An extra point is all that separated the College’s football team from victory Saturday, as the Lions fell to the Bengals of Buffalo State College 34-33 in double overtime.
The usually reliable junior kicker Matt Dalessio missed an extra point following a touchdown connection in double overtime between freshman quarterback Chris James and senior wide receiver Ryan Ross.
The Bengals offense then bowled over a Lions defense desperate for a stop, as junior fullback Bob Vesona rumbled 10 yards into the end zone to hit paydirt. Bengals sophomore kicker Eric Beyler then extinguished the Lions’ hopes of victory as he put the extra point kick through the uprights to end the game.
“It definitely sucks, but we can’t complain about that one point because we should have won the game before that,” senior defensive lineman Gary Bach said. “It just sums up our season … close but no cigar.”
Indeed, this young Lions team has seen many winnable games slip away in the home stretch.
Before heading into overtime, the Bengals held a seven-point advantage with only 1:14 left to play as Vesona finished off an 11-play, 54-yard drive with authority. He pounded the ball in from 6 yards out for the score, and then successfully converted a two-point conversion with his next carry.
The Lions would not be denied, however, as James marched his squad down the field 54 yards, ending with senior running back Cory Schoonover punching it in from the 7-yard line. Dalessio’s extra point tied it at 27 with 24 seconds remaining on the clock.
Both teams failed to score in the first overtime period.
Despite the loss and losing season, the Lions have shown brief flashes of brilliance and signs of promise as young players have developed along the course of this year’s campaign.
James showed his double threat capability and late game heroics against Buffalo State as he threw for 166 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, and rushed for 67 yards and another two scores.
The linemen also added to the effort in the game, offering James as much protection as they could.
“The offensive line moved a few people around to different positions to utilize more speed,” Bach said about the offensive line’s performance. “(Junior) Mike McKeen has played about every spot on the line this year, and he may have found his niche at center. The switch definitely proved to be successful.”
Schoonover kept the chains moving all afternoon, averaging 5 yards a carry on the day and accumulating 120 rushing yards total. The constant triple threat of Ross, James and Schoonover kept the Buffalo defense off balance.
The offensive explosion, despite being tainted by the disappointing loss, shows that the Lions may have figured out a configuration that will finally put points on the board consistently.
While there are some encouraging signs, the season has certainly not lived up to expectations.
Bach summed up the team’s outlook on its performace this season.
“We are all definitely not pleased with our record,” he said. “We’ve had many close games, and we are definitely better than what the results have depicted. We just have to take the next step forward, have a good last week of practice and win next week at home for the seniors’ last game.”
The Lions will finish up their season against Kean University on Saturday at noon in Lions’ Stadium.