November 26, 2021

Red Dragons prep for NCAA 1st round

SUNY Cortland Football

Paul Cifonelli/sports editor

A horde of SUNY Cortland defenders make a play Nov. 13 at SUNY Cortland Athletic Complex. Cortland plays Springfield College Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

After an eventful regular season that featured an Empire 8 Conference title and the first undefeated regular season since 1988, the Red Dragons now have their eyes set on the NCAA Division III tournament and their first-round matchup against Springfield College.

The Pride finished the regular season with a record of 7-3 and ended the year on a six-game winning streak. They secured their place in the NCAA tournament with a 28-14 victory over Catholic University in the NEWMAC championship game on Nov. 13.

The Pride are led by sixth-year head coach Mike Cerasuolo. He led Springfield to a 10-0 regular-season record in 2017 and their first trip to the NCAA Division III tournament since 2006. He was named the 2017 NEWMAC Coach of the Year and the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston Division II/III New England Coach of the Year.

The Pride have the second-ranked rushing attack in the country according to Tim Callahan leads the rushing attack with 732 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 157 attempts. Quarterback David Wells is right behind him, with 720 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 128 attempts. Isaiah Cashwell-Doe also has 698 rushing yards and six touchdowns on only 64 attempts.

It will certainly be a tough test for the Red Dragons, but any game moving forward is expected to be.

“Springfield is a well-coached and talented team,” Cortland head coach Curt Fitzpatrick said. “They earned their way to the NCAA tournament just like we did and they are going to be a tough opponent. Springfield is traditionally one of the best rushing teams in the country and this year is no different. Their option game is terrific and our defense must be at its best.”

The Red Dragons offense brings something much different to the table. Starting quarterback Brees Segala has thrown for 2,144 yards and 29 touchdowns on the year. Derek Cruz and JJ Laap have been the favorite targets for Segala. Cruz finished with 694 receiving yards and nine touchdowns while Laap finished with 670 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Cortland also has a steady run attack led by Jaden Alfanostjohn who has rushed for 606 yards and six touchdowns on 96 attempts.

The first-round matchup between Cortland and Springfield is set for noon Saturday at SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex, a game the Red Dragons are glad to be hosting.

“We love playing at home,” Fitzpatrick said. “Our campus, family, friends and the Cortland community have been so supportive all season. I’m excited that we get the opportunity to play in front of them once again.”