The College’s football team did not disappoint a packed Lions’ Stadium on Saturday in its homecoming game against Western Connecticut State University. Trailing by 12 points at halftime, the Lions stormed back and won 34-26.
The Lions didn’t start off their Homecoming game the way they had hoped. With emotions running high and alumni watching, the Lions’ defense was shaky at the start. On the first drive of the game, Western Connecticut came out firing. The team worked out of a shotgun formation for much of the game and didn’t try to disguise that they were going to throw the ball early and often.
Western Connecticut’s junior quarterback Joe Dimeglio hooked up with sophomore wide receiver Ademis Gonzalez on a 52-yard passing play just a minute into the game, which put the Colonials into scoring position. Junior tailback Jason Adamson punched the ball in from two yards out to give Western Connecticut the early lead.
The Colonials went on to score again in the middle of the first quarter on a 23-yard pass from Dimeglio to Gonzalez and gained a 14-0 advantage over the Lions.
Lions fans did not let the score get them down, though. Freshman onlooker Purak Parikh said he knew the College would turn it around.
“The emotions were really running high in the beginning of the game,” he said. “But I knew they would settle down and play their game.”
The Lions offense then began to pick it up. Near the end of the first quarter, a 62-yard drive was capped off with a seven-yard pass from freshman quarterback Jeff Struble to senior tight end Jeff Lebb.
In the beginning of the second quarter, the Lions were able to capitalize on a muffed punt by the Colonials. The Lions drove 35 yards down the field and scored on a five-yard sweep run by sophomore running back Cory Schoonover to tie the game at 14.
Lions fans could not rest easily for the remainder of the half, though. Western Connecticut went on to score two touchdowns in the final four minutes of the second quarter. Both touchdowns were scored on passes from Dimeglio to junior wide receiver Vincent Sheperis. Luckily enough for the Lions, neither of the extra points were converted.
The half-time score was 26-14 in favor of the Colonials. But the Lions didn’t panic and head coach Eric Hamilton was very confident in his team and knew a comeback was in the cards.
“We came back against Cortland so I knew we could do it,” Hamilton said. “At halftime I didn’t even say a word to them. They did it all themselves.”
Whatever went on in the locker room, it worked. On their first drive of the second half, the College drove 56 yards down the field and Struble hooked up with senior wide receiver Tony Sorrentino on a 13-yard touchdown pass.
Later in the quarter, the College charged down the field again, this time on a successful 87-yard drive. Struble then punched the ball in from the one-yard-line to give the Lions the one-point lead.
“At halftime we all knew we had to keep working hard,” Struble said. “I just tried to relax, keep everything under control and not to get myself frustrated.”
Once the fourth quarter came around, a hero emerged for the Lions, in the form of senior Steve Andrews. Andrew’s main responsibility on the team is as a defensive back, but he has also been playing wide receiver for the Lions. In the beginning of the fourth quarter, he took the ball on a reverse and ran an astounding 92 yards down the field, giving the College a 34-26 lead.
That run is tied for the longest in Lions’ history. Minutes later, Andrews made the interception which essentially guaranteed victory for the Lions.
“I’ve been waiting for a break-out game like this,” Andrews said. “I’ve been saying the past couple of weeks, ‘please let me play offense.’ Give me a seam, and I’ll break one.”
Hamilton was thrilled with the game Andrews played.
“Skippy (Andrews) is a unique individual,” Hamilton said. “He talks the talk, but he can walk the walk too. Well, at least nine out of 10 times he can.”
With the win, the Lions have put themselves in second place in the New Jersey Athletic Conference. On Saturday, the Lions will be in Virginia to take on George Mason University.