The following is a republished press release…to submit a community announcement, email Peter Blanchard at [email protected].
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ITHACA, N.Y. — Cortland claimed its sixth straight Cortaca Jug and clinched the Empire 8 title and NCAA automatic berth with an 11-8 victory at Ithaca College. The Red Dragons (8-2, 6-2) finish as Empire 8 co-champions with St. John Fisher, but earn the league's NCAA bid over the Cardinals due to a head-to-head tiebreaker.
Cortland will make its first NCAA Div. III tournament appearance since 2012. The pairings for the 32-team playoffs will be announced Sunday at 6 p.m. on NCAA.com, with first-round action starting on campus sites next Saturday.
Cortland's six-game winning streak in the Cortaca Jug game is its longest ever versus the Bombers. The Red Dragons won five straight against Ithaca from 1955-59, with the last of those games being the inaugural Jug matchup. Five of the Red Dragons' Cortaca wins in their latest streak have been by six points or less.
The Red Dragons led 11-0 behind a Shane Cronin (West Nyack/Clarkstown South) 29-yard field goal in the first quarter, a 14-yard TD pass from Steven Ferreira (West Sayville/Sayville) to Jake Smith (Albany/Guilderland) in the second quarter, with the extra point blocked, and a safety in the third quarter when an Ithaca punt snap sailed high and through the back of the end zone.
Ithaca missed two field goals - the first from 22 yards on the game's opening drive and the other from 41 yards that was blocked early in the fourth quarter. The Bombers (4-6, 2-6) finally got on the board with 4:36 left in the game on an 11-play, 77-yard drive that culminated in a 3-yard TD pass from Wolfgang Shafer to Nick Vallo. Shafer then threw a 2-point conversion pass to Myles LaFrance to cut Cortland's lead to 11-8.
Ithaca forced a three-and-out on Cortland's next drive and got the ball back on its own 27-yard line with 2:17 left and one timeout remaining. The Bombers converted one first down, but Shafer was sacked by Matt Ambrose (Wyckoff, NJ/Ramapo) on 2nd-and-10 from the 37. A 15-yard pass to Jared Bauer set up a 4th-and-3 at the 44, but an incomplete pass turned the ball back to Cortland with 52 seconds left and the Red Dragons took a knee twice to seal the win.
Cortland won despite being outgained in total offense, 311-265. Shafer went 28-of-41 passing for 300 yards and a touchdown but was sacked four times. Vallo caught seven passes for 57 yards. The Red Dragons held Ithaca to 11 net rushing yards on 32 attempts.
Ferreira was 18-of-25 through the air for 179 yards and threw a TD pass for the ninth consecutive game. Jon Mannix (Elwood/John H. Glenn) caught five passes for 54 yards and Smith grabbed four passes for 42 yards. Ferreira was the team's top rusher with 30 net yards on six attempts.
Carson Lassiter (Madison, NJ) led Cortland with 13 tackles, eight solo, and surpassed the career 200-tackle mark. Ambrose finished with 12 tackles and Isaac Hicks (Staten Island/Curtis) had five tackles, an interception and a pass breakup. Dan Lozios led Ithaca with nine tackles.
Matt Green (Lexington, KY/Lafayette) averaged 37.6 yards per punt on seven kicks for the Red Dragons and pinned the Bombers inside the 10-yard line twice. Ithaca's Brandon Steff averaged 38.8 yards per punt on four tries.
Ithaca held a 35:27-24:33 advantage in time of possession. The Bombers converted 8-of-17 third downs, but only 1-of-3 fourth downs, and held Cortland to 3-of-11 on third-down attempts.
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