Cortland edges Ithaca in thrilling Cortaca Jug Game

Local Sports

CORTLAND, N.Y. (CORTLAND ATHLETICS) –

Derek Cruz (Oceanside) caught two touchdown passes to help Cortland erase a 13-point second-half deficit and Travis Alvarez (Keyport, NJ) blocked a potential Ithaca go-ahead field goal with less than two minutes remaining and the Red Dragons defeated Ithaca, 28-27, in the 62nd Cortaca Jug game at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex.

Cortland, ranked 13th nationally by the AFCA and 14th by D3football.com, claimed the Jug for the first time since 2016, and in the process completed a perfect 10-0 regular season. It’s only the second time in school history Cortland has gone 10-0, with the first time occurring in 1988. Ithaca, ranked 18th nationally, fell to 8-2 with the loss and will await a possible NCAA at-large berth.

Cortland, the Empire 8 champion, will likely be home for the opening round of the NCAA tournament next Saturday. The tournament pairings will be announced on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. on NCAA.com.

Jaden Alfanostjohn (Westhampton/Westhampton Beach) ran 20 times for 173 yards and quarterback Brees Segala (Webster/Webster Schroeder) completed 19-of-30 passes for 175 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 50 yards on 13 carries. Cruz caught nine passes for 96 yards and his two scores and JJ Laap (Stony Brook/Ward Melville) had four receptions for 33 yards and a touchdown. Linebacker Devin McArthur (Saratoga Springs), making his first start of the season, finished with 11 tackles and a pass breakup and Christian Legagneur (Brentwood/St. John the Baptist) had 10 tackles.

Ithaca quarterback A.J. Wingfield connected on 19-of-30 passes for 167 yards and a score and Jake Williams ran nine times for 73 yards. Michael Roumes led the Bombers with 11 tackles, two for losses, and a forced fumble and Nathaniel Potts intercepted a pass.

Ithaca scored 24 straight points over the final 9:31 of the second quarter and first 9:15 of the third quarter to turn a 14-3 deficit into a 27-14 lead. Cortland, however, got back to within six on a 7-yard pass from Segala to Cruz with 3:45 left in the third, and the Red Dragons took the lead with a 14-play, 91-yard drive over seven and a half minutes, capped by Cruz’s 11-yard TD catch from Segala with 8:19 remaining.

The Bombers started their ensuing drive on their own 22-yard line and drove to the Cortland 16-yard line. A sack by Devin Smith (Utica/Utica Notre Dame) for a 10-yard loss and a false start penalty moved the ball back to the 31-yard line, and a 13-yard completion from Wingfield to Andrew Vito gave the Bombers 4th-and-12 at the 18 with 1:56 left. Nicholas Bahamonde, who previously made 45-yard and 25-yard field goals, attempted a 35-yarder for the lead, but Alvarez broke through the line and blocked the kick. It was his first block of the year, although it did extend his school record to 11 career blocks. Cortland got a first down on Alfanostjohn 7-yard and 11-yard runs, and the Red Dragons took a knee twice to end the game.

Cortland built a 14-3 lead just more than a quarter into the game. On the Red Dragons’ second drive of the game, Segala ran on a play starting from the Ithaca 14-yard line and got a few yards upfield before pitching to Trevor Ash (Auburn), who ran and dove just inside the right pylon for a touchdown. Bahmonde’s 45-yard field goal put Ithaca on the board about two and a half minutes later, but early in the second quarter Segala found Laap for a 7-yard TD pass. Bahmonde’s 25-yard field goal with 9:31 left in the second closed out the first half scoring.

Ithaca faced 3rd-and-1 at midfield on its first possession of the third quarter and Williams broke a 46-yard run to the Red Dragon 4-yard line. Jalen Hines scored on a 2-yard run two plays later and the Bombers were within a point. Cortland was stopped deep in its own territory on its next drive, and a short punt coupled with a penalty gave Ithaca the ball on the Cortland 20-yard line. Two plays later Wingfield avoided traffic and ran around the right side for a 19-yard score to put Ithaca ahead, 20-14.

The Bombers’ momentum continued when Potts intercepted a Segala pass on the next drive and returned the ball 27 yards to the Red Dragon 9-yard line. Wingfield’s TD pass to Dan Mason on the next play extended the Ithaca lead to 27-14.

The tide turned back toward Cortland when, following a penalty, Ithaca kicked off from midfield and attempted an onside kick. Cortland called for a fair catch and Ithaca was flagged for kick catching interference, setting up the Red Dragons at the Ithaca 48-yard line. Alfanostjohn ran for 34 yards on the next play, and on 3rd-and-3 from the seven Segala threw the TD pass to Cruz. Cortland’s go-ahead drive in the fourth featured a 10-yard pass from Segala to Laap on 3rd-and-7 from the Ithaca 44-yard line, one play after Segala ran for 15 yards on 2nd-and-22, and an 8-yard catch by Cruz on 4th-and-5 from the 16-yard line to keep the drive alive.

Cortland finished with a 402-295 edge in total offense and a 33:59-26:01 time of possession advantage. The Red Dragons converted 7-of-13 third downs compared to 4-of-12 for Ithaca.

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