MORRISVILLE, N.Y. – The Morrisville State College football team matched a program best record Saturday afternoon, claiming the 2014 Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III North Central Football Bowl Championship crown as they defeated nearby Utica College 52-41 in an offensive shoot out on Drake Field in Morrisville.
The win is the ninth for the Mustangs on the season, matching a total not seen since the 1999 season, as they wrap up the 2014 campaign with a 9-2 overall record, and remain undefeated on Drake Field with a 6-0 home stint.
Utica College ends the season with a 7-4 overall record.
Morrisville State generated 568 yards total offense on the day, with 456 of that coming on the ground as they set a new single game record for rushing yards recorded. Senior quarterback Lemar Johnson (Ossining, N.Y.) led the way with a collegiate best 210 net yards for five rushing scores, while adding 118 additional in the passing game as he completed 9-of-13 passes for an additional touchdown.
Johnson's totals pushed him to the top of the all-time record books at Morrisville State in three additional stats categories, as he wrapped up his career as the all-time leading rusher (2,659 yards), all-time rushing touchdowns leader (32) and all-time scoring record (194 points).
His efforts in the contest also earned him the Most Outstanding Player award following the conclusion of the contest.
Cristina Pena (Ridgewood, N.Y.) was a dual threat in the backfield, racking up 165 net yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.
Defensively, four paved the way with nine tackles in the contest, including Colton Evans (West Winfield, N.Y.) who added two for a loss of two yards. Shane Carroll (Morrisville, N.Y.), Richardson Derosena (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Caleb Wright (Cortland, N.Y.) each had nine.
Utica College was able to generate 372 yards total offense on the Mustangs, with a majority coming in the second half as they only posted 101 through the opening two quarters.
With the quick feet of J'Von Moore, the Pioneers were able to generate 262 yards on the ground, with Moore collecting 175 of those on 21 carries for three scores. Justin Baldassare added 72 net yards and a touchdown on 14 attempts.
Quarterback Connor Butkiewicz connected on 12-of-19 passes for 110 yards and a score in the passing game, seven of which were to wide out Anthony Acevedo who posted a team high 75 yards and a touchdown score.
Juwan Wilson led the Pioneer defensive efforts, posting 15 total stops on seven solo and eight assisted tackles, while Mike Sullivan registered 12 on the day, including two for a loss of a yard.
Morrisville State set the tone quickly on their opening drive, marching down field behind three straight runs before Johnson walked into the end zone behind center Adrian Cabrera (New York, N.Y.) for the early score. Senior Zach Drake (Canastota, N.Y.) converted the point after for the 7-0 Morrisville State advantage.
Within seconds the Mustangs regained possession following an onside kick-off that was recovered by Wright within Pioneer territory that set up a nine-yard passing strike from Johnson to tight end Dennis Scherrer (Washingtonville, N.Y.) who was wide open in the end zone for the 14-0 Morrisville State lead.
On the ensuing Utica possession, Morrisville State's defensive unit held the Pioneers scoreless and forced a punt situation, which sailed high over the head of Dakota Peel who was forced to scramble after recovering the ball to get the punt off.
Utica was able to get the ball back on the next play, however, as Johnson was picked off by James Lenahan who returned the interception to midfield. The Pioneers then used the legs of Baldassare to move the ball up field before the running back carried up center for the rushing score to make it a 14-7 ball game after one quarter.
In the second, Utica forced Johnson out of the pocket where he broke open for a 14-yard scramble before connecting with Soto who found a huge hole on the right side for a 20-yard gain. Johnson again went up center for his second score of the day, completing the 66-yard drive in just eight plays for the 21-7 Morrisville State lead.
Utica struggled to stop Morrisville State on the ground, as the hosts scored on their next possession. Johnson found a hole around the left corner and with a diving reach was able to get inside the pylon for his third rushing score of the day with 6:10 showing on the clock. Johnson's block came off the play of left guard Tyler Cowley (Brooklyn, N.Y.).
The Pioneers were able to respond with 3:35 to go with a 72-yard scoring drive in just six plays behind the quickness of Evans who broke free for a 38-yard gain down to the Morrisville six-yard line before being chased down from behind. Evans capped off the drive with a six-yard rushing score to cut the deficit to 14.
Morrisville State added a final score as time expired in the half, with Drake sending the ball through the uprights for the 22-yard field goal and 31-14 Mustang at the half.
After a high scoring first half, the second proved that it would be an offensive shoot out down the stretch.
Utica came out of the locker room fired up and was quick to march downfield, scoring on the opening possession on a three-yard run by Butkiewicz.
Morrisville State ate up more than five minutes of the clock on the ensuing possession and regained the 17 point margin after scoring on fourth down within the red zone, as Johnson got a huge block from Pena on the right to walk into the end zone for the score. The Mustangs completed the 64-yard drive in 10 plays.
The Pioneers faced a fourth down situation of their own on the following possession, only needing a few inches before Evans gained the first down and five plays later went around the left and dove for the pylon for the 20-yard rushing score.
Pena added one more score for the Mustangs late in the quarter, capping off the 71-yard drive with a one-yard run to send the game into the final quarter with a 45-28 Morrisville State lead. The drive took all of five plays, one that was a 30-yard pass completion from Johnson to Powell, before taking advantage of the Pioneer defense and hitting Gray whose defender was not looking at the ball for the 38-yard gain down to the Utica one-yard line.
Utica moved the ball as time wound down in the third and struck early in the fourth on a 20-yard rush by Evans who had the hole on the right and walked into the end zone for the score.
The Pioneers were able to regain possession and keep the Mustangs off the board as Lehman posted his second interception of the day, this time in the end zone, but were unable to move the ball as Morrisville State forced the punt.
Three straight penalties pinned Morrisville State deep within their own territory and forced them to punt for the first time all game, as Utica regained possession at midfield to start their drive.
Butkiewicz found Acevedo who went up and over the secondary for the score in the back left corner of the end zone, and Thomas Woodburn had a chance to make it a three point ball game, but Ray Woolford (Staten Island, N.Y.) laid out to block the point after, making it a 45-41 ball game with 3:42 to go in the contest.
Morrisville State got the ball back on their own 25 yard line and in eight plays put the game out of reach for the Pioneers taking advantage of the offensive scheme on the ground that proved successful all afternoon.
On third down, Johnson went around the right corner for a 27-yard gain, before find a hole on the left side three plays later for his fifth rushing score of the day, a 22-yard tally for the 52-41 advantage.
Utica made one last attempt, but was battling the clock as just 27 ticks remained in the contest. Butkiewicz connected with Acevedo for a 29-yard pass play, before hitting him again for a seven-yard gain, but ran out of time down the stretch as his final pass fell short and Morrisville State was declared Bowl Champions.
This was the first appearance for both Morrisville State and Utica College in an ECAC Bowl Championship game.