After a tough loss to Buffalo State College last week, the College bounced back for their homecoming game as they pulled off a huge upset over previously undefeated and No. 7-in-the-country Montclair State University, 27-21.
The College was led on offense by senior quarterback Jay Donoghue and senior running back Joe Falco, who accounted for all three of the team’s touchdowns.
After the Lions scored a field goal on their opening drive, the Red Hawks came right back with senior running back Chris D’Andrea, the leading rusher in the NJAC, running for a 58-yard touchdown on their second play from scrimmage.
However, the Lions responded right away with a long drive that included a few third-down conversions and ended with a one-yard touchdown plunge by Donoghue.
“We had to respond,” said Donoghue. “Last week we went down 14-0 and couldn’t rally. It’s more of a confidence thing than anything.”
The Lions’ pass rush was the key to rattling Montclair’s backup quarterback Drew Cathey. The team recorded three sacks and made it very difficult for Cathey to throw the ball, putting him under pressure and forcing two interceptions.
On the very first play of the second quarter, senior defensive back Derek Goreczny had a huge play, blocking a punt that gave the Lions first and goal on the four-yard line. The drive ended in a field goal, giving the College a 13-7 lead.
Then, on the following drive, senior defensive back Phil Gatti picked off Cathey and returned it 60 yards. Falco rushed to the left for an 11-yard touchdown the next play, making the score 20-7.
The Red Hawks then turned the ball over for the third consecutive drive, as the College’s No. 1-in-the-NJAC red zone defense came through with Goreczny intercepting the ball in the end zone.
“Our defensive ends and tackles did great,” said Goreczny. “It was so important to make them throw.”
The tide turned at the beginning of the second half as D’Andrea gave the Red Hawks another huge touchdown run, this one from 55 yards out.
The Red Hawks then blocked a punt of their own and returned it to the Lions’ 19-yard line. After being stuffed three straight times on the goal line, D’Andrea caught a two-yard touchdown pass from Cathey on fourth-and-goal, giving them the lead, 21-20.
As soon as it seemed the Red Hawks were going to take over the game, senior defensive back Shawn Brown made a big stop on a third down and a bad punt gave the Lions great field position as their ugly third quarter came to an end.
“It was really important, one of the game-changing moments,” said Brown.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Donoghue miraculously avoided a sack with a defender draped all over him and was able to throw it out of bounds. He threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to Falco on the next play.
“A kid came free and senior lineman Dan Strasle forced him to fall right on my legs,” said Donoghue. “I give him credit for not giving up.”
That go-ahead touchdown would prove to be the clincher, as the Lions were able to kill the clock and finish out the game.
“Everybody came together today for the win,” said Brown. “We played our own football and beat them.”
The team was ecstatic after the win, getting a great homecoming victory in front of the College faithful and their fourth win in four tries at home.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Donoghue. “We haven’t beaten them since 2007. Hopefully we can rattle off more wins and be competitive in the NJAC.”
This was a crucial win that puts the Lions right in the thick of competition for the conference title. This weekend, the Lions head to SUNY-Cortland to try and continue their winning ways.