Lions celebrate Homecoming victory

By Maximillian C. Burgos
Staff Writer

The Lions marched to a 24-7 win over William Paterson University for a dominant homecoming victory.

The Lions were in the driver’s seat the entire game, dictating the tempo of the game on offense and shutting down the opposition on defense.

“It’s the first time we put together a complete football game,” said Head Coach Casey Goff. “It’s a win we need for our program. After the start we had, to be able to chain together two wins is huge.”

The Lions started the game with a 10-minute, 17-play drive for 80 yards. The team leaned on freshman rushing back Mark Pacini and freshman quarterback Dave Jachera during the drive. Pacini carried the ball six times, getting the Lions’ much needed yards between tackles.

The cherry on top of the soul-crushing drive was Jachera’s pass to junior wide receiver Vinny Guckin in the corner of the endzone for a seven-yard touchdown.

The defense dropped the hammer on William Paterson’s offense, who was able to squeak out two first downs. Senior linebacker Jesse Streb stepped up and destroyed William Paterson’s running back in the backfield, taking the momentum away from the offense and forcing a third and long. The Lions held up on third down and forced a punt.

“I think we started to progress defensively for real after the Montclair game,” Goff said. “We let the Rowan game get away from us on a couple of plays that we’d like to have back but we feel like we are progressing in the right way.”

The Lions got the ball back and fizzled out in William Paterson territory after some initial success on the team’s second drive.

William Paterson came out and immediately put itself in a bad position on the third down after throwing the ball away on first and getting stuffed in the backfield on second. On the third down, the defense swarmed the backfield, but in a play of sheer grit and athleticism, the William Paterson quarterback managed to complete the ball to one of his receivers who scored a touchdown on a 69-yard play.

Harmon completes two interceptions to prevent William Paterson from scoring. (Photo courtesy of Sports Information Desk)

The Lions answered on an ensuing drive, with Jachera getting it done both through the air and on the ground. In the drive, Jachera found junior tight end Vince Ratamess for a key 13-yard gain and a first down. Jachera then carved up the defense with a rush for 10 yards and then another for 30 yards, making defenders miss and shedding tackles along the way like a freight train off the tracks.

Unfortunately a few plays later, William Paterson picked off a pass intended for Guckin in the endzone, ending the spectacular drive.

William Paterson found a little bit of success on its third drive, but after trying a fake punt that was blown up in the backfield, the Lions were set up in great field position to score again. Jachera again used his legs to get the Lions down to the goal line, trucking and plowing through defenders. Pacini punched it in though on a five-yard run up the middle.

“Pacini is a workhorse,” Goff said. “He’s a real bright spot to watch play.”

Pacini carried the ball a total of 27 times for 94 yards and a touchdown. But it was Jahera who stole the show on offense for the Lions, rushing for 165 yards and a touchdown while also passing for 81 yards and another touchdown.

“The kid is special,” Goff said. “He is flat out a lot of fun to watch. He brings something different to the position to where we know if the pass isn’t there, he can tuck and go. He’s continuing to mature. I think he got a lot of maturity this week considering he had a rough go last week. For him to bounce back this week showed a lot.”

Despite his optimism, Goff hesitated to definitively say that he has found his man in Jachera to stand behind center.

“He is the guy we are going with right now,” Goff said. “He just had a phenomenal football game. So I’d say he’s our man right now.”

The Lions repeatedly dropped the hammer on William Paterson’s defense. Sophomore defensive back Jalen Harmon had two interceptions that ended William Paterson’s drives. He also had 59 yards in interception returns. Senior defensive linebacker and captain Max Busca also contributed to the Lions’ cause with a bone crushing sack, a clutch pass deflection and two tackles for losses.

Freshman kicker Alex DeLeo also made his mark on the game, kicking the Lions’ first field goal of the year in the third quarter to put the Lions up by 10.

In the fourth quarter, the Lions’ defense gave up a lot of ground to the William Paterson offense, which was trying to mount a comeback and capture its first win of the year. Time and time again, the defense seemed to fold, but stepped up in the red zone to keep them off the board.

“I’m still a little pissed at the defense for that last drive,” Goff said. “But to come back and knock that ball down in the end was big.”

The Lions return home to acknowledge the seniors on senior night on Saturday,  Nov. 3, for a game against Christopher Newport University.