Lions open NJAC play with heartbreak loss

By Alex Reich
Correspondent

The football team ended a two-game road trip against Kean University Cougars on Friday, Sept. 17. Despite a strong defensive effort, the Lions fell to 0-2 with a 16-7 loss.

The College held Kean to 10 points until the final three minutes, when Kean drove 68 yards to create a two-possession lead with 2:36 on the clock. While the defense — led by senior defensive lineman Dan Naples —  flourished, the Lions could not overcome four turnovers and a 1-13 third down conversion rate. Junior tight end Chase Vena felt the team adapted well to the Cougars defense.

“Even though Kean played some tough defense throughout the night, we were finding success in the running game,” Vena said. “Because running the ball started working for us, it also opened up the passing game. We were able to adjust to whatever their defense was giving us.”

The Lions opened the game with a three-and-out possession. The defense responded and forced Kean to punt. Unfortunately, a costly fumble on special teams awarded the Cougars a red zone possession. They translated it into a seven-point lead early in the game.

Junior quarterback Trevor Osler found a good rhythm with four minutes remaining in the first quarter. The offense drove 53 yards before the Lions were forced to punt with 2:17 in the first quarter.

Both defenses flourished, as neither offense could get anything going. The highlight of the quarter was a 50-yard punt by freshman Zach Warcola. The second quarter closed with a donut on both sides. Neither team managed to score before the second half.

Naples tackles 12 against Kean, which is a career high. (Courtesy of Sports Information Desk)
Naples tackles 12 against Kean, which is a career high. (Courtesy of Sports Information Desk)

In the third quarter, Kean broke the gridlock with a field goal. The drive killed 4:52 on the clock, as the team traveled 45 yards to extend the lead to 10-0.

The Lions fired back in their first drive of the half. Facing third and 13 at the Kean 31, Osler suffered a harsh facemask tackle, but it gave the Lions a new set of downs at the Kean 16. Senior Mike Marchesano then stepped in for Osler. He finished the drive and dashed into the end zone on a one-yard rush to end the third quarter, 10-7. Vena said that the Lions’ charge was unphased by the injury.

“When Osler went down, we stuck to our game plan,” Vena said. “We brought in Marchesano, but our plan of attack stayed the same.”

Things looked hopeful in the fourth quarter as the Lions blocked a 42-yard field goal attempt from the Cougars. However, the Lions failed to find solid footing and their following drive ended in an interception. The Lions barely moved a yard in their next possession.

With less than six minutes in the game, the Cougars ate 3:15 off the clock and scored on an 18-yard pass to extend their lead to 16-7.

The late injury to Osler hit hard, and the Lions ended the game with an interception.

The College hosts its home opener against Christopher Newport University on Saturday, Sept. 24, at noon.

Christopher Newport University defeated Kean University already, 26-7, so it will likely be a tough test for the Lions, but Vena believes with a few adjustments, they can turn things around this season.

“We just need to come out faster, relax out there and play for each other,” Vena said.