CORTLAND, N.Y. – With the Cortaca Jug game just three days away, SUNY Cortland head football coach Dan MacNeill is a little nervous.
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And he has every right to be: For the Red Dragons, the stakes are high.
If Cortland wins Saturday's game, it will finish 6-2 in Empire 8 League play and will share the Empire 8 title with the winner of Saturday's Alfred-St. John Fisher game. In that scenario, Cortland would earn an automatic birth in the NCAA Div. III Tournament. If Ithaca wins, the winner of the Alfred-St. John Fisher match will be crowned the Empire 8 champion.
Tickets for the 57th annual Cortaca Jug game are sold out.
"For me, personally, I'm a stress eater," MacNeill said at a press conference Wednesday at Ithaca College, which is hosting this year's game. "So every time Cortaca gets around, I put the suit on, and it just doesn't fit, you know?"
MacNeill also appeared to allude to the 2013 Cortaca weekend, when more than 30 students were arrested after riots broke out in the city of Cortland.
"To the fans, I would say, heed the warnings of administrators," he said. "They are serious about protecting and honoring this rivalry. It is about a celebration of two schools that needs to be handled right."
Cortland is the favorite to win this weekend's match. The Red Dragons are 7-2 on the season and tied with Alfred University for the top seed in the Empire 8 division. The Ithaca Bombers are 4-5 overall and 2-5 in Empire League play.
Ithaca Bombers Head Coach Mike Welch approached the podium with a more serious tone.
"This team has never quit," Welch said. "This is new terrain for us. Generally, we're on top, we're winning the table and putting ourselves in a position to win our conference. That's not the case this year."
Cortland has won the last 5 Cortaca Jug games, though it's worth mentioning that the last two games were both decided by less than 7 points.
Kickoff is at 12 p.m. Saturday at Butterfield Stadium.
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