The events of Hurricane Sandy were not enough to slow down the Lions, as they picked up a pair of wins against William Paterson University and Morrisville State College.
In a much needed win, the College was able to turn their play up a notch and knock off William Paterson, 35-24, and finally put smiles back on some faces.
“The past two wins have shown how we as a team can stick together and rally off a couple of good wins before entering a big game against Rowan,” senior running back Nick Tyson said. “The last game against Morrisville State shows how well we work together, putting up another win with the circumstances that we faced speaks volumes about our team. Hurricane Sandy hit our state extremely hard, especially in the shore area. Even though we had a lot going on off the field we still managed to pull together after an extremely short week of practice and come back home with a win.”
The Lions (4-5, 3-4) relied heavily on the running game, as they have in recent weeks. Senior running back Justin Doniloski paved the way for success with a career-high 165 rushing yards. He also chipped in with a touchdown that started the scoring not even three minutes into the game. Doniloski made his way in from seven yards out to grab an early 7-0 lead.
Freshman Victor Scalici got in on the action early in the second quarter when he ran into the end zone for a 13-yard score to make it 14-0.
“Tyson and Doniloski compliment each other, each one sets up the other,” head coach Eric Hamilton said. “Scalici off the bench is a nice change-up and he brings that extra effort when he gets his opportunities. Our offense is designed on everyone doing their job, not one guy carrying the load. As long as Dugan keeps spreading the ball around, we are a better team.”
The final 1:09 of the first half was wild to say the least, featuring three touchdowns. First, Pioneers’ quarterback Ryan Gresik got his team on the board with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Mick Paye. Immediately following that, junior defensive back Matthew Chierici returned the kickoff 91 yards to the house, continuing his brilliance on special team. Finally, Gresik was able to hook up with Julian Frazier for a 19-yard touchdown to make the score at halftime 21-14, in favor of the Lions.
“Matt is a guy who doesn’t take plays off and sacrifices everything he has for the benefit of the team,” Tyson said. “Time and time again he has given us great field position to start drives to help score as many points as possible.”
A William Paterson field goal had some fearing the College would surrender another lead. However, senior quarterback Daniel Dugan tossed a pair of touchdowns to Tyson and senior wide receiver Glenn Grainger from 14 and 21 yards out, respectively.
A 75-yard bomb from Gresik to Paye gave the Pioneers hope, and certainly aggravated the Lions, but no more points would be scored, as the College went on to pick up the win.
The game against Morrisville State was after the hurricane and featured a defensive clinic put together by the College. They shut out Mustangs 14-0, something they’ve been able to do for three consecutive years.
“The key for us against Morrisville on both sides of the ball was simplicity,” Hamilton said. “We were able to jump on them by scoring on the first possession and that was all our defense needed. As the game went on, we got stronger and really came together as a team. While we were definitely rusty, we played together and made plays when we had to, rather than giving up plays when we didn’t want to.”
The running backs’ talent was on full display yet again, as Tyson punched in a 1-yard touchdown on the game’s first drive. Later on, in the second quarter, Scalici caught an 8-yard touchdown pass, and the scoring would end there.
“Justin is extremely close to breaking the thousand yard mark on the season and Victor is a young talent that has proven that he can play right away because of his abilities,” Tyson said. “Luckily I have been given the chance to play all over the field which could give defenses a headache when game time rolls around.”
Junior defensive back Sean Clark picked off two passes, including one in the third quarter when Morrisville State was threatening.
The defensive domination was obvious in the stats. The Lions allowed the Mustangs to convert only two of 15 third downs.
They say winning cures everything, but it was really something special for the team to come out Saturday in the wake of the hurricane and dominate the way they did.
“This was by far one of the more intriguing experiences I have been a part of,” Hamilton said. “While it wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, seeing the smiles during and after the game made it all worthwhile. Sometimes in adversity, you find out the character of the individuals that make up your team. This is a special group and this is something they will never forget.”
The Lions have their final home game on Friday against Rowan University.