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Saxons hit road to take on Cortland in second-round NCAA matchup
11/23/10

ALFRED, NY — The Alfred University football team, fresh off the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament win, will look to extend its season when the Saxons travel to SUNY Cortland to take on the Red Dragons in a second-round matchup.

Kickoff for the game between sixth-seeded Alfred (9-2) and second-seeded Cortland is at noon. Alfred is coming off a 60-0 victory Saturday against third-seeded Maritime College; Cortland beat seventh-seeded Endicott, 49-35. The AU victory was the Saxons’ first in three NCAA playoff games; Alfred lost in the first round of the NCAA playoffs last year and in 1981.

The outcome of the Saxons’ game with Maritime was never in doubt. AU scored touchdowns on four of its first five possessions and added a safety to take a 29-0 lead after one quarter. The Saxons outscored the Privateers 21-0 in the second to take a 50-0 halftime lead and after a scoreless third, tallied 10 points on a field goal and an interception return.

The Saxon defense was stifling, with the first unit playing only the first half and holding Maritime to minus-six yards offense through two quarters. For the game, Maritime produced 76 yards of offense, (62 rushing, 14 passing). Sophomore defensive tackle Mike Raplee (Dundee, NY/Dundee) had 11 tackles (2.5 for loss) and a sack; junior linebacker Nick Clark (Canisteo, NY/Canisteo-Greenwood) (two tackles for loss) and senior tackle Torrance Jones (Rochester, NY/Marshall) (one tackle for loss) each had six; and four Saxons had interceptions, including freshman linebacker Steve Kijowski (North Tonawanda, NY/North Tonawanda), who returned his pick 64 yards for a score.

Alfred’s offense produced 321 yards of offense against Maritime. Junior quarterback Tom Secky (Bemus Point, NY/Maple Grove) completed 12 of 22 passes for 176 yards and four touchdowns — all in the first half and all four to senior wide receiver Ryan Thon (Victor, NY/Victor). The four TD catches tied the school record Thon set earlier this year against Hartwick and gave Thon 15 for the season, which ties another school mark. Freshman tailback Austin Dwyer (Hornell, NY/Hornell) ran for 57 yards on eight carries with a touchdown in one half of action, and freshman wideout Josh Phillips (Syracuse, NY/West Genesee) caught three passes for 53 yards.

Cortland’s win over Endicott was not as close as the score indicated. The Red Dragons led 42-14 with just under 10 minutes remaining and was playing its reserves when Endicott scored a pair of defensive touchdowns, then added a final score with 30 seconds remaining in regulation. For the game, Cortland produced 429 yards of offense while holding Endicott to 234 yards, including a mere 59 on the ground.

Cortland senior quarterback Dan Pitcher (Cortland, NY) completed 20 of 26 passes for 232 yards and three TDs and also ran for a score. Sophomore wide receiver Mike Humphrey (LeRoy, NY) caught five passes for 99 yards and a score, while starting tailback, sophomore Justin Autera (Mahopac, NY) ran for 92 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown. Senior strong safety Chris Hanlon (Patchogue, NY) led the Red Dragon defense with seven tackles and sophomore reserve linebacker Chris Bright (East Meadow, NY) had six.

Alfred and Cortland have played one common opponent this year: Ithaca College The Saxons beat Ithaca 31-17 on Nov. 6 and Cortland edged the visiting Bombers 17-14 in the annual Cortaca Cup game the following weekend. The teams match up well: Alfred produces 396 yards of offense (169 rushing, 227 passing) per game and has outscored its opponents, on average, 35-18; Cortland produces 348 yards of offense (191 rushing, 157 passing) had has outscored its opponents by an average of 32-10. The AU defense allows 266 yards of offense per contest (112 rushing, 154 passing); Cortland’s defense allows 226 yards of offense per game (79 rushing, 147 passing).

Clark, the 2010 Empire 8 Defensive Player of the Year, leads the Saxons with 86 tackles (9.5 for loss, two sacks), with two interceptions. Raplee has 80 stops (including a team-best 16.5 for loss) and six sacks; senior linebacker Chad Pieri (LeRoy, NY/Caledonia-Mumford) has 63 tackles (eight for loss) and six pass breakups; sophomore strong safety Reggie Pressley (Rochester, NY/Gates-Chili) has 57 tackles; junior end Marcellus Jones (Lancaster, NY/Lancaster) has 53 tackles (11 for loss) and a team-leading eight sacks; and junior cornerback Roland O’Brien (Hoosick Falls, NY/Hoosick Falls) leads the team with seven interceptions and 12 pass breakups.

Secky has thrown for 2,429 yards (third most in a season at AU), completing 197 of 319 attempts with 25 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Thon has been his main target, catching 66 passes for 871 yards and 15 touchdowns. Phillips has 41 catches for 494 yards and one score, and sophomore wideout Andre McCloud (Bath, NY/Haverling) has 21 catches for 346 yards and a touchdown. Dwyer, the 2010 Empire 8 Rookie of the Year, has rushed for 1,204 yards (6.5 yards per carry) with seven touchdowns, and has caught 30 passes for 207 yards and a score. His 109.5 yards rushing per game ranks 29th in the country and his 162.5 all-purpose yards per game ranks 19th. Clark, the Saxons’ short-yardage back, has rushed for a team-leading nine touchdowns.

On the season, Pitcher has completed 137 of 239 passes for 1,583 yards, with 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Wide receiver Anthony Giuliano (Thornwood, NY) has caught 41 passes for 648 yards and six touchdowns and Humphrey has 25 catches for 296 yards and three scores. Autera has 1,324 yards rushing — his 120.4 yards per game ranks 18th in the country — with 18 touchdowns and has caught 26 passes foe 192 yards and two TDs. His173 all-purpose yards per contest ranks 12th in Division III.

Cody Allen (Medina, NY), a junior inside linebacker in Cortland’s 3-4 defense, leads the Red Dragons with 98 tackles (7.5 for loss), with five sacks and an interception. Junior Bill Smith (Nanuet, NY), the other starting inside linebacker, has 72 stops and an interception; senior tackle Lou Crispo (Eastchester, NY) has 54 tackles (five for loss), with a forced fumble and four blocked kicks; and senior cornerback Joe Lopez (Port Jefferson Station, NY) has 53 tackles and two fumble recoveries and leads the team with eight interceptions and seven pass breakups.

AU freshman tailback Derek O’Dell (Nelsonville, NY/Haldane) averages 20.4 yards on kick returns and 6.2 yards on punt returns. Junior placekicker Eric Rockwood (Allegany, NY/Allegany-Limestone), who has also handled punting duties the last three games, has made five of six field goal attempts and 51 of 53 extra point tries. His 51 PATs made ranks as a new school single-season record. Rockwood has averaged 38 yards on 14 punts, with nine landing inside the opponents 20. Against Maritime, he averaged 42.5 yards on four punts, landing one at the Maritime 8-yard line and two more at the Privateer 1-yard line.

Autera averages 26 yards on kick returns and 13.5 yards on punt returns for Cortland. Junior kicker Marc Corrado (Newburgh, NY) has made eight of 12 field goal tries and 44 of 46 PATs. Sophomore punter Pete Furey (Niskayuna, NY) averages 35.6 yards per punt.

Saturday’s contest will be a homecoming of sorts for AU head coach Dave Murray. Now in his 13th season at the Saxons’ helm, Murray began his collegiate head coaching career at Cortland in 1990, after serving three seasons as the Red Dragons’ defensive coordinator. He took Cortland to the NCAA playoffs in his first season as head coach and in seven years leading the team posted a 44-30-1 mark.

This weekend’s game will be the 39th meeting between Alfred and Cortland, with AU holding a 27-10-1 edge in the all-time series. The Saxons have won the last 10 games in the series, including a 34-9 win in Cortland the last time the two teams met, in 1986. The last Cortland win came at Alfred in 1976 and the last Red Dragon home victory over Alfred was in 1966.