BROCKPORT, N. Y. – Defense wins championships rang true for The No. 3 College at Brockport football team, with a stellar defensive effort helping to secure the Empire 8 championship, as the Green and Gold held off SUNY Cortland, 21-16.
The Golden Eagles remain undefeated at 9-0 and clinched the Empire 8 title with a 6-0 mark in conference play. The Red Dragons fall to 7-2 on the year and 5-2 in the league.
The first half was action packed, with the Brockport defense living up to the hype, and coming up big on several occasions. The Green and Gold faced a deficit for the first time in 2018, after a blocked punt turned touchdown for the Red Dragons.
Brockport wouldn't stay down for long, as a Rashad Baker pick set up a the Green and Gold's first scoring drive. The combination of Joe Germinerio to Joseph Ortiz was perfect on the ensuing drive, going 4-for-4 on completions, capped by a Zach Samborski two-yard touchdown run to even the score, 7-7.
Baker stepped up again, picking off a second Cortland pass to set up a Brockport scoring drive. This time, the Golden Eagles used six-plays to find the endzone, with Germinerio finding Samuel Bergman for the 10-yard score and the 14-7 advantage.
The second quarter saw several changes in possession, with Baker stepping up again to find his third interception of the contest. The senior had a big day, with his interceptions earning him a spot in the Brockport record books, becoming the career leader in pass deflections with 40. Another blocked Green and Gold punt turned points for Cortland, as the Brockport defense stood tall to force a field goal, taking a 14-10 edge into the half.
The Green and Gold again found themselves behind, as the Red Dragons would work into the endzone to start the second half. The Golden Eagles needed a spark, and found it midway through the third quarter when a double-pass play led to a Joe Benedict to Alex Benson hookup for 48 yards, setting up the Brockport score. Germinerio completed the scoring drive, finding Hunter Dimitroff for his first score of the season, regaining the 21-16 lead.
Despite being scoreless, the final quarter was jam-packed with action, with both teams fighting to find the redzone. In the waning minutes of the game, with Cortland marching down the field, the Brockport D came up with several big plays, but none were bigger than a fourth Baker interception to seal the win, and the Empire 8 title.
The Brockport defense wreaked havoc on their opponents, with Austin Dean leading the way with 13 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss. Alex West added 10 tackles, with two for loss, while Lawrence Jenkins picked up nine tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss and a timely sack for a loss of 7 yards.
Germinerio led the offense, picking up 307 yards through the air and added another 46 yards on the ground, and notched two touchdowns. Ortiz was a favorite target, with 18 catches for 170 yards. Joe Benedict was the leading rusher for the Green and Gold with 12 caries for 51 yards, while Samborski added nine rushes for 46 yards.
The Golden Eagles will wrap up the regular season next week, Nov. 10 when they take on Morrisville State on the road, with kickoff set for 1 p.m. With the conference win, the Green and Gold secured a spot in the 2018 NCAA Division III National Playoffs, and will learn their fate following week 10.
Brockport honored its 24 senior members in a ceremony prior to the game, celebrating the careers of Christian Hollister, Eric Yaeger, Rashad Baker, Cedric Campbell II, Jake O'Connell, Eamon Gillespie, CJ Bergmann, Matt Arita, Dylan Royce, Casey Goldberg, Matt Szymanski, Tim Terry, Darnell Phillips, Tyler Laird, Caleb Ferdilus, Jacob Walker, Mike Ambrosio, Justice Honsinger, Austin Dean, Josh Kuliszekski, John Demy, Yunis Ashkar, Terry McDonald and John Tucci.
Be sure to stay up to date on all your Golden Eagle news, scores, and awards by following @BportAthletics on Twitter and by liking the "Brockport Golden Eagles" Facebook page.