SUNY Cortland snags NCAA first-round win against Salisbury

The following is a republished press release…to submit a community announcement, email Peter Blanchard at [email protected].

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CORTLAND, N.Y. – Junior Steven Ferreira (West Sayville/Sayville) completed 23-of-29 passes for 447 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 58 yards and two scores as nationally 25th-ranked Cortland defeated 21st-ranked Salisbury University, 45-21, in the opening round of the NCAA Div. III football playoffs at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex.

Cortland (9-2), the Empire 8 champion, will face second-ranked Linfield College (10-0) in the second round next Saturday, Nov. 28. The site of the game will be announced on Sunday, but it is very likely that the game will be held at Linfield in McMinnville, Oregon.

Salisbury, the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) champion, finishes the season at 8-2. The Sea Gulls moved from the Empire 8 to the NJAC this fall, while Cortland switched from the NJAC to the Empire 8.

Ferreira's (pronounced Fer-ARR-ah) passing yardage is the second-highest single-game total in school history, and the most ever by a Red Dragon in a postseason game. He gained his 58 rushing yards on 18 attempts. Nine of Ferreira's completions covered at least 20 yards each.

Sophomore Jake Smith (Albany/Guilderland) caught six passes for 134 yards and a touchdown, junior Nick Wagner (Elwood/John H. Glenn) made six catches for 122 yards and a score, and junior Jon Mannix (East Northport/John H. Glenn) finished with five receptions for 66 yards and a TD.

Also for the Red Dragons, freshman Donny Davis (New City/Nyack) carried 18 times for 60 yards and a TD. Senior Devonte Davis (Buffalo/Cleveland Hill) led the defense with nine tackles, three for losses, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Senior Jake Ceresna (New Fairfield, CT) also had nine tackles and a forced fumble, while junior Carson Lassiter (Madison, NJ) and freshman Isaac Hicks (Staten Island/Curtis) each made seven tackles. Lassiter also had a forced fumble and fumble recovery, and senior Joe Loyacono (Sparrow Bush/Monroe-Woodbury) forced two fumbles and registered six tackles, three for losses.

Salisbury's Connor Canonico ran 15 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback ryan Jones carried 24 times for 99 yards and a score. Jones completed 9-of-16 passes for 107 yards, with Aarron Moore grabbing four passes for 55 yards.

Cortland outgained Salisbury, 568-378, in total offense. The Sea Gulls entered the game ranked second nationally in rushing offense at 345.7 yards per game and finished with 271 net yards on 50 carries. Salisbury turned the ball over on four of its six fumbles during the game, compared to just one turnover on a fumble for Cortland that came with less than seven minutes left in the game. Three of Salisbury's lost fumbles directly led to Cortland touchdown drives.

The teams each scored twice in the game's first 14 minutes and were tied 14-14 after one quarter. Salisbury struck first with an 80-yard drive on its opening possession, capped by Jones' 48-yard TD run. Cortland responded with a 66-yard TD pass from Ferreira to Smith on its first drive, but the Sea Gulls marched 73 yards on their next series, and Canonico's 6-yard TD run put the guests up 14-7. After Cortland punted, Salisbury lost a fumble at its own 24-yard line and five plays later Ferreira ran in from two yards to tie the game with 1:05 left in the first.

Salisbury quickly moved into Cortland territory on a Canonico 45-yard run, but Davis forced a fumble that he recovered on the first play of the second quarter. Facing 2nd-and-4 on its own 47-yard line, Cortland gained 41 yards on a Smith reception, and Wagner turned a catch in the right flat into a 12-yard TD on the next play to give the Red Dragons a 21-14 lead.

Midway through the second, Cortland was pinned on its own 3-yard line after a Tim Steindl 52-yard punt. It only took the Red Dragons six official plays, however, to march 97 yards for a touchdown. The drive featured a 17-yard pass to tight end Josh Riley (Poughkeepsie/Spackenkill), a 34-yard reception by fullback Matt Goodman (Closter, NJ/North Valley Demarest), a 10-yard Ferreira rush, and Davis' 8-yard TD run that put Cortland up 28-14 with 5:50 left in the half.

Cortland added to its lead on the opening drive of the third quarter. Riley's 41-yard catch moved the ball to the Salisbury 19-yard line, and a Dylan Peebles (Port Leyden/South Lewis) 10-yard reception gave the Red Dragons 1st-and-goal at the 9-yard line. Salisbury eventually held Cortland on third down from the two and junior Shane Cronin (West Nyack/Clarkstown South) hit a 21-yard field goal to extend the lead to 31-14.

The guests drew within 10 points late in the third quarter. Canonico's 8-yard TD run capped a five-play, 51-yard drive and Cortland's lead was reduced to 31-21. The Red Dragons, however, answered on their next drive with a six-play, 75-yard TD drive that featured a 30-yard catch by Wagner and a Mannix 31-yard TD reception on a wide receiver screen.

Cortland closed the scoring with 10:54 left after Loyacono forced a fumble that Julian Santiago (Selden/Newfield) recovered on the 44-yard line. Wagner caught a 26-yard pass and, following a loss, Ferreira registered two straight 11-yard runs, the latter for a TD.

Cortland entered the game allowing 48 percent opponent success on third-down conversions, but the Red Dragons held Salisbury to just 3-for-11 on third down.

Featured photo by Darl Zehr

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