Montclair, NJ – Sophomore defensive back William Merz (Carteret, NJ, Carteret) returned an interception 100 yards in the second overtime for the winning score as Montclair State rallied back from 28-ponts down in the first half for a 55-49 victory over College at Brockport on Sunday afternoon.
Merz set a school-record and tied an NCAA record with his return finishing off the Red Hawks' dramatic comeback and capping off an emotional and draining week for Montclair State, which didn't return to the practice field until Thursday in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. MSU improved to 4-5 overall, 4-3 in the NJAC.
Senior quarterback Joe Scibilia (North Tonawanda, NY/Starpoint) threw for 341 yards and five touchdowns for Brockport, which fell to 5-4 overall, 3-4 in the league.
Each team would score touchdowns on their first touches of overtime. Montclair State took first possession and three plays in quarterback Drew Cathey (East Rutherford, NJ, Becton Regional) hit senior Bryan Ogden (Wayne, NJ, Wayne Hills) for an 11-yard score giving MSU a 49-42 lead. Brockport came right back with Scibilia connecting three times, the last one to Jake Spalik (Johnson City, NY / Johnson City) which moved the ball to the MSU 1. Shireem Cobb (Valley Stream, NY / Sewanhaka) then took a direct snap and plunged in from a yard out tying the game at 49-49 after the first OT.
Brockport got the first possession of the second overtime and Scibilia ran for three yards before connecting with Eric Malave (Brooklyn, NY / Canarsie) for nine yards to the MSU 10. Scibilia rushed for seven yards on first down to the Montclair 3 but safety Matt Mancino (Wall, NJ / Wall) tackled Cobb for a two-yard loss on the next play back to the Red Hawk 5.
On third-and-goal, Sciblila was looking for a Spalik on the right side near the front pylon of the end zone. But Merz stepped in front of the receiver at the goaline, picked off the pass and broke free down the sideline racing away from any would-be tacklers for the touchdown.
It was the end to a wild game that looked as though it would be a one-sided affair with 71 seconds left in the first half as Brockport's Khraif Pryor (Brooklyn, NY / Thomas Jefferson) stepped in front a Cathey pass at midfield and returned it for a score as the Golden Eagles took a 28-0 lead.
But Montclair State would answer with an important drive moving 65 yards in 38 seconds for a touchdown. Cathey, who threw for a career-best 385 yards and four touchdowns, hit Aaron Williams (West Orange, NJ, Jonathan Dayton) for 48 yards on the first play down to the Brockport 17. Cathey found Mark Reynolds (Hackettstown, NJ, Hackettstown) for 11 yards to the six and then rushed for four yards down to the 2. Bill Roman (Annandale, NJ, St. Peter's Prep) bulled in on the next play as MSU trimmed the lead to 28-7 at halftime.
Montclair added another touchdown to open the second half as Cathey found tight end Omar Morales (Cliffside Park, NJ, Cliffside Park) from two yards out on fourth down with 9:51 to go for a 28-14 Brockport lead. The Golden Eages countered with a four-yard pass from Scibilia to Anthony Mrozek (Depew, NY / Lancaster) only to be answered by a Cathey to Vin Fischer (Livingston, NJ, Livingston) 56-yard scoring toss as Montclair trailed 35-21 with 5:27 left in the third.
Freshman Anthony Mannato (Beachwood, NJ, Toms River South) then made perhaps the most important play of the game as he blocked a punt, scooped up the loose ball and ran it back 25 yards for a touchdown bringing Montclair State within 35-28.
After a Brockport punt, Montclair tied the game with 57-yard drive that culminated in a 6-yard run by Roman five seconds into the fourth quarter as the game was tied at 35-35.
The Red Hawks then took the lead three possessions later as Cathey connected with Ogden again, this time from 21 yards out as MSU took its first lead at 42-35 with 5:34 left in the game.
Brockport though was undeterred and responded quickly as a good runback plus an MSU penalty gave the Golden Eagles the
ball at the MSU 48. Scibilia found Mrozek for 10 yards to the MSU 37 on a third-and-9. Three plays later the two hooked up again on a sideline pattern. Mrozek managed to keep his balance and raced the final yardage for a 31-yard score as Brockport retied the game a 42-42 with 4:02 to play.
Each team would get a chance to try and win the game in regulation. Montclair drove to the Brockport 33 before the drive stalled. Golden Eagle safety Colby Morabito (Rochester, NY / Hilton) picked off the fourth pass by Brockport with 41 seconds left setting up a drive that went to the MSU 40. But Scibilia's Hail Mary pass into the end zone was knocked down by linebacker Adnan Sakiri (Ramsey, NJ, Ramsey).
Cathey finished 20-of-41 in the game with Ogden getting seven catches for 140 yards. Kevin Grady (Paramus, NJ, Paramus) had four receptions for 66 yards. Fischer and Williams had three apiece for 84 and 82 yards, respectively. Junior linebacker Dan Avento (Montvale, NJ, Pascack Hills) led the Red Hawk defense with 12 tackles.
Scibilia was 35-of-62 and also ran for 46 yards. Spalik had 12 receptions and Mrozek 11 for 136 and 125 yards, repestively. Linebacker Derek DeCandia (Beacon, NY / Beacon) had nine tackles for Brockport.
Both teams close out their season with NJAC contest on Saturday, November 10. Montclair State travels to Kean University while Brockport hosts Morrisville State with each contest kicking off at 1:00 pm.