The College’s football team kept their playoff chances alive for at least one more week with a 10-3 victory over New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) rival Montclair State University on Saturday night. It was the Lions’ first win over Montclair in their last six meetings.
“Every game in the NJAC is important,” head coach Eric Hamilton said. “You need to keep your hopes for the playoffs alive and the fact that it was against Montclair, a longtime rival, also made it important.”
“This win was huge for us,” senior defensive back Steve Andrews said. “It was good to get the monkey off our backs considering no one on this team has ever beaten Montclair.”
Freshman Jeff Struble’s versatility as a running quarterback again proved to be crucial as he rushed eight yards on a bootleg and dove into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown in the second quarter.
“In college football what we’re starting to see is a more mobile quarterback,” Hamilton said. “Some of the better ones in the league can hurt you with their arm or their feet and he fits that mold of giving the defense something else they have to defend.”
Facing a thick fog all game, the Lions’ defense paved the way to a win with another strong performance, forcing five turnovers and holding the Red Hawks scoreless for three and a half quarters.
“We played aggressively,” Hamilton said. “The key is we reacted and got them to turn the ball over five times. That’s huge for us. If we win the turnover game, you’ve got a pretty good chance of winning the football game.”
The College has now forced 12 more turnovers than they have lost this season, which is the best turnover margin in the NJAC.
The defensive attack was led by Andrews, who halted a pair of Montclair drives with interceptions and is now tied for first in the NJAC for interceptions with four.
“I was on their best reciever all game so I knew I would have the
oppurtunity to get a few interceptions,” Andrews said. “The defensive line got a lot of pressure and forced the quarterback to throw the ball sooner then he would have liked and my teammates and I took advantage.”
Sophomore defensive back Maurice Carter added an impressive 11 solo tackles to earn NJAC Defensive Player of the Week honors, while sophomore defensive back Miles Shanklin added an interception with a 15-yard return.
The Red Hawks’ only points came on a 33-yard field goal from place-kicker Bill Christopher early in the first quarter. Lions junior place-kicker Blake Abbot, who converted the point-after attempt on Struble’s score to give the College its 10-3 lead, nailed a 24-yard field goal in the first half to tie the score at three.
The win, however, was not as easy as the Lions would have liked, as they missed opportunities to add to their 10-3 lead after Struble’s second-quarter touchdown.
After working the ball to the Montclair 17-yard line in the third, Struble was sacked and the College was forced to rely on a 42-yard field goal attempt from Abbott, which sailed wide left. Fortunately for the Lions, their impressive defense held tight to the 10-3 halftime lead long enough to seal the win.
Junior running back Gregg Silvesti led the Lions with 54 yards on 18 carries and sophomore running back Cory Schoonover picked up 49 yards on nine tries. Struble completed nine passes on 24 tries, totaling 127 yards and Silvesti led the College’s receiving corps with four receptions for 27 yards.
The Lions netted 227 yards on the game and held the Red Hawks to 198.
With the victory, the Lions now boast a 6-1 record and a 4-1 mark in the NJAC, which is good enough for second place in the conference, behind the 4-0 Rowan University Profs.
The Lions’ chances of winning the NJAC championship and qualifying for the playoffs depend on a win in their final NJAC game of the season against Kean University on Nov. 13 and the Profs losing their two remaining NJAC games against William Paterson University and Montclair. A tie would give Rowan the title since the Profs won the head-to-head match up between the two teams 35-20 on Oct. 1.
In last Saturday’s action, the Lions dominated George Mason University’s varsity club squad 42-9 in a game that had no bearing on official NCAA record considerations. Junior offensive lineman Raime Roye, sophomore tight end Mike Bouroult, junior receiver Alan Kotteles, senior tight end Jeff Lebb, Silveti and Schoonover each had scores for the College.
The Lions will visit SUNY-Brockport at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
“(SUNY-Brockport) is a very good football team,” Hamilton said. “They play some of the best teams around and they’ve beaten some good teams. That’s the kind of non-conference team for us we need to beat to keep our playoffs hopes alive.”