ONEONTA, NY - Hartwick football entered today's game with Utica with the 211th ranked rushing offense in the country. Nobody told the Hawks, who ran for a season-high 318 yards and scored the game's final 10 points for a 24-21 victory over the Pioneers on Saturday at Wright Stadium. Junior running back Anthony Casimano (Gansevoort, NY/Schuylerville) ran all over the Pioneer defense on the day with career-high 232 yards rushing on 30 carries to go along with two touchdowns. Senior Nate Rockefeller (Delhi, NY/Delaware Valley) added 76 yards on the ground for 'Wick.
The Hawks, with the win, earn their first Empire 8 victory of the season and improve to 3-5 overall. Utica slips to 5-3 and 0-4 in the E8. It also marks the fifth straight Hartwick victory over the Pioneers dating back to 2006.
The two teams battled to a 14-14 halftime score. After both teams came away empty on their first two drives, the Hawks broke the ice capitalizing on a Utica fumble. UC QB Andrew Benkwitt completed a pass to Tyler Malagasi but he lost the football allowing Hartwick's Pete Jackson (Groton, NY/Groton) to recover on the Utica 35. Five straight runs by Casimano capped off by a 1-yard dive gave the Hawks' six points and Heath Dunn's (Mechanicville, NY/Mechanicville) leg tacked on another point for a 7-0 lead.
Utica evened the score on its next possession. Running back Anthony Acevedo took the snap in for three yards to cap the 13-play, 67-yard drive to tie the score.
Hartwick answered later in the quarter as quarterback Dan Brainard (Owego, NY/Owego Free) connected with Jordan Wilkins (Portsmouth, NH/Hyde School) for a 25-yard touchdown pass to regain the lead for 'Wick.
UC, however, marched 89 yards on 13 plays on its next drive to tie the game at 14 with 6:17 remaining. Running back Jake Scott's five-yard TD run finished the drive off.
The Pioneers came out flying in the third quarter. A big Benkwith to Joshua Mason 47-yard pass set up a Scott 10-yard touchdown run and UC led 21-14. Hartwick could not produce anything on its next possession giving the Pioneers to extend their advantage.
Utica drove to the Hartwick 41 but Benkwith was picked off by Hartwick linebacker RJ Roth (Cornwall, NY/Cornwall) whose 45-yard return instead brought the Hawks to the UC 10 yard-line. Casimano finished it off with a 7-yard run and Dunn's extra point evened the score at 21-21 with 5:30 left in the third.
The Hartwick defense forced a three-and-out and Casimano would take the ball 64 yards on the Hawks' first play from scrimmage on their next possession to set up a Dunn 27-yard field goal which proved to be the game-winning points.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Hartwick gained possession and ate away at the remaining time. 'Wick faced a fourth and goal from the UC nine with just over two minutes to play after taking nearly six minutes off the clock but could not convert. It did, however, pin the Pioneers deep in their own territory with a long way to go for a potential game-tying field goal.
Benkwitt drove his team to the Hartwick 40 with two seconds left allowing TJ Lowowski to try a 57-yard field goal to try and tie the game. His effort was well short though and the Hawks prevailed by three, 24-21.
Brainard would end the game with four completions on 15 passes for 111 yards. Wilkins made three receptions for 82 yards. Benkwitt completed 31-of-45 passes for 293 yards. Acevedo (10 rec., 94 yds.) and Mason (7 rec., 95 yds.) combined for 17 receptions and 189 receiving yards for the Pioneers. Scott finished with 96 yards on the ground with two TDs.
Bryan Schweitzer (Babylon, NY/Babylon) and Jordan Spirou (Westbury, NY/W.T. Clarke) ended the game with highs of 10 tackles. Roth finished with nine, including a tackle for a loss and the big third-quarter interception. Terrell Cunningham led Utica with nine tackles and an interception.
Hartwick will look to end the season on a two-game winning streak next Saturday. The Hawks host Mount Ida at 1 p.m. at Wright Stadium.