a 33-yard field goal from junior place-kicker Blake Abbott, who had his point after attempt on Schoonover’s second touchdown blocked.
The Lions’ ground attack was operating well all game. Senior running back Jim Dabrowski collected 49 yards on three carries before leaving the game with an injury and junior back Gregg Silvesti carried the ball 12 times for 73 yards, including a one-yard touchdown run in the third that would give the Lions their 22-0 lead.
The College’s passing game was not quite as effective, as all receivers combined to catch just 11-of-23 passes for 128 yards.
“Our wide receivers are not playing as well as we know they can,” Hamilton said. “Paterson was not one of our better games in terms of catching the ball but we know they can do better and we know they are coming around. The big-time players will have to step up in the big games.”
The Lions totaled 395 yards for the game, with an uneven 267 of them coming on the ground.
“We have to be balanced and spread out. It’s nice to have different people contribute but our options are deteriorating,” Hamilton said, referring to the injuries of Dabrowski and junior running back Leeaire Brown.
“Those are prime-time running backs,” he said. “It’s nice that the guys we have are stepping it up but the depth is getting away.” Despite their fourth-quarter lapse, the College’s defense was solid as usual, holding the Pioneers scoreless for more than three and a half quarters. They allowed four rushing yards on 24 carries for the game and forced nine punts from Paterson’s sophomore Rob Larsen.
Senior defensive back Steve Andrews provided a key interception at the end of the second quarter to halt the Pioneers’ first scoring threat of the game.
“They got a few first downs in a row and started building some confidence and then they threw the interception,” Andrews said. “I don’t think they would have scored anyway-our defense was playing really well at that point- but I was glad to get the interception and not give them another chance to score.”
Senior linebacker Michael Sykes added three sacks for 30 yards and senior defensive back John Sher added an interception and a 37-yard return. Both had seven tackles on the game.
The Lions were hurt during the fourth-quarter lapse and all game by excessive penalties, collecting eight of them for a total of 98 yards on the night.
“Maybe on our part there was a little lack of concentration in the second half,” Hamilton said. “Maybe I see it differently than those who called them. Some of the penalties were uncharacteristic of us. When you are in a close game, those are the types of things that will get you beat. Next week’s concern has to be eliminating the stupid penalties.”
The College will host another NJAC game against Western Connecticut State University on Saturday at 2 p.m.