In one of the College’s most highly anticipated football games this year, the Lions won their seventh straight game by shutting out the SUNY-Cortland Red Dragons 30-0 at home Saturday.
The Lions secured the first seed in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Tournament.
The last time the College’s football team shut out an opponent was Nov. 13, 2004, when it defeated Kean University 37-0.
Next up for the Lions is an away game at Buffalo State University on Saturday at 1 p.m., which head coach Eric Hamilton referred to as a “business trip” when talking to his team in the huddle after the win.
“We’re going on a business trip on Friday,” he said, “and the business at hand is the league championship.”
While it rained for most of the first half, the Lions were still able to use their running game effectively to dominate the clock and the scoreboard.
The main competition on the field was the battle between two of the College’s running backs, senior Dan Dornacker and sophomore Chase Misiura, to see who would be the first to rush for 100 yards. Dornacker rushed the ball 18 times for 104 yards while Misiura carried the ball 23 times for 118 yards and a touchdown.
Nobody was more pleased with the Lions’ backfield than Hamilton.
“You kind of expect it from (Dornacker),” Hamilton said, “but Chase Misiura – you look at him and go, ‘how in the world?’ He just gets the job done and gets better every week.”
“To be honest, I haven’t been expecting anything,” Misiura said when asked if he expected to have such an impact on the game. “I just do the best I can every play. I have to give credit to the O-line and fullbacks. The blocking was amazing.”
The game was not just an offensive showcase for the Lions. Defensive ends senior Joe King and junior Marc Fabiano kept pressure on Cortland’s junior quarterback Ray Miles all day, and Fabiano accounted for 2.5 of the College’s seven sacks on the day. The Lions defense also forced five turnovers.
According to Fabiano, the College went into the game looking “to shut (Cortland) down and get as much pressure on the quarterback as possible.”
“As a defense, we also all worked together to completely shut down their offense,” Fabiano said. “Our defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs worked especially hard all week, and it showed in the game.”
The Lions had some difficulty getting on the scoreboard at the start of the game. They got the ball into Cortland territory on the opening drive but could not get into the end zone. Senior kicker Matt Dalessio missed a 46-yard field goal attempt that hit off the goalpost.
On the Red Dragons’ first offensive drive, senior running back Dustin Bowser broke into a 43-yard run that looked like it would end in a touchdown until senior defensive back Andrew Larkin caught Bowser from behind and forced a fumble. The fumble was recovered by the Lions who used the possession to score a field goal.
The Lions scored again on a 10-yard run by Misiura with Dalessio adding the point after. The next score came in the third quarter when senior defensive back Jeff Struble picked off a Cortland pass deep in Red Dragon territory. Two plays later, sophomore quarterback Chris James connected with senior tight end Mike Thormann in the end zone. Dalessio’s extra point made the score 17-0.
The next touchdown also came from James who launched a 63-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Cameron Richardson. James connected on 11-of-21 passes for 224 yards and the two touchdowns.
The defense closed the book on the win for the Lions as junior strong safety Dave Fontoura intercepted a screen pass when Cortland was threatening in Lions territory. Fontoura returned the ball for 81 yards and the touchdown. Dalessio added the extra point, giving the College its final score of the day.
“This game proved that we are really becoming one team working together as a unit,” Dornacker said. “Now that we are a game away from clinching the NJAC championship, we have to stay focused on what is at hand. We have a good shot at making a strong playoff run, but we have to win the next two games. We have to continue getting better.”
“The game at Buffalo is very important to us,” Hamilton said. “When you beat the first place team, all that means is that we went from the hunter to the hunted. We have to go up there and finish the job.”