Special teams propels Cortland in 49-21 win vs. Framingham State

Alex Wasserman heads to the end zone on a 46-yard TD reception during the second quarter (Darl Zehr Photography)

Alex Wasserman heads to the end zone on a 46-yard TD reception during the second quarter (Darl Zehr Photography)

CORTLAND, N.Y. - Alex Wasserman (Closter, NJ/Northern Valley Demarest) scored on a kickoff return and a pass reception, Johnnie Akins (Roosevelt) rushed for two scores and Steven Ferreira (West Sayville/Sayville) passed for two scores and ran for two others as nationally 16th-ranked Cortland defeated visiting Framingham State, 49-21, in a non-league matchup.

Cortland improved to 2-0 with the win. The Red Dragons will begin Empire 8 play next Saturday at home versus St. John Fisher (2-0). Cortland and Fisher shared the league title last fall, with Cortland earning the tiebreaker due to head-to-head win to claim an NCAA berth. Framingham, the defending MASCAC champion, fell to 1-1 with the loss.

Cortland's special teams either set up or directly resulted in its first three touchdowns in the game's opening 18 minutes. Carson Lassiter (Madison, NJ) returned the game's opening kickoff 45 yards to the Framingham 47-yard line. Five plays later, Ferreira hit Jake Smith (Albany/Guilderland) for an 18-yard TD pass to the back left corner of the end zone to give Cortland a 7-0 lead.

The Rams answered with a 14-play, 82-yard scoring drive to tie the game. Framingham converted on two short third-down conversions during the drive, and quarterback Zak Walker ran in from one yard out on third-and-goal.

On the ensuing kickoff, Wasserman fielded the ball at his 10-yard line and was able to break free down the the left sideline. He eventually broke a coupled of tackles and maneuvered around a defender to complete a 90-yard return and put Cortland up 14-7.

In the second quarter, Wasserman blocked a punt to give Cortland the ball on the Rams' 18-yard line. Three plays later Akins fought his way in from six yards to push the Red Dragons' lead to 21-7.

Later in the second, a 44-yard pass from Ferreira to Jon Mannix (East Northport/John H. Glenn) moved the ball to the Framingham 2-yard line, and Ferreira scored on a rush on the next play. Framingham then turned the ball over when Mark DelPrete (Staten Island/Monsignor Farrell) forced a fumble that was recovered by Kyle Richard(Lakeview/Malverne) at the Framingham 46-yard line. On the first play of Cortland's possession, Wasserman caught a screen pass and went 46 yards for a TD to give the Red Dragons a 35-7 lead with 5:11 left in the half.

The wild first half continued as Framingham drove 65 yards on eight plays, including a Mike Calicchio 30-yard reception and a Napoleon Miller 20-yard run. Calicchio's 1-yard TD reception with 1:16 left drew the Rams within 35-14. Framingham, however, attempted an onsides kickoff with a popped-up kick, and although they recovered the ball they were flagged for kick catching interference as Cortland signaled for a fair catch. The penalty moved the ball for Cortland to the Framingham 31-yard line, and Ferreira covered all of that distance on the ground with runs of 15, 11 and five yards. His TD with 34 seconds left gave Cortland a 42-14 halftime lead despite the Red Dragons possessing the ball for only 8:20 during the half.

Things quieted down considerably in the second half. Neither team scored in the third quarter. Framingham mounted a 99-yard TD drive from late in the third quarter until early in the fourth. The drive opened with a Quron Wright 49-yard run and eventually ended with a Stephen Beahn 4-yard scoring run. Cortland closed the scoring with 6:47 left on an Akins 1-yard TD run.

Ferreira finished 11-of-17 through the air for 191 yards and two touchdowns with one interception and led Cortland with 82 rushing yards and two scores on 15 carries. Akins ran 12 times for 53 yards and two TD and Wasserman had 11 carries for 43 yards in addition to his TD catch.

Cortland's defense registered five turnovers, including two interceptions by Lassiter and one each by Taj Anderson (New Rochelle) and Matt Caputo (Stony Point/North Rockland). Dan Appley (Herkimer) and Matt Goodman (Closter, NJ/Northern Valley Demarest) led the Red Dragons with nine tackles each. Lassiter and Marquise Marshall(Middle Island/Longwood) added eight stops apiece.

For Framingham, Walker finished 13-of-24 for 146 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions. Wright ran for 74 yards on seven carries and Miller caught seven passes for 84 yards. Aaron Owens and Thomas Burns finished with 10 tackles each. Svenn Jacobson recorded nine tackles and forced two fumbles, while Jaleel Wingard and Rashaun Rivers each intercepted a pass.

Cortland finished with a 408-327 advantage in total offensive yardage and averaged 6.6 yards per play from the line of scrimmage. Shane Cronin (West Nyack/Clarkstown South) averaged 39.5 yards per punt, with two of his four kicks pinning the Rams inside the 20-yard line, and he made all seven of his PAT kicks.