Montclair State Falls to Lebanon Valley in MAC-NJAC Challegne

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Montclair, NJ – Senior tailback Pete Panichi (King of Prussia, PA / Upper Merion) rushed for 137 yards as Lebanon Valley took advantage of several turnovers and miscues by Montclair State as the Flying Dutchmen topped the Red Hawks, 31-21 in the MAC-NJAC Football Challenge at Sprague Field on Saturday afternoon.

Junior safety Josh Borreli (Hummelstown, PA / Lower Dauphin) returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown as Lebanon Valley (1-0) forced four turnovers in the game in winning its season opener for the second straight season and fourth time in the last five years.

Senior quarterback Drew Cathey (East Rutherford, NJ, Becton Regional) threw for a career-best 348 yards and three touchdowns for Montclair State (0-1), which fell in its season opener for the first time in three years. The Red Hawks also lost their second straight game at home following a 26-game regular-season winning streak. It is the first time MSU, which lost to Kean in the 2011 finale, lost back-to-back home games since 2004.

The Flying Dutchmen grabbed a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. After Montclair State missed a field goal, LVC went 76-yards in 11 plays including an 18-yard completion from Leo Kyte (Mechanicsville, MD / Chopticon) to Conrad Heisey (Elizabethtown, PA / Elizabethtown) on 3rd-and-12 that brought the ball to the MSU 8 after a penalty. Three plays later Heisey ran in from a yard out to give the visitors a 7-0 lead with 1:49 left in the opening quarter.

Montclair State would answer back early in the second as Cathey connected with Vin Fischer (Livingston, NJ, Livingston) on a 59-yard touchdown knotting the score at 7-7. Lebanon Valley answered right back as Panichi ran for 46 yards on the first play of the next possession that set up a Sean Fakete (Harrisburg, Pa / Central Dauphin) 24-yard field goal putting the Dutchmen back in front 10-7 with 10:24 to go.

On Lebanon Valley's next possession, LVC drove in the ball to the MSU 35 yardline and face a 4th-and-7. Electing to go for the first down, the Flying Ducthmen got an even better result as Joey Miller (Elizabethtown, PA / Lower Dauphin) snared a ball over a defender in the end zone giving Lebanon Valley a 17-7 lead with 5:28 to play.

Montclair State had a chance to close the game driving to the LVC 18 yard line inside two minutes however that would end as Nate Kauffman (Waynesboro, PA / Waynesboro) intercepted Cathey in the end zone allowing Lebanon Valley to head into the locker room with a 17-7 lead.

In the second half, LVC would take advantage of another MSU mistake as a mishandled snap on a punt gave the Dutchmen the ball at the MSU three yard line. Evan Fink (Schuylkill Haven, PA / Schuylkill Haven) rumbled in the end zone on the next play giving Lebanon Valley a 24-14 lead with 5:54 remaining in the third.

The Red Hawks would counter with a touchdown drive the next time they touched the ball as Cathey completed four passes, including a 20-yard strike to Bryan Ogden (Wayne, NJ, Wayne Hills) on the first play and a 20-yard touchdown toss to Kevin Grady (Paramus, NJ, Paramus) on the final of the drive as MSU cut the lead to 24-14 with 3:35 left in the third.

The Montclair State defense, which held Lebanon Valley to just 62 yards in the second half, stiffened up with successive three-and-outs. Montclair would get the ball back early in the fourth looking to trim the lead further however Borreli made perhaps the biggest play of the game picking off a Cathey pass and returning it 30 yards for the score as Lebanon Valley boosted its lead back to 31-14 with 13:01 left.

MSU would get a little closer midway through the fourth quarter as a 49-yard drive ended with Cathey hitting Fischer again for a 15-yard score making it 31-21 with 6:25 left.

Panichi carried 26 times for the Dutchmen who finished with 170 yards on the ground and 288 for the game overall. Kyte was 8-of-20 for 118 yards with Jake Zeigler (Mechanicsburg, PA / Mechanicsburg) pulling in four passes for 43 yards.  Borreli led the defense with seven tackles while Jared Cicero (Pottsville, PA / Pottsville) and Jerome Duncan (Aston, PA / Sun Valley) making six stops apiece. Duncan also had a sack.

Cathey was 27-of-45 in the game with Fischer and Grady each registering nine receptions for 132 and 115 yards, respectively. Ogden had a solid game with seven catches for 86 yards. Running back A.J. Scoppa (New Milford, NJ, New Milford) ran for 49 yards for Montclair State, which totaled 423 yards of offense.
Defensively, junior linebacker Adnan Sakiri (Ramsey, NJ, Ramsey) recorded a career-high 19 tackles, including two for loss and a sack. Brother Axhi Sakiri (Ramsey, NJ, Ramsey) recorded two sacks while Bill Shimko (Manahawkin, NJ, Southern Regional) and linebacker Dan Avento (Montvale, NJ, Pascack Hills) posted nine tackles apiece.

Today's contest was part of an eight-game matchup between the Middle Atlantic Conference and NJAC in a scheduling alliance for the 2012 and 2013 season. Next year the same teams will meet again to finish off a home-and-home set. MSU is slated to visit Lebanon Valley in Annville, PA on September 7, 2013.  

Montclair State returns to action on Saturday, September 8 as they travel to Newport, RI to face Salve Regina University at 12:00 pm. Lebanon Valley is home for its first MAC contest against Misericordia University at 1:00 pm.

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