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Red Dragons look to stay in race at Fisher

Empire 8 football

The Red Dragons are in the running for the Empire 8.

SUNY Cortland's Red Dragons have won three straight games to improve to 4-1 in conference contests.

The SUNY Cortland football team looks to stay alive in the Empire 8 race as it travels to St. John Fisher Saturday in a 1 p.m. start.

The Red Dragons have won three straight games to improve to 4-1 in conference play, good for second place one game behind Brockport (5-0). St. John Fisher looks to bounce back on its Senior Day after suffering a non-league loss at Ithaca last weekend.

Cortland leads the series 5-4, but St. John Fisher has won four of the last five meetings. Cortland beat Fisher four straight times from 1988-91, with the win in 1988 completing the Red Dragons’ 10-0 regular season. The teams did not meet again until 2003. Fisher beat Cortland at home twice in the ECAC Northwest Bowl (47-37 in 2003 and 34- 20 in 2009) and in a non-league matchup in 2013 (33-25).

The teams have split two games since Cortland joined the Empire 8. The Red Dragons won at Fisher, 34-17, in 2015, and the Cardinals won in Cortland last year, 31-24. In last season’s game, Cortland fell behind 21-3 early in the second quarter and lost starting quarterback Steven Ferreira to a season-ending injury shortly thereafter, but the Red Dragons did manage to close within seven at 24- 17 early in the third before losing.

Fisher quarterback Matt Naton completed 16-of-27 passes for 241 yards, including TD passes to Mike Collichio and Wyatt Stehle. James Chambers and Tony Fusco each ran for a score and Devin Dzikowicz kicked a 35-yard field goal. Ferreira was 8-of-13 passing for 94 yards before exiting the game. Kyle Schneider completed 17-of-27 passes for 213 yards and a TD off the bench. Jake Smith caught 11 passes for 167 yards, including a 77-yard TD reception early in the third that made the score 24-17. DeAngelo Walker and Alex Wasserman each rushed for TDs and Shane Cronin hit a 30-yard field goal.

Defensively, Carson Lassiter and Matt Goodman led Cortland with 12 tackles each. Lassiter also forced and recovered a fumble. Ike Schannauer recorded 2.5 sacks among his six tackles. DJ Logory paced Fisher with 10 tackles, seven solo. Demarre Nelson intercepted two passes and Alec Mortillaro finished with eight tackles and three pass breakups. Nelson’s second interception sealed the win for the Cardinals at the Fisher 17-yard line with less than 10 seconds remaining.

CORTLAND OVERCAME an early 13-3 deficit and the Red Dragons defeated host Morrisville State, 34-20, last Saturday for their third straight victory. Johnnie Akins rushed for 86 yards and two scores, including a 44-yard run, and Nick Anderson caught a 55-yard TD pass and finished with five catches for 71 yards. Steven Ferreira completed 16-of-28 passes for 198 yards and one score with no interceptions and ran for 39 yards on 11 attempts.

Cortland won despite being outgained 502-335 in total offense. The Red Dragons, however, held the Mustangs scoreless on five of their seven trips into the red zone. One of the game’s biggest plays came at the end of the third quarter when Morrisville attempted a 30-yard field goal trailing 20-13. Travis Alvarez blocked the kick and D’monte Woody grabbed the loose ball at the 17-yard line and weaved his way through traffic for an 83-yard return and a 27-13 Red Dragon lead.

Mark DeLuise made a game-high 13 tackles to pace the Cortland defense. Isaac Hicks recorded nine stops, and he intercepted a pass deep in Cortland territory late in the first half. Nick Mongelli made a 44-yard field goal on the final play of the half on his first attempt of the season. William Holscher made an 18-yarder to give Cortland an early 3-0 lead.

For the season, Akins is averaging 85 rushing yards per game and leads the team with six rushing scores. Anderson has caught 31 passes for 389 yards and six scores. Ferreira is 131-of-217 through the air (60.4 percent) for 1,754 yards and 16 scores with five interceptions. Holscher is 26 of-26 on PAT kicks and 8-of-10 on field goal tries, with the two misses both from 44 yards out two weeks ago versus Alfred. Mongelli averages 38.9 yards per punt.

DeLuise averages nearly eight tackles per game (55 in seven contests) with two interceptions and five tackles for loss. Hicks has 48 tackles and a team best three interceptions and Dylan Ferrari leads the Red Dragons with 4.5 sacks.

ST. JOHN FISHER is off to a tough 1-6 start, but has faced a demanding schedule to date. The Cardinals lost by 10 at currently 16th-ranked Washington & Jefferson to open the season and by seven at home to then-18th-ranked Alfred three weeks ago.

Last Saturday, Fisher lost 35-10 at former Empire 8 foe Ithaca. The Cardinals led 10-7 at halftime and trailed 14-10 after three quarters before the Bombers scored 21 fourth-quarter points. Joshua Michaels completed 12-of-29 passes for 143 yards and Dylan Harrington caught five passes for 90 yards. The Cardinals scored on a Nick Fischetti TD run in the first quarter and a Devin Dzikowicz 37-yard field goal in the second. David Carroll made 10 tackles.

Chambers averages 85.5 rushing yards per game and has scored seven touchdowns (five rushing, two receiving). Michaels is 67-of-141 (44.4 percent) passing for 848 yards and four scores with five interceptions, with Harrington the team’s top receiver at 28 catches for 315 yards. Justin Rivera has made a team-high 70 tackles, followed by Evan Majewski with 67. Demarre Nelson has intercepted five passes and ranks ninth nationally in Division III with 0.7 interceptions per game. Dzikowicz is 5-for-8 on field goal attempts and 9-for-10 on PAT kicks.

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