TIFFIN – The Heidelberg University football team's comeback effort fell short as they dropped their season opener to No. 17 Cortland, 30-28. The Student Princes scored 14 fourth-quarter points, but could not pull ahead of the Red Dragons in Scott Donaldson's first game as head coach.
Heidelberg fell to 0-1 while Cortland State improved to 1-0. It was the second time in as many years the Red Dragons defeated HU by a two-point margin.
Junior quarterback Tyler Stoyle was 27-45 for 315 yards and a touchdown.
Bryan Lacey started his senior campaign with 94 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Nick DeLisa and Demetrius Magee led the Heidelberg receivers with seven receptions each. DeLisa finished with 103 yards with Magee had 81 yards and a touchdown.
HU had three players with double-digit tackles. Trevor Summers led the defense with 12 tackles, a forced fumble and a sack. Austin Crow recorded 11 tackles, three of which were for loss, while Jarett Wasson chipped in with 10 tackles.
After winning the coin toss and choosing to defer, Heidelberg's defensive unit turned in a three-and-out. HU started their drive in great field position at the Cortland 37, but could not capitalize. AJ Morrison's 42-yard field goal attempt sailed just left of the post, forcing a turnover on downs. Cortland stormed down field and took a 7-0 lead on a four-play, 75-yard drive. The big blow came from a 63 yard completion from Steven Ferreira to Jon Mannix before being taken down at the Heidelberg two-yard line.
Forcing Heidelberg to punt again, the Red Dragons used a 10-play, 81-yard drive to find the end zone and push their lead to 14-0. The drive ended when Ferreira found a wide open Mannix for a 26-yard touchdown completion.
A 14-yard rush by Lacey cut Cortland's lead in half just before the end of the first quarter. The run capped off a 53-yard drive, which started thanks to an interception by Erik Hagedorn. The pick happened at the Cortland 38-yard line, but after being flagged for a personal foul, HU was backed up to their own 47 prior to the start of the scoring drive.
Looking to extend their lead, a 70-yard drive by Cortland culminated in a fumble recovered by HU. Summers forced the fumble inside the Heidelberg 4-yard line and was recovered by Justin Hutchins. The Berg could not capitalize on the turnover, as the Red Dragons forced a three-and-out.
Goal line stops on back to back plays from the Heidelberg defense forced Cortland into an 18-yard field goal attempt. Shane Cronin's kick sailed through the uprights as the clock expired, bringing their lead to 17-7 at halftime.
Cortland tacked on to their lead with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Ferreira to Josh Riley. The extra point attempt was blocked by Malik Dudley, keeping the score at 23-7. The Tricolor answered with a touchdown drive of their own, set up by a 49-yard catch-and-run by DeLisa. HU cut Cortland's lead to single digits when Lacey found the end zone for the second time with a five-yard run.
The Red Dragons responded with a touchdown on their next drive. Zach Tripodi pushed their lead to 30-14 with his 2-yard touchdown run. It finished an 11-play 72-yard drive for Cortland.
The Student Princes wasted no time chipping away at the Red Dragon's lead. On the first play of the quarter, Tyler Stoyle threw a strike to Demetrius Magee for a 22-yard touchdown.
With the Red Dragons hunting for insurance points, cornerback Dom Scott sparked resuscitated Heidelberg with an interception at the HU four. Highlighted by a 30-yard run from Cameron Vocke and a 24-yard catch-and-run by Tony Morris, Heidelberg cut into the Cortland lead once again. Vocke broke through the defense for a 4-yard touchdown run, and the successful kick by Morrison moved the score to 30-28.
The Tricolor defense forced a Cortland punt which was downed at the one. Armed with three timeouts, the Student Princes were able to move the ball to near midfield before turning the ball over on downs with one second left.
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
Cortland was 50% on third down conversions (9 of 18) compared to Heidelberg's 38% (6 of 16).
Heidelberg's defense tallied four sacks on the afternoon, totaling 31 yards. The Red Dragons did not record a sack in the game.
Donaldson, the 33rd head coach in Heidelberg history, is the 22nd to lose his debut.
QUOTES FROM THE COACH
Head coach Scott Donaldson on his team's tough battle: "I'm proud of our guys and the way we fought ... We had some mental mistakes that have to get fixed, but effort wise I can promise you that everyone who played today left it all on the field and as a coach that's all you can ask for."
Following a bye week, Heidelberg returns to action September 17th when they host Ohio Northern University. The 7 p.m. kickoff at Hoernemann Stadium marks the first time a night game will ever be played on campus in school history. It will be the first home night game since 2009 when the Berg played John Carroll at Frost-Kalnow Stadium.