CORTLAND, N.Y. – William Paterson (1-2, 0-1 NJAC) pulled to within two midway through the third quarter, but host SUNY Cortland (1-1, 1-0 NJAC) answered with a kickoff return for a touchdown on the very next play, eventually securing a 26-15 football victory Sept. 21.
Senior quarterback Ryan Gresik (Newton, N.J./Newton) finished 39-for-58 for 357 yards, breaking the school's single-game completions record. Senior wide receiver Mick Paye (Lumberton, N.J./Rancocas Valley Regional) caught nine passes for 120 yards, and senior linebacker David Zurla (Rutherford, N.J./Rutherford) led the defensive effort with 12 tackles (eight solo, 2.0 sacks).
The Red Dragons cashed in on the first possession of the game when quarterback Tyler Hughes scrambled right for a nine-yard touchdown. Nick Daley's kick was good, and Cortland owned an early 7-0 lead just 2:35 into the contest.
The two teams traded punts until Zurla sacked Hughes in the end zone, a safety that made it a 7-2 game with 41 seconds left in the first quarter.
Hughes dropped back and then took off down the left sideline, a 49-yard run that handed the Red Dragons a 14-2 edge with 5:23 remaining in the first half, but the Pioneers were able to get three of those points back as time expired when junior Robert Sinegra (Wharton, N.J./Morris Knolls) nailed a 46-yard field goal.
William Paterson received the opening kickoff of the second half, putting together a 15-play, 75-yard drive that was kept alive by Gresik with an 11-yard carry on third-and-10 at the Cortland-22. Sophomore running back Darius Kersey (Dover, N.J./Dover) finished it off with a two-yard touchdown run, and Sinegra's PAT put the Pioneers right back in the game at 14-12 with 9:07 on the clock.
Cortland went for a bit of a trick play on the ensuing kickoff and it worked, as Justin Autera picked up the first 20 yards before reversing it to Andre Green, who covered the final 73 yards to the goal line. A low snap led to an unsuccessful PAT attempt, but the Red Dragons had seized the momentum at 20-12 just 15 seconds later.
The Pioneers answered with a Sinegra 39-yard field goal (20-15, 7:03) and forced a Cortland punt to end the next possession, but could do little to get out of their own end when they started their next drive inside their own 10-yard line.
Gresik was sacked at the Cortland-35 and lost the ball, giving the Red Dragons good field position early in the fourth. Four plays later, Jon Mannix scored on a 17-yard reverse. The two-point conversion was no good, but Cortland owned a 26-15 advantage with 10:05 left.
Two fumbles lost ended William Paterson's next two drives, essentially ending the Pioneers' comeback hopes.
Sophomore Matt Deiana (Somers, N.Y./Somers) gained 42 yards on 12 carries to lead the ground game, and senior tight end Brian Winfield (Newton, N.J./Newton) hauled in eight passes for 59 yards. Senior wide receiver Julian Frazier (Plainfield, N.J./North Plainfield) added 81 yards on seven receptions.
Senior cornerback Andre Snead (Atlantic City, N.J./Atlantic City) made seven solo stops for the WP defense, and junior linebacker Ben Allen (Ventnor, N.J./Atlantic City) chipped in six tackles (four solo, 2.5 TFL).
Frazier punted seven times for a 45.6 yards-per-kick average, including a long of 71 yards while landing three inside the 20-yard line.
Hughes was 7-for-20 for 62 yards under center, but he rushed 23 times for 203 yards and two touchdowns. Green led the Red Dragon defense with 11 tackles (10 solo) and a fumble recovery.
William Paterson will play its home opener and celebrate Homecoming Saturday, Sept. 28, against Maritime at 1:00 p.m.