SUNY Cortland football opens season Saturday against Heidelberg

The following is a republished press release…to submit a community announcement, email Peter Blanchard at pblanchard@cortlandvoice.com.


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CORTLAND, N.Y. – Cortland opens its 2015 season Saturday by hosting Heidelberg University of Ohio in a non-league contest.

The Red Dragons begin the year with two non-league games, versus Heidelberg and at Framingham St., before finishing with eight straight versus Empire 8 foes in the Red Dragons' first season in the conference.

SUNY CORTLAND FOOTBALL NOTES
Cortland Red Dragons (0-0) vs. Heidelberg University Student Princes (0-0)
Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015; Noon; SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex; Cortland, N.Y.
TICKETS: $6 adults, $5 students with ID
SUNY Cortland students/faculty/staff Free with ID; Children 12 and under Free

THE SERIES: Cortland and Heidelberg are meeting for the first time. Cortland will be facing a member of the Ohio Athletic Conference for the second time in school history; the Red Dragons lost at eventual national champion Mount Union, 41-14, in the 2008 NCAA Div. III quarterfinals. Heidelberg will be facing its first-ever opponent from the state of New York.

CORTLAND CAPSULE: Cortland won four of its last five games in 2014 to finish the season with a 5-5 record. The Red Dragons return 36 players who appeared in at least one game last year, including 10 starters.

Three primary starters return on offense - junior wide receiver Jon Mannix, junior tight end Josh Riley and senior offensive guard and captain Vin Juliano. Senior tailback Dylan Peebles also returns after starting four of Cortland's 10 games last fall, including the last two contests.

Mannix led the team with 56 receptions for 556 yards and five touchdowns, including the winning TD catch on the game's final play in Cortland's 23-20 Cortaca Jug win over Ithaca. Riley made 32 catches for 335 yards and a touchdown and Peebles ran 157 times for 619 yards and eight scores. Peebles also earned D3football.com first team All-America honors as a kick returner after leading the nation with 34.9 yards per return and three touchdowns. Juliano begins his fourth season with the Red Dragons; he's started every game each of the last two years.

Junior Steven Ferreira, a transfer last spring from Div. I Stony Brook, is slated to be Cortland's starting quarterback. Ferreira was the 2011 New York Player of the Year at Sayville High School after passing for 2,443 yards and 29 touchdowns, and he finished his career with 6,407 yards and 73 TDs. He did not see game action at Stony Brook, but did play lacrosse for the Seawolves in 2013.

Another Stony Brook transfer, junior Nick Wagner, is listed as one of Cortland's starting wide receivers along with Mannix and sophomore Jake Smith, while captain Nate Burgo also returns after catching eight passes last year and 14 passes in 2013. The projected starting offensive line features two seniors - Juliano and Dan Neilis - along with junior C.J. Ezenyilimba, sophomore Daniel Bach and freshman Matt Ennist.

Five starters return on defense: senior defensive end Jake Ceresna; senior outside linebacker and captain Troy Beddoe; senior inside linebacker Matt Ambrose; junior strong safety Carson Lassiter; and junior cornerback Mark DelPrete. Ceresna finished with a team-high 14 tackles for losses, including 4.5 sacks, last fall. Beddoe made 55 tackles, including a team-best five sacks, while Ambrose led the squad with 75 tackles. Lassiter registered 53 tackles and five pass breakups as a free safety last year, and DelPrete paced the Red Dragons with three interceptions and 13 pass breakups.

Defensive end Tom Hagan returns after missing last season due to injury. He played in all 10 games, three as a starter, in 2013. Senior outside linebacker and captain Devonte Davis moves into the starting lineup after playing in nine games off the bench last fall. Other projected starters include junior cornerback Quin Spencer, senior free safety Chandler Williams, senior inside linebacker Julian Santiago and junior defensive tackle Kevon Foster. Spencer, Williams and Santiago each saw playing time last year, while Foster joined the Red Dragons this past spring.

Junior Shane Cronin returns after making 13-of-18 field goals (13-of-16 from inside 40 yards) and 20-of-22 point-after kicks last season. Cronin also averaged 34.1 yards per punt last fall, but currently senior transfer Matt Green is listed as the Red Dragons' starting punter. Green, a Lexington, Kentucky, native, originally began his collegiate career at Oklahoma State and played in 2013 at Ohio University, where he averaged 42.1 yards per punt on 14 attempts. Senior Caleb Bettis is slated to handle punt return duties for the Red Dragons for the second straight year after averaging 6.5 yards per return on 36 returns in 2014.

Head coach Dan MacNeill is in his 19th season with the Red Dragons. His overall record of 119-66 (.643) ranks him first at Cortland in career victories and winning percentage. He won NJAC Coach of the Year honors in both 2008 and 2012, and also was a finalist for Liberty Mutual National Div. III Coach of the Year honors in 2008 after leading the Red Dragons to the league title and the NCAA quarterfinals.

MacNeill has guided Cortland to five NCAA playoff appearances (1997, 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2012) and seven ECAC bowl games. His 2008 squad was honored with the Lambert Meadowlands Trophy and the ECAC Div. III Team of the Year awards. MacNeill is a 1979 Cortland alumnus and played linebacker and defensive tackle from 1975-78. An assistant coach at Division I-AA (now FCS) Villanova University from 1984-1996, MacNeill is Cortland's 11th head coach since the school's modern era of football began in 1924. MacNeill served as linebackers coach at Villanova and was the team's defensive coordinator from 1988-96.


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