CORTLAND, N.Y. – Junior John Babin (Warwick/Warwick Valley) caught 10 passes for 138 yards and a score and senior Justin Autera (Mahopac) returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown as Cortland posted a 20-7 win over New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) leader The College of New Jersey.
With the win, Cortland takes over first place in the NJAC with a 4-1 record (4-3 overall). TCNJ, Rowan and Brockport are all tied for second at 3-1.
TCNJ (4-3 overall) took a 7-0 lead with seven minutes, 55 seconds left in the first quarter on a Victor Scalici (Freehold, NJ/Colts Neck) 1-yard TD run. The score capped an 8-play, 80-yard drive that featured a 48-yard pass from Chris Spellman (Mount Laurel, NJ/Bishop Eustace Prep) to Jeff Mattonelli (Hamilton, NJ/Steinert) and a 21-yard Spellman pass to Fred Sprengel (Wall, NJ), both on third-down plays.
Following a short kickoff, Cortland drove from its own 47-yard line to the TCNJ 11-yard line before settling for a Nick Daley (Saratoga Springs) 30-yard field goal to pull within 7-3. The Red Dragons then got the ball back at the TCNJ 32-yard line on an Andrew Tolosi (Monroe/Monroe-Woodbury) interception, and five plays later Tyler Hughes (Scranton, PA/West Scranton) threw a 16-yard TD pass to Babin to give Cortland the lead for good.
Cortland cornerback Ke'shaun Stallworth (Pelham/Pelham Memorial) recorded the first of his two interceptions on the Lions' next drive. The Red Dragons then drove from their own 22-yard line to the TCNJ 1-yard line, where they faced a 2nd-and-goal. The Lions, however, stopped two Cortland rushes and forced a Daley 22-yard field goal attempt. Daley's kick was blocked, but an inadvertent whistle on the play led to the down being replayed. Daley took advantage and made his second attempt and Cortland led 13-7 with 7:32 left in the half.
The game's final score came when Autera returned the opening kickoff of the second half down the right sideline for a 97-yard score. The play extended Cortland's school single-season record to three kickoff returns for touchdowns.
TCNJ drove into Cortland territory on its first four possessions of the second half but was unable to score. The first drive ended with a punt and the second with a missed 45-yard field goal. Early in the fourth quarter, the Lions faced 4th-and-2 at the Cortland 22-yard line and heading into the wind. The Red Dragons stopped a rush one yard short of the first down marker to take over on downs. A Stallworth interception in the end zone halted the Lions with 8:35 remaining, and TCNJ never moved into Cortland territory again.
Hughes finished 11-of-18 passing for 171 yards for Cortland and also ran 21 times for 52 yards. Defensively, freshman Tristan Laurore (Jamaica/Boys & Girls) made 13 tackles, eight solo, and junior Gabe Ostrow (Nanuet) finished with 11 tackles.
TCNJ lost despite outgaining Cortland in total offense, 330-275. Two Lions' running backs rushed for more than 100 yards in the game. Brad Young (Cresskill, NJ) finished with 112 yards on 19 carries and Scalici ran 20 times for 103 yards. Spellman completed 6-of-13 passes for 114 yards before leaving with an apparent injury. Sam Paladino (East Hanover, NJ/Hanover Park) completed 4-of-12 passes for 32 yards.
Nick Bricker (Middletown, NJ/Middletown South) paced TCNJ's defense with 17 tackles, 11 solo, with 1.5 sacks and 3.5 total tackles for loss. Ryan Lowe (Howell, NJ) hadded nine tackles.
Cortland will play at Rowan next Saturday at 1 p.m., while TCNJ will host Brockport Saturday at noon in a pair of games that will involve all four NJAC one-loss teams.