Ground game paves the way for NJAC win

The Lions’ rushing game picks up the slack against Montclair. (Photo courtesy of the Sports Information Desk)

The football team has been trying to establish a ground game all season,  and it finally came to fruition late in a 21-16 win against NJAC rivals Montclair State University last Friday, Sept. 30.

Sophomore running back Victor Scalici found an open seam in the middle of the Red Hawks defense at the start of the fourth quarter, and broke a 14-14 tie with a 44-yard touchdown that helped the Lions get off to the right start in conference play.

The Lions (2-2, 1-0) got 140 yards on the ground overall and three rushing TDs, well above their early season average of 97 yards and fewer than one rushing TD per game, and more shut-down defensive play made sure the offensive display wasn’t wasted.

The defense rejected the Red Hawks on three attempted fourth down conversions in the fourth quarter, preserving a slim lead.

The game had been a roller coaster before Scalici’s touchdown in the fourth quarter, though, as the Lions and Red Hawks traded leads throughout a tightly contested game.

The Lions threw the ball sparingly, but it was sophomore QB Sam Paladino who opened the scoring six minutes in.

Paladino ended a long Lions drive by scrambling for a 15-yard rushing TD, and Brad Young doubled the Lions’ advantage with a 14-yard rushing TD after a Red Hawks turnover gave the College offense a short field to work with.

The Lions offense rarely threatened again after intermission, only putting up four yards of passing offense in the second half, but rushing the ball helped keep possession away from the visiting team and kept the team in a position to win the game.

Montclair managed to make its way back into the game, scoring touchdowns in the second and third quarters to even the score, before Scalici ultimately rushed for the game-winning points.

The Lions take on Kean University in another NJAC game this Friday, Oct. 11 on the road.