Cortland Wins NJAC Title, Earns NCAA Berth With 31-17 Comeback Win at Kean
UNION, N.J. – Cortland scored the game's final 28 points, including interception returns for touchdowns by senior cornerback Pete Furey (Niskayuna) and senior defensive end Vaughn Labor (Norwich), and the Red Dragons defeated Kean University, 31-17. With the victory, Cortland clinched at least a share of the New Jersey Athletic Conference title and earned the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Div. III tournament. The Red Dragons, ranked 23rd nationally, have won seven straight games and are now 7-1 overall and 7-0 in the NJAC.
Cortland has two regular-season games remaining – a league contest at William Paterson Nov. 3 and its annual Cortaca Jug rivalry game versus Ithaca in Cortland Nov. 10. The NCAA tournament begins Nov. 17, with the pairings announced Nov. 11. Cortland will be making its third NCAA appearance in five years (2008, 2010, 2012) and its eighth overall.
Kean entered the game unbeaten in NJAC play and is now 5-3 overall and 5-1 in the conference. Kean and Rowan still have two league games remaining and either could still tie Cortland for the league title. However, Cortland has defeated both of those teams and would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over either one.
Sophomore Bronson Greene (Clifton Park/Shenendehowa) rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries and junior Justin Autera (Mahopac) had 56 yards on seven carries. Freshman safety Andre Green (Philadelphia/Indian River) and senior linebacker Chris Bright (East Meadow) led the defense with 12 tackles each.
For Kean, Darius Kinney ran 21 times for 116 yards and Christian Bailoni completed 29-of-45 passes for 236 yards and a score. Chris VanFechtman recorded two of the Cougars' four interceptions.
Kean led 17-3 less than 17 minutes into the contest. The Cougars drove 76 yards on the game's first drive, capped by a Deandre Fowlkes 8-yard TD run. Cortland answered with a 45-yard drive but settled for a Mike DeBole (Webster/Webster Schroeder) 35-yard field goal.
The hosts scored on their next possession on a Bill Cullen 35-yard field goal, then recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. The Cougars drove 28 yards, capped by a Bailoni 1-yard TD pass to Jim Dennis, and led by 14 with 13:31 left in the first half.
An Andrew Tolosi (Monroe/Monroe-Woodbury) 29-yard interception return to the Kean 23-yard line set up a DeBole 28-yard field goal, and DeBole added a 27-yard field goal with 2:42 left in the half to pull Cortland within 17-9 at halftime.
On their second possession of the second half, the Red Dragons started at their own 19-yard line. On 3rd-and-2 from its own 48, Cortland scored when Greene broke free for a 52-yard TD run. The pass attempt for the tying two-point conversion failed.
Early in the fourth quarter, VanFechtmann intercepted a pass to give Kean the ball at the 50-yard line. On the next play, however, Furey picked off a pass at his own 25-yard line and started working his way through traffic downfield. He eventually raced down the right sideline and dove just inside the pylon to give Cortland the lead. A Mike Humphrey (Le Roy) two-point conversion catch gave the Red Dragons a 23-17 lead with 13:02 left.
Kean drove to the Cortland 36-yard line on its next possession before punting and pinning the Red Dragons on their own 10-yard line. Greene, however, broke a 41-yard run on the next play. Eventually, Cortland punted and pinned the Cougars on their own 3-yard line. Three plays later, Labor intercepted a pass at the 8-yard line and ran in untouched for the clinching score.
Kean outgained Cortland, 390-332, in total offense and held a 37:12 to 22:48 advantage in time of possession. Cortland's school-record streak of seven straight games with at least 400 yards was snapped.