By Miguel Gonzalez
The College’s football team dropped a 21-7 loss against Montclair State University despite holding the Red Hawks scoreless for three quarters.
Traveling north to Montclair, N.J., the Lions fought the Red Hawks in front of an excited crowd during their Homecoming match. The Lions defense met the challenge of limiting Red Hawks senior running back John DiStefano, who currently leads the New Jersey Athletic Conference with 891 yards and averages 127.3 yards per game.
The Red Hawks offense blew off the Lions in the first quarter as DiStefano ran 26 yards to secure a first down. Afterward, sophomore quarterback John Apicella threw a 47-yard pass to junior wide receiver Julanee Prince for a touchdown.
The College’s attempt to counter fell short in the fourth minute when junior quarterback Trevor Osler let a fumble loose. Red Hawks junior defensive lineman Nick Volpe quickly recovered the fumble and ran 22 yards for Montclair State’s second touchdown.
With a 14-0 deficit in hand, the Lions second attempt to catch up to the Red Hawks failed. Junior running back Khani Glover gained five yards, but his effort was consumed when the Lions received a false start penalty in the next down. After Osler endured another sack, the Lions settled for a punt.
DiStefano then rushed for 32 yards. Meanwhile, Apicella blazed through the Lions defense by competing two passes to freshman wide receiver Jaedon Stephens and Prince. With one minute remaining in the first quarter, DiStefano broke through the Lions defensive end and scored to give the Red Hawks a 21-0 lead.
Despite the Red Hawks strong start, the Lions held them scoreless for the rest of the match. At the 19th minute, the Lions regelated DiStefano to only one yard. Once the Lions regained possession, the offense marked the scoreboard.
“Montclair’s offense overwhelmed our team at first,” interim head coach Rocky Hager said. “Then the defense stepped up and clamped down their best players.”
The Lions advanced toward the Red Hawks endline with the duo of Osler and junior wide receiver Thomas Koeing. Osler ultimately rushed in to score the Lions first touchdown in the 28th minute.
Similar to previous Red Hawks possessions, the Lions limited DiStefano to 29 rushing yards. The end result was the Red Hawks missing a field goal at the 45-yard line.
In the second half, the Lions and Red Hawks began a back-and-forth affair in the third quarter.
Junior running back Chad Scott blitzed across the field with 44 yards. The offensive momentum slowed down after Osler threw three incomplete passes.
The Lions quickly regained possession after forcing junior kicker Curtis Pendleton to punt at the 50-yard line. At the 36th minute, Scott rushed for 15 yards to secure the Lions first down. Osler followed up with two incomplete passes. The Lions used their fourth down to punt. The punt was suddenly blocked by Red Hawks sophomore defensive back Je’Von Mason.
In the Red Hawks next possession, Apicella’s passes to Prince were thwarted by the Lions defense and the Red Hawks settled for a punt.
The Lions later struggled to take advantage of their possessions. In the 41st minute, Red Hawks sophomore linebacker Mauro Altamura caught an interception from Osler and ran 20 yards.
The Lions closest opportunity to scoring came in the beginning of the fourth quarter. Glover helped the Lions march down the field as he rushed for 42 yards. The offensive attack was halted when Osler endured two consecutive sacks.
With the loss, the Lions fall to a 0-7 record. The team will look to uplift their season as they head back to Lions Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 29, at 2 p.m. The Lions are looking to win their first game of the season on Homecoming day against the William Paterson University Pioneers.