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Red Dragons edge Saxons in overtime

Photo provided by Rich Barnes

Cortland defensive back Dezmund Hunter (20) intercepts a pass in the end zone during overtime to secure a 20-17 victory over Alfred University on Saturday at the Stadium Complex.

William Holscher made a 20-yard field goal in the first overtime period and Dezmund Hunter intercepted a pass in the end zone to finish the game Saturday as the SUNY Cortland football team defeated previously unbeaten and nationally 17th-ranked Alfred University 20-17 in an Empire 8 contest at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex.

Cortland improves to 4-2 overall and 3-1 in Empire 8 play. The Red Dragons are tied with Alfred for second place, a game behind 4-0 Brockport. Alfred (5-1, 3-1) had its 15-game regular season winning streak, which dated back to the opening game of the 2016 season, snapped with the loss.

Cortland tied the game on a Johnnie Akins 1-yard TD run with 2:45 left in regulation. Akins finished with 21 carries for 102 yards, including six rushes for 43 yards during the tying 62-yard drive. The scoring play started with a bad snap into the backfield, but Akins scooped up the ball, ran forward and dove to barely break the plane. The teams traded punts after that, and Alfred’s final fourth-quarter drive with 1:15 left resulted in only three plays before the Saxons elected to let the clock run out.

Cortland possessed the ball first in overtime. Quarterback Steven Ferreira rushed for six and 10 yards on his first two carries, but with 1st-and-goal at the 9-yard line his next three rushes netted only a total of six yards to lead to Holscher’s goahead kick.

Alfred faced 4th-and-1 at the Cortland 16-yard line on its possession and kept the drive alive with a Nasir Smith 5-yard run to the 11. Following a Smith 1-yard run, Cortland’s Dylan Ferrari sacked Alfred quarterback Casey Boston for a 6-yard loss. On 3rd-and-15, Boston lofted a fade pass to the back right corner of the end zone and Hunter out-leaped a Saxons receiver, caught the ball and got a foot inbounds before tumbling to the ground to end the game and spark a mass celebration by the Cortland bench.

Alfred led 7-0 with 8:54 left in the first quarter on a Maleke Fuentes 18-yard TD run. He finished the game with 23 carries for 113 yards. Cortland knotted the game on Ferreira’s 16-yard scoring pass to Jason Carlock later in the quarter, and Holscher’s 26-yard field goal with 11:11 left in the second put the Red Dragon on top 10-7. The guests tied the game at 10-10 on Trevor Monk’s 42-yard field goal with less than a minute left before halftime.

The Saxons went up 17-10 on a 1-yard pass from Boston to tight end Jake Toomey with 7:09 remaining in the third quarter to cap a 13-play, 77- yard drive to open the period. Cortland missed a chance to cut into the Alfred lead as Holscher missed on a pair of 44-yard field goal attempts in the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter. Alfred third-down sacks on both of those possessions pushed Cortland back to those long attempts.

Cortland’s defense, however, allowed only one combined first down on Alfred’s two possessions following the missed field goals. Cortland finished the game with a 359-279 advantage in total offense despite Alfred holding a 32:50-27:10 edge in time of possession.

Kyle Richard led Cortland with 13 tackles and Mark DeLuise recorded 12 tackles. Hunter and D’monte Woody each intercepted passes and Ferrari finished with two of Cortland’s four sacks. Ferreira was 18-of-32 passing for 196 yards and a score and ran for 53 yards on 17 carries. Zach Tripodi caught five passes for 32 yards.

Boston was 10-of-18 through the air for 130 yards and a TD for the Saxons. A.J. Licata and Cole Reed made 11 tackles apiece, Nicholas Milgate intercepted a pass, and Ty Timmerman totaled two of Alfred’s four sacks.

Cortland is now 6-4 all-time in overtime games, including three straight wins, with all 10 games lasting only one overtime period. The Red Dragons’ last overtime win came at home versus Hartwick in 2015.

Cortland will travel to Morrisville State this Saturday at 1 p.m. for a league contest.

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