CORTLAND, N.Y. (CORTLAND ATHLETICS) –
The nationally 16th-ranked SUNY Cortland football team earned its third straight outright Empire 8 championship with a 41-17 victory over the Brockport Golden Eagles on Senior Day at Grady Field.
With the championship, Cortland (8-1, 6-0 Empire 8) secures the conference’s automatic berth into the NCAA Division III tournament for the third year in a row. The announcement of the field will take place on Sunday, November 12, with games beginning on November 18. Prior to that, Cortland will face Ithaca College in the 64th battle for the “Cortaca Jug” next Saturday at noon at Ithaca’s Bertino Field at Butterfield Stadium.
The Red Dragons tallied 455 yards of total offense against the Golden Eagles, whose defense came into the contest ranked first nationally in Division III in total offense allowed (155.1 yards/game) and third in scoring defense (5.4 points/game).
Cortland benefitted from forcing six Brockport turnovers, including five interceptions, which led to 17 of the Red Dragons’ 41 points. The five interceptions were the most by a Cortland team in a single game since a win at Montclair State in 2006.
Zac Boyes (Buffalo/Kenmore West) completed 15-of-24 passes for 308 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for another score. Cole Burgess (Greenwich) caught nine passes for 245 yards, the fourth-highest single-game total in program history. His three touchdown catches ties another single game record that he already held a share of. JJ Laap (Stony Brook/Ward Melville) added a touchdown reception. Jaden AlfanoStJohn (Westhampton/Westhampton Beach) ran for 117 yards on 26 carries and Mike Baloga (New Windsor/Cornwall) added to his consecutive PAT streak going 5-for-5 to extend his school record to 82 straight point-after conversions. Baloga added field goals of 39 and 26 yards.
On defense, Sam Cotton (Fulton/G. Ray Bodley) and Jaden Martinez (Comsewogue) led Cortland with 10 tackles apiece, with Cotton adding one of Cortland’s five interceptions. Luke Winslow (Lansing) accrued nine tackles and an interception and Alex DeRosa (Webster/Webster Schroeder) added seven tackles and an interception. Matt Lotter (Fredonia) and Mark Noel (Staten Island/Port Richmond) notched an interception each for Cortland. Nick Lardaro (Smithtown/Smithtown East) contributed two tackles for loss.
Cortland got on the board first at the 9:58 mark of the first quarter on a Boyes 8-yard touchdown run. Nate Wigent answered for Brockport with a 36-yard field goal 2:13 later to make it 7-3. Burgess finished the first-quarter scoring with a 64-yard touchdown reception from Boyes to make a 14-3 with the extra point. Baloga booted a 39-yard field goal with 11:30 left in the first half to extend the Red Dragons’ lead to 17-3. Boyes and Burgess connected for the second time in the closing moments of the half with a 24-yard pass play and Cortland led 24-3 at the break.
Boyes found Burgess for a 71-yard score and Laap on a 22-yard toss for a pair of touchdowns to widen Cortland’s lead to 38-3 with 10:47 to go in the third quarter. The Golden Eagles scored the next 14 points on a Brian Caldwell Jr. 19-yard touchdown strike from backup quarterback Chris McGuire in the third quarter and a punt return fumble recovery by Kyle Haettich, which he ran back 27 yards for a score to make it 38-17. Baloga closed the scoring with a 26-yard field goal with less than two minutes to go in the game.
The Golden Eagles (7-2, 4-1 Empire 8) were led by Jala Coad’s 120 yards on 17 carries. Caldwell Jr. caught three passes for 46 yards and the score. Mike Talbert Jr. led the Brockport defense with 11 tackles while Louie Usera and Haettiich added seven tackles each. Usera also forced the fumble that Haettich ran back for his touchdown.