Holmes rushed for 172 yards and scored four times in picking up Most Outstanding Player honors as Albright capped off an 8-3 campaign finishing with eight wins for the first time since 2004 when it downed McDaniel 14-10 to win its last ECAC crown. Albright also won ECAC games in 1995, 1997 and 2001.
Senior linebacker Cornell Hunt (North Brunswick, NJ / North Brunswick), playing in his final game for Montclair State, finished with 16 tackles and returned an interception 54 yards for a touchdown for the Red Hawks, who also ended the year 8-3. MSU was seeking its fourth ECAC championship and concluded its year with its first home loss since October 2006, a span of 13 games.
Holmes was still a senior in high school last season as Albright suffered a 17-13 loss at the hands of the Red Hawks as the Lions managed just 22 yards over the final two quarters. But with Holmes now in the backfield, Albright gained nearly twice that on its opening drive as it took the kickoff and went 59 yards in six plays. Tanner Kelly ( Olanta, PA/ Clearfield) connected twice with AJ Hill (West Keansburg, NJ / Raritan) for 26 yards and added a 19-yard completion to Luke Wallace ( Cinnaminson, NJ / Holy Cross) to the MSU 13. After a Kelly rush to the five, Holmes scampered out of trouble at the line for the five-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Albright lead with 11:42 to play.
That lead would increase to 14-0 with 6:27 left as the Lions took advantage of a bad punt snap by Montclair and got the ball at the Red Hawks’ 44. Kelly hit on pass for six yards before Holmes burst off the left side the final 38 as Albright held that lead at the end of the first quarter.
Another bad punt snap allowed Albright even better field position as the Lions took over at the MSU 15. Three plays later, all runs by Holmes, the score was 21-0 courtesy of Holmes third touchdown this one from eight yards out with 7:52 remaining.
Albright’s first miscue of the game helped Montclair State get going as the Red Hawks recovered a fumble at the Lions’ 21. Jeff Bliss ( New Milford, NJ / New Milford) accounted for all of the yards as he went for 14 on first down and then finished off the possession with a five-yard run as Montclair got on the board with 4:05 to play.
Trailing 21-7, the touchdown gave the Red Hawks life as a great open-field tackle on the kickoff by Jason Scott ( Bayville, NJ / Central Regional) pinned Albright at its own 6. The Lions would manage to move the ball out and got into Montclair territory. But on a 3 rd-and-7 from the MSU 43, Kelly took a short drop and fired a ball that was snared by Hunt, who raced 54 yards for the touchdown as the Red Hawks drew within 21-14 with 1:22 left.
However, Kelly was able to stem the momentum as he led a nine-play, 61-yard drive in the final 82 seconds to help Albright go up 27-14 at halftime. Kelly accounted for all of the offense, including a 20-yard run on 3 rd-and-11 that kept the drive going. He then connected with Nate Romig ( Birdsboro, PA/ Daniel Boone) for 18 yards to the MSU 9 and then found him again on a diving sideline catch in the end zone for the touchdown.
At halftime, Albright had outgained Montclair 234-29 but it would make a few more big plays in the second half.
The Lions’ defense forced a punt on Montclair’s second possession and Ryan Dolan (Toms River, NJ / Toms River East) came up with a huge block at the goal line. The ball bounced out to the MSU 2 but Travis Dresch ( Lebanon, PA / Northern Lebanon) scooped up the ball and ran it into the end zone as the score moved to 35-14 with 5:40 to go in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, Albright’s defense completely stymied Montclair as it shut out an opponent in the second half for the fifth time this season. The Lions’ allowed just 40 yards on four MSU possessions into the fourth quarter and stopped the Red Hawks on a 4 th-and-1 that would eventually be turned into their last touchdown.
Eddie Mitchem (New Oxford, PA / New Oxford) stuffed a quarterback sneak attempt on fourth down to give Albright the ball at the Montclair 33. After and incomplete pass on first down, Holmes ran five straight times for 31 yards to put the ball to the MSU 17. Following another Kelly completion, Holmes had a three-yard run to the six and then raced around the left side to cap a day in which he became the first Albright back in 13 years to surpass the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Not since Chad Eisenhower ran for 1,051 yards in 1995 had a Lions’ rusher reach the millennium mark.
Holmes, the MAC Offensive Rookie of the Year, finished the year with 1,087 yards (4 th-highest single-season total) and 13 touchdowns.
Kelly finished the day 11-of-25 for 129 yards and also ran 11 times for 62 as Albright rolled up 384 yards of total offense, including 255 on the ground. Romig had four receptions for 47 yards.. Robert Harper ( Beverly, NJ / Paul VI) led the solid defensive effort with six tackles, a sack and a breakup. Dolan, who also partially blocked a second punt, also intercepted a pass as did David Harig ( Grasonville, MD / Calvert Hill).
Hunt’s 16 tackles gave him exactly 100 for the season as he became the first player to record three consecutive 100-tackle campaigns since the late Sam Mills from 1978-80. Hunt, the NJAC Defensive Player of the Year, also added a sack and pass breakup as he finished his career with 371 tackles, third-best on the MSU list. Bliss had 45 yards as he ended the year with 1,053 yards and 14 touchdowns. Wide receiver Omar Sevilla (North Bergen, NJ / North Bergen) had four catches for 36 yards and freshman Byron Lewin (Carteret, NJ / Carteret) accounting for 108 yards on seven returns (four punt, three kickoffs).