In its best performance so far this season, the Lions’ football team picked up its first victory with a convincing 42-20 trouncing of Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham at home on Friday night.
Junior quarterback Chris Bell got the first start of his career and took advantage of a weak Devil’s defense, throwing for 253 yards and three touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Ryan Ross and running back Cory Schoonover each scored a pair of touchdowns.
Although the Lions’ offense looked strong the entire game, piling up 305 total yards, the game went back and forth into the third quarter.
In the third, the Devils took advantage of the Lions’ inept special teams following a 65-yard scoring drive from the College to score the go-ahead touchdown for a 20-14 lead.
After a bad snap, Lions’ senior place-kicker Blake Abbott, who was named last week’s New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) special teams player of the week, tried to pick up the loose ball but fumbled on the four-yard line allowing Devils sophomore defensive back Derek Gregory to swoop in for an easy touchdown.
“Our special teams were unbelievably bad,” head coach Eric Hamilton said. “There’s no excuse for any of that to happen.”
Despite squandering their lead, however, the team showed poise by responding and controlling the game from that point on, scoring four unanswered touchdowns.
By making use of good field position, the Lions put together a 48-yard drive, capped off by a five-yard touchdown run from senior running back Leeaire Brown, who rushed for 53 yards on the night.
After another 48-yard drive that ended with a Schoonover touchdown, the Lions found themselves up 28-20 in the fourth quarter with an opportunity to put the game away.
With over seven minutes left and the game still undecided, the Lions put the hammer down by converting on a fourth-and-three in a big way. Bell found Ross streaking down the left sideline for a beautifully placed 25-yard touchdown strike.
Ross finished with a game high 101 yards receiving to go along with five catches.
The Lions tacked on one more touchdown for good measure on a bizarre but remarkable defensive play. Sophomore defensive back Jeff Bower laid a hit on sophomore wide receiver Robert Felicitta, stripping the ball at the same time. Bower then found fellow sophomore defensive back Mike Ferris on a lateral that Ferris took to the house for a 35-yard touchdown return.
Going into the game, both teams were desperate for a win. The Devils were winless against the College, having won just three games in the past three seasons combined. In addition, the Devils were coming off a 49-3 beat down in their home opener against Delaware Valley College.
The Lions, on the other hand, could not afford to start the season 0-3 and needed some momentum for their next game against conference rival Rowan University.
“All I wanted was to get the win,” Bell said after the game.
Hamilton also felt the importance of the win, especially for the younger players on the team. “They need to know what it feels like and what it takes to win,” he said.
If not for the mental mistakes, the game would have been a complete blowout for the Lions. In addition to the botched snap that gave the Devils an easy touchdown, the Lions had their first punt attempt blocked, giving the Devils great field position. That allowed Devils junior quarterback Dan Huff to put his team on the scoreboard early in the game as he capped off the 23-yard drive by rushing for a two-yard touchdown.
The Lions are off this week. They will have an extra week of practice to help them prepare for their biggest game of the year on Sept. 30 when they will go on the road to face Rowan, who is 2-0 so far this season.