Defense Leads Rensselaer to Shoes Trophy Game Victory

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SCHENECTADY, N.Y. - The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) defense allowed zero second half rushing yards and only 94 yards on the ground in total in leading the Engineers to a 23-10 victory over Union College in the 65th Dutchman Shoes Trophy Game. RPI improves to 8-2 overall and 6-1 in the Liberty League, sharing the conference crown with St. Lawrence University. The Engineers, who have now won three consecutive Shoes games, remain alive for a bid in the NCAA Playoffs and will find out if they earned an at-large bid on Sunday. Union falls to 0-10 and 0-7.

Following a first half in which Rensselaer held a 16-10 lead on the scoreboard, including an interception return for a touchdown, but the Dutchmen had a 152-113 edge in total yards, the Engineers controlled a large majority of the play throughout the second half. Union opened the second half by driving 59 yards on 11 plays, ultimately missing a 33-yard field goal. From that point on, RPI allowed only 47 passing yards and minus-8 rushing yards over the final 25:08. The Dutchmen had only six total first downs, two by penalty.

Senior cornerback Philip Lanieri III (Port Jefferson, NY / Earl L. Vandermeulen) led Rensselaer with nine total tackles, including four unassisted. Linebackers Brad Gahagan (Tewksbury, MA / Tewksbury Memorial) and Mark Grimes (Hackettstown, NJ / Hackettstown) had eight each and sophomore defensive lineman Diego Cuitino (Plainsboro, NJ / West Windsor Plainsboro) had six tackles, including three unassisted, 1.5 sacks (10 yards lost) and 3.0 tackles for lost yards (12). Junior Ryan Buss (Clifton Park, NY / Shenendehowa) had six assisted stops and a 48-yard interception return for a touchdown.

The Engineers broke on top 6-0 on its second possession of the contest when senior Nick Schlatz(Bridgewater, MA / Bridgewater-Raynham Regional) scored on a plunge from the one yard line with 6:42 to play in the first quarter. Rensselaer's drive covered 51 yards on nine plays, highlighted by a 21-yard reception by senior wide receiver Pat Hogan (Mt. Sinai, NY / Mt. Sinai) on a 3rd and 12 play from the RPI 47. Union cut the deficit in half with 27 seconds left in the first quarter when David Pope (Beverly, MA / St. John's Prep) made a 19-yard field goal to finish a 15-play, 74-yard drive that took 6:11 off the clock. Both team's scoring drives were aided by penalties on the opposition.

Sophomore Christian Kapp (Amawalk, NY / Iona Prep.) gave the visitors the three points back when he made a 33-yard field goal at 12:17 of the second quarter. RPI got back into the end zone approximately nine minutes later when Buss stepped in front of a pass along the left sideline and ran untouched for 48 yards and six points. Kapp's point-after made it 16-3 for RPI, which has now had an interception return for a touchdown in three consecutive Dutchman Shoes Trophy games.

Union answered with a 12-play, 68-yard drive with the half winding down, culminated by sophomore Dante Cioffi (Monroe, CT / Kingswood-Oxford) finding senior Kyle Reynolds (Delray Beach, FL / American Heritage) in the back left corner of the end zone with six second remaining in the second quarter. 

There was no scoring in the third quarter, but RPI needed only one play in the fourth quarter to increase its edge to 13 points as senior Matt Lane (Hanover, MA / Hanover) made a highlight reel catch in the end zone. Quarterback Jeff Avery (White Plains, NY / White Plains) threw to Logan Gaddar (South Portland, ME / South Portland) in the right side of the end zone, but the ball was deflected and Lane made a diving catch, snatching the ball just before it hit the turf. Kapp's extra point made it 23-10 with 14:52 to play in the final frame.  

Schlatz ran for 92 yards and a touchdown while also catching two passes for 10 yards. Avery was 12 for 23 for 124 yards and a touchdown and Austin Amery Castleton, VT / Fair Haven) had 45 yards receiving on two catches along with 24 yards rushing. Lane added 14 rushing yards on four carries to go with his touchdown reception. 

Reynolds had 95 yards on five catches and a TD reception, while fellow senior A.J. Baker (Swampscott, MA / Swampscott) had 78 yards on 11 catches. Connor Kinzelmann (East Greenbush, NY / Columbia) had a team-high 55 rushing yards on 13 carries and Cioffi was 19 for 38 for 182 yards and the touchdown. He was intercepted once and sacked four times. Tyler Valenti (Southbury, CT / Pomperaug) had nine tackles for the Dutchmen.

Rensselaer and Union have been playing each other in football since 1886, which makes it the oldest college football rivalry in New York State at any level. Since 1950, RPI and Union have played for the Dutchman Shoes Trophy, which features a wooden base, with two clogs mounted on a small pedestal, with one painted red with a white letter "R" and the other garnet with a white letter "U" for Rensselaer and Union, respectively.

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