|Justin Morris goes airborne, while Brockport football climbs the ladder in Division III.
Brockport athletics photo by Tori Langseder
By Jason Bowen
It wasn’t something Brockport running back Justin Morris considered before the ball was snapped.
“I don’t really know what I was thinking before the play, but while I was in the air all I could think about was I hope that I landed it. It just kind of happened”
As you have probably seen by now, on the D3football.com Play of the Week or perhaps SportsCenter, the junior running back took flight in the second half of the Golden Eagles 38-7 victory over St. John Fisher Saturday night. He seemed to hang in the air forever and continue running on the shoulders of Cardinal defenders.
And, yes, he stuck the landing.
It was just part of a performance that earned a place on the D3football.com Team of the Week. The junior transfer from D-II Gannon, ran 22 times for 227 yards and three touchdowns.
In all, Morrison has fit nicely in an offense that is currently averaging 536 yards a game (currently 10 in D-III). The junior has carried the ball 64 times for 459 yards and five touchdowns in all.
Not too shabby for a unit that lost All-American and the school’s all-time leading rusher Dan Andrews to graduation after last season.
Morrison, a former high school player of the year in New York, transferred in at the start last spring semester after things didn’t work out at Gannon.
“I got to know the guys, so it was a pretty easy transfer”
Still steeping into of the position of one of the school’s all-time greats isn’t easy.
“There was some pressure, but I just do what I know and just do me. I did my job and got the starting spot.
Easing the transition has been a veteran offensive line. “That’s the key to my success so far; the O-line is great."
“I think Justin and Dan would tell you that not enough credit goes to the guys up front,” Brockport coach Jason Mangone said. “We have five returning O-linemen and an all-conference fullback.
“These six guys have played a lot of football, there’s no front, blitz or stunt they haven’t seen. There’s the continuity. You graduate arguably one of the best players in school history and now you take a kid who was a state player of the year, coming in with just as much talent and he can take over where Dan left off.”
According to Mangone, Andrews and Morrison run in a different way, but the result have been similar.
“They’re very different in style. Both have their own way of doing it. Justin is a lot more downhill (runner). Dan had a knack for making 20, when minus-two was blocked. Justin takes 4 yards and turns it into 8 yards. He has a plethora 30, 40-plus yard runs, so he’s a big-play guy as well.”
The Golden Eagles have an embarrassment of riches at the skill positions this season. Dual threat quarterback sophomore Joe Germinerio is completeing over 67 percent of his passes.
The receiving corps is deep also including senior Jerry Thompson, sophomores Joseph Ortiz and DeQuan Hubbard along another NYSHS Player of the year in freshman Tyree Brown and the Golden Eagles.
How Brockport has has knocked three of the traditional powers on the New York D-III scene in Hobart, Ithaca and St. John Fisher in convincing fashion?
Mangone credits a tremendous senior class, the fourth-year coach first recruiting class.
“The biggest part is that we have over 20 seniors. So there’s that quiet sense of confidence in a sense that these are guys that have put their time in and played a lot of football over the last four years. If something goes wrong there’s no panic. If something goes well, we’re not getting too high on it.”
“It’s something that’s not really talked about that much but guys played for each other with each other, rather than themselves. Nobody really cares about their individual accolades, it’s about what we need to do as whole to put ourselves in the best position to be successful. Whether the outcome goes our way or not, we know we did the right way and for each other.”
Looking like the favorite in the Empire Eight this season, the Eagles are aware that the target is now on their back. They should expect every opponent’s best game.
“Naturally you go from the hunter to the hunted,” Mangone said. “But I think that with the kids that we have on our team, we are always going to be the hunter. We are always trying to prove ourselves.
“I think people are starting to realize we’re a good football program, but it’s a small sample size. It’s too early to gauge where we are going to be four weeks from now. We have guys that know we’ve accomplished zero by going 3-0. We have so much more to prove and we have a lot more football to play ahead of us.”
So perhaps after four years of being competitive in the E8 but falling just short, it is the image of Morrison levitating and hanging in midair that will symbolize the Golden Eagles season.
Can they stick the landing?
Games this Week
No. 11 Frostburg State (3-0, 2-0 NJAC) at Rowan (3-0, 2-0) Two top defensive units square off the quest to stay unbeaten. The Bobcats allowed a D-III best 11 rushing yards a game but showed some vulnerability in the secondary Saturday in a 33-30 victory over CNU. The Profs are fifth overall in total defense, allowing just less than 200 game. Can they make enough plays in the pass game against a defense stacked up to stop John Diorio, who averages 138 yards a game with five touchdowns. Bobcat big-play receiver Russell Neverton may have to sit the first half after being ejected against CNU.
Stevenson (2-1, 2-0 MAC) at No. 12 Delaware Valley (3-0, 2-0) This game will go a long way in determining the MAC champion. The Aggies struggled a bit more than expected last Friday night at Wilkes leading by just five midway through the fourth quarter. Their offense hasn’t been flashy, while the defense continues to make big plays. Safety Shawn Miller’s 31-yard pick-six salted away the game. The Mustangs, defending MAC champs, have rolled since dropping their opener to Frostburg. If this game come down to a kick, DelVal could be in trouble making just 7-of-11 extra points and 1-of-2 field goals. Stevenson has not yet a kick yet.
Utica (1-2, 0-1 E8) at No. 19 Brockport (3-0, 1-0) The Pioneers have two get off to a better start if they hope to stay in the game with red hot Brockport. In their last two loses, it’s been too little too late. They’ve trailed 16-0 and 17-3 late in the third quarter in each of the past two weeks before rallying to make a game of it.
No. 22 Wesley (1-1, 1-0 NJAC) at William Paterson (0-0, 0-0) Wolverine quarterback Khaaliq Burroughs completed his first six passes in place of Nick Falkenberg, who is out for the season. He ended 18-of-23 for 226 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Running back E.J. Lee rushed for 188 yards and a pair of scores, his second straight game over 160 yards. The Pioneers haven’t been potent on offense this season, but they did together an 85-yard drive against Rowan last week.
Rochester (1-1) at No. 23 Alfred (2-0) The good news is that the Yellow Jackets broke an eight-game losing streak by scoring a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns last week to beat Alfred State. The bad news is that they face the defending E8 champ Saxons this week. Alfred receiver Jayden Gavidia set a school record with 13 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown in the Saxons win over Utica. The junior has accounted for nearly 60 percent of the teams passing yards.
Salisbury (2-1, 2-0 NJAC) at TCNJ (0-3, 0-2) The Lions did a decent job of stringing together some first downs to win the time of possession behind senior quarterback Trevor Osler to keep the Wesley offense off the field last week. They’ll need to do more of that this week and find ways to get points this week to stay close with the Gulls. Salisbury earned a hard-fought victory over Kean and almost passed for as many yards as they ran out of their triple option attack. When the last time you could say that?
Endicott (1-2) at Hobart (2-1) The Statesman faced an early challenge from ODAC contender Shenandoah last week, but looked like the Bart of old rushing for 368 yards with Joe Letizia and Dakoda Harvey both rushing for more than 130 yards. With All-Americans Shane Sweeney at quarterback and receiver Brandon Shed hardly needed Saturday night, this offense could develop into something truly scary.
Nichols (2-1) at Morrisville State (1-1) The Mustangs lost a shoot-out to Buffalo State at home last week 53-48. Quarterback Brandon Gwinner passed for 197 yards and ran for 149 accounting for five touchdowns. They face a Bison team coming off a 13-0 loss last week at Coast Guard.
Widener (2-1, 2-0 MAC) at Albright (3-0, 2-0) The other match-up between teams unblemished in the MAC this week. The Lions had to overcome a 10-point first half deficit to squeeze by Lycoming on the road. The Pride got some explosive plays out of their offense last week against Misericordia with three scores of 30-plus yards.
Kean (0-2, 0-1 NJAC) at Southern Virginia (0-3, 0-3) The Cougars will face their third consecutive opponent who runs the triple option. The Knights are improved but don’t run it near as well as either Springfield or Salisbury.
Union (2-1) at Curry (3-0) The Dutch need a win here if they want to climb back to a winning season for the first time since 2012. It won’t be easy on the road against an undefeated opponent also trying to return to past glory.
Lycoming (0-3, 0-2 MAC) at King’s (2-1, 1-1) The Monarchs bounced back from a thrashing by Stevenson, win late against Lebanon Valley. Quarterback Zach Whitehead scored the winner with 25 seconds left. The senior leads the team with 184 rushing yards while passing for 894 and accounting for nine touchdowns. The Warriors put forth their best game of the season to date in four-point loss at home to undefeated Albright.
Wilkes (0-3, 0-2 MAC) at Misericordia (0-3, 0-2) One of these Northeastern PA squads will enjoy a Saturday for the first time this season. Both teams are allowing more than 40 points a game.
FDU-Florham (1-2, 0-2) at Lebanon Valley (1-2, 1-1) Tim Pirrone had 130 all-purpose yards and a touchdown for the Dutch in the last second loss to King’s. The Devils are looking to rebound after be outscored by 101-21 the past two weeks in contests against Widener and Stevenson.
RPI (3-0) at Buffalo State (2-0) This game is perhaps the most surprising of the matchups between unbeaten teams this week. The Engineers were great on defense once again last week in defeating WNE. Despite completing just four passes, they were great on third down (9-of-17) and ran the ball effectively 242 yards). The passes they did complete averaged nearly 30 yards a pop. The Bengals have a leader in wily senior Kyle Hoppy, who has five touchdown passes and no interceptions through the first two games.
St. John Fisher (0-3, 0-1 LL) at Hartwick (1-2, 0-1) The Cardinals have dropped five in a row dating to last season. They’ve scored just 10 total points the last two weeks in blow out losses to Hobart and Brockport. They will have to match a Hawk squad averaging 40 a game behind quarterback Billy Pine (350 yard/game, 15 TDs) and the receiving duo of Koree Reed (5 TD) and Brad Garcia (8 TD).