ONEONTA, NY – It came down to the final possession to decide a winner, but Ithaca would come away with a 14-point, 27-13 victory over Hartwick in Empire 8 football on Saturday at Wright Stadium. Hartwick trailed 21-13 and drove to the Bomber 28 yard-line with less than 15 seconds left to play. On a 3rd and four, Ithaca's Mike Conti intercepted a Dan Brainard (Oswego, NY/Owego Free Academy) pass on the IC 12 and ran it back 88 yards for the touchdown as time expired for the 27-13 final score.
The loss drops the Hawks to 2-2 on the season and 0-1 in the Empire 8. The Bombers are 3-1 and 1-1 in conference play.
The Hawks out-gained Ithaca by over a hundred yards on the day, 393-290, but seven turnovers would be too much to overcome for Hartwick.
Brainard finished with 306 passing yards and one touchdown while connecting on 30-of-49 passes. Brainard's 30 completions is a career-high and his 306 yards is tied for his second-highest single-game total. Hartwick receiver Frankie Molina (Middletown, NY/Middletown) registered a game-high eight receptions for 89 yards. Jordan Wilkins (Portsmouth, NH/Hyde School) and Nick Clair (Walden, NY/Valley Central) each made seven catches. Wilkins gained 75 yards through the air while Clair registered 63.
A wild fourth quarter saw four touchdowns in the final 6:50 of action after just 14 points in the first 53:10 of the game. Hartwick got its first points of the day to cut the deficit to seven, 14-7, after Wilkins caught a 6-yard pass from Brainard in the end zone to cap a nine-play, 70-yard drive for the Hawks. Brainard hit Wilkins for passing plays of 16 and 18 yards and Clair for another 18 during the drive and Alex Tesoriero (Rensselaer, NY/Columbia HS) tacked on the extra point.
The momentum gained by the Hawks was quickly vanquished as Dan Ruffrage took the ensuing kickoff 91 yards up the right sideline for a Bomber touchdown. Andrew Rogowski kicked the extra point and IC was back on top by a 14-point margin.
Hartwick would answer on its next possession, marching 66 yards in 10 plays. On a critical fourth and 1, Brainard found Molina for 19 yards to keep the drive alive. Brainard secured the six points for 'Wick with a sneak, but Spence White came up with a block on Tesoriero's point after and IC maintained an eight-point edge, 21-13.
With only three and a half minutes remaining, the Hawks elected for an onside kick. Tesoriero hit a perfect bouncing kick and both teams got hands on it before Hartwick recovered on their own 43.
A Molina reception for 21 yards followed by a Clair catch for another eight got the ball to the IC 28. Two plays later, a pass to Molina skipped through his hands into the arms of Ithaca defensive back Josh Liemer and the Bombers had the ball with two and a half minutes left.
The Hartwick defense got a stop and forced a Bomber punt, and the Hawks got the ball back on their own 25 with 57 seconds to go. Brainard hit Molina for a big 30-yard gain to make it into IC territory. Then on a 4th and 10, a Clair reception gained 11 yards for a 1st down and another for six got the Hawks to the Bomber 28 with 13.6 seconds on the clock. An incomplete pass brought the clock down to just over six seconds before Conti's interception and runback put the game away.
Ruffrage was Ithaca's top receiver on the day with six catches for 75 yards and one touchdown to go along with his big fourth-quarter kickoff return. Joseph Ingrao made five catches for 76 yards. Quarterback Jason Hendel connected on 18 of his 26 throws for 217 yards and two scores.
Linebackers RJ Roth (New Windsor, NY/Cornwall HS) and Jordan Spirou (Westbury, NY/WT Clarke) each made nine tackles to lead Hartwick. Each player also had a tackle for a loss. Ray Mitchell (White Plains, NY/White Plains HS) made eight tackles, Bryan Schweitzer (Babylon, NY/Babylon HS) registered six and recovered a fumble, and Pete Jackson (Groton, NY/Groton HS) and Davionne Price (Bloomville, NY/Delhi) each intercepted a pass.
The victory for Ithaca is its fourth straight over the Hawks since a 32-30 Hartwick win at Wright in 2007. The Bombers improve to 15-4 all-time against 'Wick.
Hartwick returns to action next Saturday. The hawks take on nationally 10th ranked Alfred University in a 1 p.m. contest.