CORTLAND, N.Y. – SUNY Cortland quarterback Dan Pitcher
(Cortland) completed 20-of-26 passes for 232 yards and three
touchdowns and rushed for a score as the Red Dragons defeated
visiting Endicott College, 49-35, in the opening round of the NCAA
Div. III tournament.
Cortland (10-1) will host Alfred University, led by former Red Dragon head coach Dave Murray, in the NCAA second round on Saturday, Nov. 27, at noon. Endicott, which was making its first NCAA appearance in just its eighth varsity season, finishes the year with a 9-3 record.
Sophomore Justin Autera (Mahopac) rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown and junior Dorian Myles (Lackawanna/Hamburg) ran for 66 yards, including two fourth-quarter scores, for the Red Dragons. Senior tight end Eddie Spillett (Holtsville/Sachem East), sophomore wide receiver Mike Humphrey (Le Roy) and freshman wide receiver John Babin (Warwick Valley) caught touchdown passes.
Endicott junior quarterback Phil Konopka (Shelton, CT) completed 25-of-41 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a touchdown. Sophomore Mike Murphy (Chelmsford, MA) caught five passes, including a touchdown, and junior fullback Justin Burl (Newburyport, MA) recorded a touchdown catch.
The Gulls also scored a pair of defensive touchdowns in the fourth quarter on a Jordan Fields (Biddeford, ME) 17-yard fumble return and a Bill Hickey (Walpole, MA) 89-yard interception return. Sophomore linebacker Peter Kallas (Beverly, MA) finished with 13 tackles and forced the fumble that Fields returned for the touchdown. Senior defensive back PJ Bay (Darien, CT) recorded 10 tackles.
Senior safety Chris Hanlon (Patchogue/Patchogue-Medford) paced Cortland's defense with seven tackles and sophomore linebacker Chris Bright (East Meadow) made six stops and broke up a pass. Humphrey finished with five catches for 99 yards and Marc Corrado (Newburgh/Newburgh Free Academy) made all seven of his point-after kicks.
Cortland led 14-0 after the first quarter on a 1-yard play action pass from Pitcher to Spillett and a Pitcher 11-yard TD run. Endicott's first score came in the second quarter and was set up by a Kyle Capsalis (Townsend, MA/North Middlesex) interception of a pass by Cortland backup quarterback Chris Rose (Victor). The Gulls drove 32 yards for a touchdown, including a Konopka 2-yard sneak on 4th-and-1 at the Cortland 4-yard line and Konopka's 2-yard TD pass to Burl on the next play.
Cortland responded with a 93-yard touchdown drive on its next possession. The 11-play drive was capped by Pitcher's 21-yard scoring pass to Humphrey and the Red Dragons led 21-7 at halftime.
The Red Dragons drove 60 yards on the opening series of the third quarter to extend their lead to 28-7. Spillett's 27-yard catch moved the ball to the Endicott 31-yard line and, three plays later, Babin caught a 25-yard touchdown toss from Pitcher for his first collegiate reception.
Konopka's 13-yard quarterback draw finished a 71-yard scoring drive on Endicott's next possession to cut the Cortland lead to 28-14. The teams then proceeded to score a combined 42 points - 21 for each side – in the fourth quarter. Autera's 1-yard run put Cortland up 35-14 and Myles ran 43 yards down the right sideline to increase the advantage to 42-14.
The Gulls got 14 points back on the Fields' 17-yard fumble return, followed by Hickey's 89-yard return of an interception untouched down the left sideline, and trailed 42-28 with 3:38 left. Endicott was unable to recover the ensuing onside kickoff – one of three failed onside kicks for the Gulls during the contest – and Myles scored from 12 yards out with 1:39 remaining to give Cortland a 21-point lead. Endicott concluded the scoring with a 59-yard drive that ended with an 18-yard pass from Konopka to Murphy with 30 seconds left.
Cortland outgained Endicott by a 429-234 margin in total offense, but turned the ball over three times to zero giveaways by the Gulls. The Red Dragons limited Endicott to 59 net rushing yards. Mike Lane (Medfield, MA/Worcester Academy) entered the game with 1,203 yards on the ground this fall but was held to 44 yards on 16 carries.