October 23, 2021

Late score lifts Red Dragons

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

SUNY Cortland’s Daryn Thomas, playing on special teams, tracks down an Augustana ball carrier in the first quarter. The Red Dragons won, 34-32, on a late field goal.

Not bad, for starters.

Senior William Holscher connected on a 31-yard field goal with 18 seconds remaining Saturday to lift the host SUNY Cortland football team past visiting Augustana College 34-32 in the season-opener for both teams.

The Red Dragons were playing their first-ever game against the Vikings, who made a two-day, 13-hour bus trip from Rock Island, Illinois for the non-league contest.

Augustana took a 32-31 lead on a Ryan Pitra 10-yard run with 1:50 remaining, followed by Jacob Stytz’s PAT kick. Dakym Davis, however, returned the ensuing kickoff 43 yards to the Cortland 46-yard line. Steven Ferreira completed three straight passes, two to Nick Anderson, to advance the ball to the Augustana 24-yard line, then ran the ball seven yards to the 17-yard line with about 40 seconds left.

Cortland gained just four yards on its next three plays, including a third-down incomplete pass that was nearly intercepted in the end zone.

The Red Dragons called timeout with 22 seconds left and Holscher made the go-ahead field goal to complete a perfect kicking day. He made 33-yard and 31-yard field goals in his lone two attempts, as well as all four of his PAT kicks.

Ferreira finished 24-of-38 passing for 297 yards and four touchdowns. Anderson caught seven passes for 79 yards and two scores, with Zach Tripodi and Alex Wasserman making one scoring catch each. Tripodi finished with six receptions out of the backfield. Mark DeLuise led Cortland’s defense with 16 tackles, 12 solo, and an interception, while Isaac Hicks totaled eight tackles.

Pitra rushed 28 times for 150 yards and three scores for Augustana. Zachary Fuller completed 16-of-32 passes for 158 yards and a score. Jacob Stytz made field goals from 38 and 26 yards outs. Cassin Wolfe led the Vikings with nine tackles, seven solo, and Grant Burke registered three tackles for loss among his six stops.

Cortland led 24-16 at halftime and the teams were both scoreless in the third quarter. The Vikings got on the board with a Jacob Stytz 38-yard field goal with 9:49 left to close within 24-19. On the ensuing kickoff, Cortland fumbled the ball trying a hand the ball off on a reverse. Rich Matway returned the fumble eight yards to the Cortland 2-yard line and, following a penalty, Fuller threw a 7-yard TD pass to Ryan Black to give the guests a 25-24 lead. A two-point conversion pass failed.

On its next possession, Cortland drove 75 yards on seven plays, capped by a 29-yard TD pass from Ferreira to Wasserman with 5:46 left. Holscher’s extra point gave the Red Dragons a 31-25 lead with 5:46 left. Augustana responded, however, with its own 75-yard TD drive, highlighted by an Ethan Jennings 27-yard acrobatic catch down the right sideline to the Cortland 10-yard line. Pitra followed with his 10-yard TD run.

Augustana used a big special teams play to take an early 7-0 lead. John Kappel blocked a punt on Cortland’s opening possession to set up the Vikings on the Red Dragon 31-yard line, and eight plays later Pitra found paydirt from one yard out.

Cortland tied the game on its next drive. Wasserman’s 38-yard reception pushed the ball to the Vikings’ 26-yard line. Later in the drive Tripodi caught a 1-yard TD ass to finish an 11-play procession.

Stytz’s 26-yard field goal late in the first gave Augustana a 10-7 lead. Early in the second, Devin Haxby forced a fumble that Wolfe returned 58 yards to the Cortland 8-yard line. Pitra’s 6-yard run two plays later increased the guests’ lead to 16-7. A wild snap on the PAT led to a failed attempt.

Ferreira connected with Anderson for a 23-yard TD with 10:38 left in the half to close the Augustana lead to 16-14. Holscher put Cortland up with a 33-yard field goal with 2:11 left, and the Red Dragons got the ball back with 1:38 left after a DeLuise interception near midfield. Cortland mounted an 11-play drive that culiminated in Anderson making a leaping 16-yard TD catch in the back of the end zone with two seconds left before intermission.

Cortland finished with a slight 360-352 advantage in total offense. The Red Dragons outgained Augustana by 139 yards through the air, but the Vikings held a 194-63 edge in rushing yardage. Augustana was plagued by penalties throughout the game. They were assessed 17 penalties for 146 yards, compared to Cortland’s five penalties for 47 yards.

The Vikings converted on 10-of-18 third-down attempts to Cortland’s 6-of-14 success rate.

Cortland will travel to Framingham State Saturday for a non-league contest that starts at noon.