September 20, 2011

Saving a life

More news about: Cortland State
Dom Sair's quick thinking did a lot more than break a big run this summer.
Cortland State athletics photo 

June 27 was shaping up to be just another enjoyable, relaxing summer day with family and friends for Dom Sair.

Sair remembers that Monday vividly. Sair, a former Cortland State running back, was helping his father load sodas into a cooler and get everything else ready for an afternoon barbeque at Sair's father's Huntington, N.Y., home. Eight kids from the ages of 8 to 16 years old played in and around the in-ground pool in the backyard. Life was good.

But then, just as suddenly, life was nearly lost.

Sair's father, Patrick Sair, spotted 11-year-old Chris Walker, a friend of Dom's 9-year-old sister, lying motionless at the bottom of the pool. "Get him, get him, he's drowning," he shouted.

Everything after that happened so fast, but Sair remembers it all. Sair's 16-year-old cousin, Jalen Sair, jumped into the pool, swam to the bottom and pulled Walker up to the surface. Walker was unresponsive, so Jalen carried Walker over his shoulder to the nearest pool ladder.

But as Jalen struggled to get Walker up onto the pool deck, Walker fell back, striking his head. Now the 11-year-old was unconscious and, as was later confirmed, mildly concussed.

At that point, Dom and his father began CPR. Dom administered chest compressions while Patrick tried to give Walker air. The situation appeared dire.

"I thought he was going to die," Dom said. "At one point I thought he was dead because he looked like it. The way his belly was so bloated, I didn't think he was surviving."

Dom, who did not have CPR certification, remembered back to CPR training in his high school gym class and the importance of the 30:2 ratio. A chest compression to ventilation ratio of 30:2 is universally recommended.

Shortly after the first set of compressions, Walker vomited some of the water that had flooded his body. At that point his eyes opened again, but Walker was still unresponsive. Dom and his father ran through the process again -- 30 chest compressions, two breaths.

Again, Walker vomited water. At this point he was becoming more alert, but still slipping in and out of consciousness. Dom, now on the phone with paramedics, and his father helped keep Walker awake so that he didn't slip into a coma.

Soon, police, firemen and emergency workers arrived and hooked Walker up to a resuscitator. Within an hour, Walker was virtually back to normal, though he still had water in his lungs that forced him to stay in the hospital for two extra days.

Dom estimates the entire event, from the moment Walker entered the pool until emergency workers arrived, was only about 12 minutes. Every second counted.

"At first I was thinking, 'Wow, this kid is really about to die in my backyard,'" Dom said. "I was so tentative at first, I just wasn't fully sure what to do, like CPR and all that. But some just intuition or instincts just snapped and I was in an adrenaline kind of mode."

Just two weeks later, Walker was back at the Sair house enjoying another barbeque, though this time with some additional safety measures.

"He's good now," Dom said. "He was back swimming -- we had a life preserver on him -- like two weeks after that he was back in the water. ... He came up to me and said, 'Thank you.'"

At the time, the story of the rescue was quickly picked up by media outlets. The local CBS, NBC and ABC television affiliates all came to the house to interview Dom and Jalen. Good Morning America had an interview scheduled, but was forced to cancel at the last minute. Dom, along with Jalen and Patrick, received Act of Courage proclamations from the Huntington Town Board. Dom also received a lengthy letter from Walker's parents, detailing their gratitude.

Dom, now 23 years old, began swimming at four years old. He has urged parents and guardians to be aware of their surroundings with young kids and to learn CPR.

It seems silly -- unfair even -- to compare Walker's life-or-death situation to a football game. But Dom, who played the last three seasons at Cortland, said some parallels can be drawn.

"Football, it's a lot of instincts and you've got to be mentally sound with the game," Dom said. "You've got to be calm [but] you've got to be intensely ready."

Dom, whose brother Stef Sair had a standout career for the Red Dragons, rushed for 785 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior in 2009. His 13 rushing scores ranked second in the NJAC despite getting just 154 carries. Dom missed virtually all of his senior season with a high ankle sprain.

Dom, who graduated with a degree in business economics, is looking for a job in marketing, but for the time being works with his father, one of the few people who know exactly what Dom went through on June 27.

"I would advise to any family, teach your kids early [how to swim]," Dom said. "Don't even risk it."

Kean able to beat second Top 25 team
Another week, another top 25 opponent knocked off by Kean. Seven days after upsetting then-No. 3 Wesley, the Cougars followed that with an impressive 21-16 win at Cortland State Saturday. Cortland, ranked 11th last week, held the advantage in first downs, yards gained and time of possession, but the game felt just as close as the score would indicate. Cortland took a 13-7 lead into halftime after Dan Pitcher connected with John Babin on a 7-yard touchdown with 20 seconds left in the first half. A 3-yard touchdown pass from Tom D'Ambrisi to Chris Suozzo late in the third quarter put Kean on top. Cortland responded with a 12-play, 70-yard drive that produced the go-ahead field goal with 46 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Red Dragons held the lead all of 16 seconds. Kean's Will Evans returned the ensuing kickoff 89 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, which ultimately proved to be the final score of the game. Pitcher led Cortland on a 13-play, 64-yard drive that stalled at the Cougars' two-yard line. After a short run up the middle by Dorian Myles, Pitcher was stuffed on a quarterback draw. With the Red Dragons facing fourth-and-goal at the 2-yard line, Pitcher's pass to Brian Haber fell incomplete, sealing the win for Kean.

In just two weeks, Kean has gone from receiving no votes in the Week One D3football.com Top 25 poll to being ranked 12th in the country. It's a deserved leap. This team is getting great play from its quarterback D'Ambrisi and its defense, led by players by Bekim Bujari, Chris VanFechtmann and Jerrelle Peay. But the X-factor for Kean so far has been special teams. After tallying two crucial punt blocks against Wesley, it was the kickoff return for a score against Cortland that swung the outcome this week.

A scare for Montclair State
The previous two meetings between Montclair State and Morrisville State weren't pretty. The Red Hawks dismantled the Mustangs 52-0 in 2009 and 42-6 in 2010. More of the same was to be expected this past Saturday.

Morrisville State must have missed the memo.

The upstart Mustangs came within a two-point conversion of tying the Red Hawks, ranked 14th in the nation this week, late in the fourth quarter. Montclair State was able to escape Morrisville, N.Y., with its unbeaten record intact, but it was lucky to do so. Morrisville took a 13-10 lead with 5:43 remaining in the third quarter on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Lemar Johnson to Ricky Carlson. Johnson also scored the Mustangs' first touchdown on a 6-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter.

Montclair State, sparked by a 29-yard run by Chris D'Andrea, quickly answered, taking the lead again on a 14-yard touchdown strike from Tom Fischer to Dan Keegan. Montclair State's Jake DelVento added his second field goal of the game with 8:43 left in regulation to put the Red Hawks up 20-13. Morrisville got the ball back with 8:36 left on the clock and embarked on a 16-play, 70-yard touchdown drive to pull within one point. The drive featured three crucial pass interference calls against the Montclair defense -- two on third down and one on fourth-and-goal at the 10-yard line that would have ended the game. Instead, Johnson hit Josh Powell on a five-yard touchdown strike with 21 seconds remaining.

Morrisville, already playing with house money against an opponent that had routed them the past two seasons, opted to go for two points and the win. But the athletic Johnson, who rushed for 51 yards in the game, was stopped by Montclair's Joe Koonce short of the goal line.

D'Andrea was the Red Hawks' workhorse offensively, collecting 164 yards on 28 carries. Chad Faulcon had a strong day defensively, piling up seven tackles -- two for losses -- and an interception. Johnson (11-of-21, 125 yards, two touchdowns, 51 rushing yards) had a strong showing for Morrisville, which gave Hartwick a run for its money in a 14-11, season-opening loss two weeks ago.

Battle of the Valleys: Delaware routs Lebanon
Delaware Valley's formula for beating Lebanon Valley Saturday was simple, but certainly effective. The Aggies built up an early lead, controlled the time of possession and forced the Dutchmen, who rely heavily on star back Ben Guiles, to become a throwing team. The end result? A convincing 34-10 win for Delaware Valley.

The Aggies have now won the last eight meetings between these two schools, dating back to the 2003 season. This year's matchup, however, had been shaping up to be a top early-season pairing of MAC contenders. But it quickly turned into a lopsided rout. Five Lebanon Valley turnovers didn't help in the Dutchmen's cause. Guiles scored on a one-yard touchdown run following Pete Panichi's 86-yard kickoff return to tie the game at 7-7. A Sean Fakete field goal on Lebanon Valley's next possession would give the Dutchmen a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter.

Delaware Valley scored the next 27 points.

Quarterback Aaron Wilmer (14-of-20, 250 yards, two touchdowns) connected with Rodney Blango (nine receptions, 169 yards, two touchdowns) on scoring plays of 24 and 10 yards in the second quarter. On top of forcing five turnovers, the Delaware Valley defense held Guiles to just 67 yards on 13 carries. Guiles did reach a milestone, however, as he became just the third player in school history to eclipse the 3,000-yard mark. Guiles' 33 touchdowns sit just shy of the school record.

Empire 8 flexes non-conference muscle
Four Empire 8 teams received votes in this week's D3football.com Top 25 poll, led by defending champion Alfred at No. 16. Those four teams -- Alfred, Salisbury, Springfield and St. John Fisher -- all won non-conference matchups this weekend. Three more Empire 8 teams -- Frostburg State, Ithaca and Hartwick -- won as well, giving the conference a 7-1 record this weekend. The one loss? That was Utica, which fell to Frostburg State in the Bobcats' home opener.

It's been said in this column space before, but it bears repeating: The Empire 8 traditionally dominates its non-conference slate. Springfield, led by quarterback Josh Carter, rolled past Husson 63-19, while Josh Volpe and J.D. Hook (38 carries, 184 yards, two touchdowns) lead Frostburg State past Utica 44-24 in their emotional home opener. Alfred, behind Austin Dwyer's 133 rushing yards and touchdown, kept rolling with a 36-12 romp over St. Lawrence. Quarterback Jason Hendel threw a touchdown and ran for two more as Ithaca notched a nice bounce-back win over reeling Union. Hartwick, powered by the potent Dan Brainard-to-Jordan Wilkins connection, cruised past Norwich. Wilkins caught seven passes for 201 yards and a score. Salisbury needed all 60 minutes to edge scrappy Christopher Newport 27-23, while St. John Fisher dismantled Rochester 52-3 in their annual Courage Bowl battle. Ryan Kramer tossed four touchdowns, including three to Ryan Schmidt, and the Fisher defense limited Rochester to just 151 total yards of offense.

So, looking at the big picture, what does this tell us? The answer is obvious -- not much. Yes, the Empire 8 teams sit at a collective 17-3 after three weeks of play, with all three losses coming within conference games. But this isn't much different from years past. The Empire 8 won't be decided until the final weeks of the season. Alfred is the favorite at this point, and for good reason. But would you be surprised to see Salisbury, St. John Fisher or Springfield win it? I didn't think so.

Buffalo State rewrites the record book
Every so often, a team will have one of those games where everything seems to go right. For Buffalo State, that game came Saturday in an 82-17 destruction of NJAC foe Western Connecticut. The Bengals broke their team record for points scored in a game, which they had set in last season's 71-3 win over Western Connecticut. Buffalo State piled up school records of 702 yards of offense -- 438 rushing, 264 passing -- and 11 total touchdowns. In fact, the Bengals scored in just about every way you possibly can in a football game. There were three passing touchdowns, five rushing touchdowns, two punt returns for touchdowns and a fumble returned for touchdown. Throw in a safety and a field goal, and you've got a day for the record books.

Quarterback Ryan Lehotsky finished 12-of-16 for 225 yards and two touchdowns, while Rich Pete led all rushers with 108 yards and a touchdown. Caesarae Lewis and Jaleel Harris returned second-half punts for touchdowns.

Of the Bengals' 18 possessions during the game, only six didn't produce points.

It was a thorough domination no matter how you slice it. It was also the first win of the season for the Bengals, who put scares into Cortland State and St. John Fisher in the season's first two weeks.

On the other side, it looks like another long season is in the cards for Western Connecticut. After going 0-10 in 2010, the Colonials have lost their first two games this season by a combined 130-17 margin.

Quick hits
Albright quarterback Adam Galczynski (20-of-26, 377 yards, three touchdowns) and wide receiver Scott Pillar (nine receptions, 220 yards, two touchdowns) spearheaded a dominant offensive showing in the Lions' 65-26 win over Wilkes on Saturday. Galczynski was named MAC Offensive Player of the Week. ... Mike Hermann threw for 188 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another 168 yards and one touchdown as RPI bounced back with a 51-21 win against Castleton State. Defensively, Joe Tedder intercepted a pair of passes as the Engineers picked up their first win of the season. ... Peter Gill (10 tackles, four sacks) spearheaded a dominant defensive effort by WPI in the Engineers' 31-3 win over Becker. WPI collected eight sacks and picked off a pair of passes. ... One week after notching the first win in program history, Stevenson fell to King's 51-26. The Mustangs struggled to contain King's quarterback Joe Kirchon (320 yards, three touchdowns). King's kicker Mike Lloyd also had a banner day, connecting on all three of his field goal attempts and all six of his extra points. ... Keith Corcoran scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter as Rowan rallied past Brockport State 39-32. The Rowan defense intercepted four Brockport passes, including two by Eric Sharkey. ... Widener's Laquan Robinson returned a second-quarter punt 64 yards for a touchdown as the Pride built up a 31-0 halftime lead. Lycoming, buoyed by a pair of Zach Klinger touchdown runs, scored 28 unanswered points in the second half, but failed to recover a late onside kick. ... Quarterback James Donoghue (126 yards, one touchdown) and back Joe Falco (107 yards, two touchdowns) fueled a TCNJ rushing attack that piled up 403 yards on the ground in a 49-21 win over FDU-Florham. Devils' quarterback Ryan Cushman (189 passing yards, 120 rushing yards, three total touchdowns) shined in the loss.

Looking ahead
No. 24 Cortland State (1-1) will look to get back in the win column on the road against Rowan (1-1) at noon on Saturday. Rowan, ranked 22nd in the D3football.com preseason poll, is still looking for a solid win after two uninspiring performances against Lycoming and Brockport State to open the season. Cortland, one could argue, is under more pressure since it already has a loss within the NJAC. Two conference losses by Week Four would be a tough break for the Red Dragons.

Two of the Empire 8's top teams will square off when Springfield (2-0) travels to No. 16 Alfred (2-0) for a 1 p.m. kickoff Saturday. Alfred has traditionally fared better than most in slowing down the Pride's triple-option offense. The Saxons have won five of the last seven meetings dating back to 2004, but the games are usually close. At the end of the season, we'll be able to point to this game as one that affected how the Empire 8 came together.

Widener (3-0) is off to its best start since winning three of its first four games in 2009. The key question is: Can the Pride avoid a long losing streak like the one they ended 2009 with? Saturday's game at Wilkes (1 p.m.) will tell us about the '11 Widener squad. It's a game the Pride should win, and a game the Pride must win if they hope to compete for their first MAC title since 2007.

Contact me
I'm always happy to hear from you, whether its questions, feedback or story ideas. Please reach out to me at andrew.lovell@d3sports.com. You can also follow me on Twitter (@andrew_lovell), and be sure to get involved in the discussions on the Around the East thread on the message board.

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Andrew Lovell

Andrew Lovell is an associate news editor for ESPN.com and a former sports staff writer/editor for the New Britain Herald (Conn.). He has contributed freelance work to ESPN Rise and has been a regular contributor to D3football.com since 2007. Andrew has also written for a number of daily newspapers in New York, including the Poughkeepsie Journal, Ithaca Journal and Auburn Citizen. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2008 with B.A. in Sport Media and a minor in writing. A native of Hyde Park, N.Y., Andrew currently resides in New Britain. 

2006-10 columnist: Adam Samrov 

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