By Maximillian C. Burgos
The football team traveled to Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham Park Campus to open their season on Friday, Aug. 31.
FDU torched the Lions in the first half, 28-7. The Lions managed to claw back to 35-21, but their attempt at a comeback happened too late in the game.
The season opener for the Lions is a tale of two halves. In the first half the Lions couldn’t get out of their own way. In the second, the team came out to play, determined to mount a comeback. Junior defensive back Xavier Santos talked about the Lions’ resilient spirit and the change of play from the first half to the second.
“The first half didn’t play out how we expected,” said Santos. “But the second half was a time to come out on the field and show that our team will keep fighting to the last second.”
In the first half, the Lions’ first seven drives ended with three punts, three turnovers and a turnover on downs. FDU capitalized, building a 28-0 lead before the Lions could crack the scoreboard late in the second quarter.
On their only scoring drive of the first half, the Lions drove down the field on 66-yard, five play drive. On the drive, sophomore quarterback Andrew Donoghue threw a pass to junior wide receiver Jack Clevenger for a 22-yard gain. Three plays later, Donoghue found freshman wide receiver Jaiden Elliot in the middle of the field for a 29-yard touchdown.
The second half was a different game for the Lions. The third quarter was scoreless. The Lions’ defense stood strong, but so did FDU’s defense.
In the fourth quarter, FDU scored early, extending the lead to a seemingly insurmountable 35-7. The Lions showed heart, though — with nine minutes to go in the game, the Lions scored on twice.
On the first scoring drive for the Lions, Donoghue connected with his receiver three times in a row, torching the FDU secondary. Clevenger caught two of those passes to get the Lions to the FDU three-yard line. From there, Donoghue took it in himself, bringing the score to 35-14.
Later in the game, freshman quarterback Dave Jachera led the Lions their second scoring drive of the fourth quarter. He rushed for 24 yards on three different scrambles, then threw a rope to Elliot for another 25 yards, getting the Lions to the FDU seven-yard line.
Two plays later, freshman running back Mark Pacini punched in his first career touchdown.
Although the Lions fell 35-21, there were notable performances amongst all players.
Donoghue finished the game with 12 completions for 178 yards, one rushing touchdown, one passing touchdown and two interceptions. Jachera finished the game with two completions for 37 yards and 37 yards rushing to lead the Lions.
On defense, junior punter/kicker Zach Warcola had a good game with seven punts for an average of 50.6 yards, three of which landed inside the 20-yard line to pin FDU deep in their own territory.
Santos finished the game with 11 tackles.
“I hold myself to great expectations everyday I put on the pads,” Santos said. “I want to show the other guys no matter what that they can depend on me.”
The football team will continue back into action on Saturday, Sept. 8. The Lions will face eighth-ranked Frostburg State University for their first home game of the season at 1 p.m.
“In the second year under (Head Coach Casey) Goff we were picked as the dark horse,” Santos said. “We expect to show all NJAC teams every game what we’re all about. We have a lot of talent on this team and we just have to show it.”