BROCKPORT, N.Y. - Brockport's Rashad Baker intercepted four passes, the last of which came in the end zone with less than 10 seconds remaining, as the nationally third-ranked and unbeaten Golden Eagles held on to defeat visiting Cortland, 21-16, to claim the Empire 8 title.
While Cortland's bid at the upset and the league crown came up tantalizingly short, the Red Dragons (7-2, 5-2 Empire 8) clinched second place in the E8 standings by virtue of Alfred's loss to St. John Fisher. As a result, Cortland has earned a New York Bowl berth for the second straight year and will look to defend its title in that game at home on Nov. 17 versus a Liberty League opponent to be determined (presuming that the Red Dragons will likely not earn an NCAA at-large berth).
Brockport (9-0, 6-0 Empire 8) won its second straight E8 crown and earned the league's NCAA tournament automatic berth.
Cortland held Brockport on downs and took over on its own 20-yard line with 2:24 remaining. The Red Dragons proceeded to mount their best drive of the day versus the nation's second-ranked defense in total yards allowed (163.8 per game). Cortland was 0-for-15 on third-down conversions in the game, but did convert on three fourth downs during the final drive.
Brett Segala (Webster/Webster Schroeder) completed a 5-yard pass on to Trevor Ash (Auburn) on 4th-and-1 to the Cortland 34-yard line, and the two connected again for 12 yards on 4th-and-5 to the Brockport 47-yard line. Following a false start, two incomplete passes and a completion that resulted in a loss, Cortland faced 4th-and-19 at the Brockport 44-yard line and Segala found Alex Wasserman (Closter, NJ/Northern Valley Demarest) on a 33-yard pass to the 11-yard line with less than 15 seconds left. On the next play, however, Baker intercepted a potential game-winning pass in the end zone to seal Brockport's victory.
Cortland became the first team all season to take a lead against Brockport early in the first quarter when Dylan Dubuque (East Greenbush/Columbia) blocked a punt deep in Brockport territory that Chris Monteiro (Farmingville/Sachem East) returned for a touchdown. Brockport answered with two scores later in the quarter to go up 14-7. Zach Samborski's 2-yard TD run capped a 30-yard drive and Joe Germinerio threw a 10-yard TD pass to Samuel Bergman to complete a 48-yard drive. Both scores were set up by Baker interceptions.
The Red Dragons pulled to within 14-10 on Nick Mongelli's (Marlboro) 26-yard field goal with 3:50 left in the first half. Cortland then regained the lead on its first possession of the second half with a 48-yard scoring drive that was kept alive by a pass interference penalty on 4th-and-4 from the Brockport 30-yard line. Two plays later Johnnie Akins (Roosevelt) ran in from 16 yards for the first rushing TD allowed by Brockport this season. Brandon Cutter blocked the PAT kick and Cortland led 16-14.
Brockport used a trick play later in the quarter to help set up what proved to be the winning score. On the first play of a drive that started just shy of midfield, Germinerio threw a backwards pass in the right flat to Joe Benedict, who then threw downfield to a wide open Alex Benson for 48 yards to the Cortland 3-yard line. Two plays later Hunter Dimitroff made a leaping 3-yard TD catch and Brockport led 21-16.
Akins finished with 92 rushing yards on 18 carries against a Brockport defense that entered the game first in the nation in rushing defense at minus-19.5 yards per game. The Red Dragons finished with 66 net rushing yards. Segala was 24-of-44 passing for 171 yards, with Ash catching six passes for 48 yards.
Germinerio completed 31-of-50 passes for 307 yards and two scores. Joseph Ortiz caught 18 passes for 170 yards. Benedict ran for 47 yards on 12 carries in addition to his 48-yard pass.
Cortland's defense recorded five takeaways - two on interceptions by Isaac Hicks III (Staten Island/Curtis) and Gregory Alfieri (Hawthorne/Westlake) along with three Brockport lost fumbles. The Red Dragons also blocked two punts - the Dubuque block that resulted in the opening touchdown along with a block by Brendan Maloney (Schenectady/Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons). Hicks also led the Red Dragons with 12 tackles, followed by Mark DeLuise (Wayne, NJ/Wayne Valley) with 11 and Kyle Richard (Lakeview/Malverne) with 10.
Brockport also finished with five takeaways on Baker's four interceptions as well as a pick by Matt Arita. Baker also registered two of Brockport's seven pass breakups. Austin Dean led the Golden Eagles with 13 tackles and Alex West made 10 stops and added a pass breakup.
Brockport finished with a 468-237 advantage in total offensive yardage and a 35:07-24:53 lead in the time of possession category.
Cortland will host Ithaca next Saturday at noon in the 60th Annual Cortaca Jug rivalry game.