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Football completes comeback, upsets Cortland

by Paul Cifonelli - Sports Editor
Tue, Nov 5th 2019 09:00 pm
Senior Joseph Ortiz gets flipped by a defender from SUNY Cortland after catching a pass on
Saturday, Nov. 2. Brockport won 32-26 in overtime.
Senior Joseph Ortiz gets flipped by a defender from SUNY Cortland after catching a pass on Saturday, Nov. 2. Brockport won 32-26 in overtime.

The College at Brockport football team knew what was on the line when it traveled to SUNY Cortland, the #18 team in the country. Cortland would have been able to clinch the Empire 8 title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with a victory. Brockport needed a win in order to keep its postseason hopes alive, as the Golden Eagles would likely not be selected for an at-large bid with two losses. The game at Cortland on Saturday, Nov. 2 between the two teams was everything it was made out to be. 

After a scoreless first quarter with minimal offense, it appeared as though defenses would rule the day. Cortland also boasted a strong defense heading into the game, holding teams to under 20 points three different times this season. The unit has not been as strong as Brockport’s, which has three shutouts in eight games in 2019. 

Cortland’s offense broke through in the second quarter and threatened to turn the game into a blowout. Junior wide receiver Jason Carlock caught two touchdown passes from senior quarterback Brett Segala in the second quarter. Senior running back Zack Tripodi ran in a 20-yard touchdown and junior linebacker Dylan Dubuque forced a safety in the frame to give the Red Dragons a 23-0 lead. With Brockport’s offense failing most of the half, freshman quarterback Freddy June led a drive with his arm to put points on the board just before the half ended. Despite being down 23-7 at halftime, the Golden Eagles appeared to have shifted momentum and tried to carry that through the break. Brockport head coach Jason Mangone did not feel the need to give a big halftime speech to get his team back to playing like it normally does. 

“It wasn’t really a huge message,” Mangone said. “It was just about ‘have your brother’s back.’ This is so different than any other sport in the sense that there’s so many pieces. We could have five guys ready to go on offense, but if the other six aren’t doing their job, the play isn’t going anywhere. So all we do is have your brother’s back, keep grinding, play with clarity, take care of the ball and things will happen.” 

Brockport came out of the locker room in the second half looking like a different team. After blocking a Cortland punt on its first drive of the half, June connected with junior wide receiver Alex Benson on fourth down to close the gap. June did not convert on the two-point conversion, making it a 23-13 score. A 46-yard field goal later in the quarter were the last points the Red Dragons were able to muster in the game. With the score at 26-13 heading into the fourth quarter, Brockport needed something close to a miracle to pull of the upset on the road. 

Sophomore running back Jala Coad worked his magic with his team’s back against the wall. He ran for two touchdowns in the quarter, with one coming after June went out with an injury to tie the game. The ensuing extra point was blocked, keeping the game tied at 26. Cortland’s next drive had some life to it, but an 18-yard sack by junior linebacker Lawrence Jenkins on fourth down gave Brockport a chance to win it. 

After a methodical drive, with 1:13 left on the clock, senior kicker Dustin Moyle missed a potential go-ahead field goal. Cortland began marching down the field immediately after, threatening to win in the final seconds. Freshman defensive back Raylins Boutin saved the day with an interception on Brockport’s five yard line with 31 seconds to go, sending the game into overtime. 

Brockport did not give Cortland any chance at victory in overtime. After stopping the Red Dragons on first and second down, junior linebacker Andrew Covais intercepted a pass, meaning any points would give Brockport a victory. For Covais, getting an interception in that moment was something out of a dream. 

“It’s surreal,” Covais said. “I love these guys and I’d do it with them forever.” 

Covais’ moment was quickly taken over by the offense. Coad ran the ball twice, one for 14 yards and one without a gain. Senior quarterback Jason Hellwig, who replaced June in the fourth quarter, ran the ball in from 11 yards out to claim a 32-26 victory for the Golden Eagles. 

With the win, Brockport now has 20 consecutive wins over Empire 8 opponents and is in first place in the league yet again. However, the win over Cortland means a lot for the players, especially Hellwig, because Brockport has been overlooked since its 33-7 loss to Hobart in a nonconference game on Saturday, Sept. 7. 

“It means everything because a lot of people had written us off after we lose one nonconference game,” Hellwig said. “I think we showed that it takes a lot more than one nonconference game in the beginning of the season to bring us down.” 

Coad set a career-high with 210 rushing yards on 39 carries in the contest. June also had one of the better games of his young career, going 14-25 for 186 passing yards and a touchdown. 

Brockport is now one win away from securing the Empire 8’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament for the third year in a row. If the Golden Eagles defeat Alfred University on Saturday, Nov. 9, then they will get to celebrate the league championship on their home field. 

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Taken by Vincent Croce:
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