Wayne, NJ (11/13/10) – Freshman running back A.J. Scoppa (New Milford, NJ / New Milford) scored from a yard out with less than a minute remaining in the first half which turned out to be the game-winning touchdown as 22nd-ranked Montclair State earned a share of the New Jersey Athletic Conference championship and gave head coach Rick Giancola his 200th career triumph with a 21-8 victory over William Paterson at Wightman Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Red Hawks closed out their schedule at 9-1 overall, 8-1 in the NJAC and MSU finished tied with Rowan and Cortland for first place. All three teams are declared tri-champions in the league standings, however Cortland was declared the conference's automatic bid winner following will be decided by the league tiebreaking procedure. The first two criteria left the teams tied and the Red Dragons won based on the third criteria - opponent's opponent's winning percentage (OOWP). Cortland's number came out to be .514 compared to .504 for MSU and .502 for Rowan.
Should Montclair not win the tiebreaker, its postseason fate will then be left in the hands of the NCAA Football Committee for an at-large bid. Montclair State entered the week third in the East Regional Rankings behind Delaware Valley and Rowan, who Montclair beat 26-7 back on September 18. Delaware Valley, which already secured a spot in the NCAA field with an automatic bid fell to Widener, 28-27.
Giancola, now in his 28th season, became just the sixth coach in Montclair athletic history to win 200 games as he joins current baseball and softball coaches Norm Schoenig and Anita Kubicka, baseball coach Bill Dioguardi and former softball and men's basketball coaches Wilma Rucker and Ollie Gelston as the only MSU mentors to accomplish the feat. Giancola is also just one of four active coaches in Division III to have 200 wins as he joined St. John's (MN) John Gagliardi, Mount Union's Larry Kehres and TCNJ's Eric Hamilton in that exclusive club.
William Paterson drew first blood when Montclair State lined up to punt from its own 21-yard line. Trying to exploit the Pioneers, who were not lined up for the fourth-down play, the Red Hawks quickly snapped the ball back to punter Joe Liscio (Little Falls, NJ / Passaic Valley), but it sailed over his head and rolled out of the back of the end zone for a safety with 8:29 showing on the clock in the first quarter.
The Pioneers got the ball back on the free kick, but turned it over on downs at the MSU-29. The two teams traded punts until early in the second quarter, when Montclair quarterback Tom Fischer (Livingston, NJ / Livingston) found Bobby Roesing (Secaucus, NJ / Secaucus) for a 41-yard gain to the Pioneers’ 19-yard line. Joe LaSala (Clark, NJ / Colonia)snared a high pass from Fischer to cover the final 14 yards, and Jake DelVento (Island Heights, NJ / Toms River South) added the extra points for a 7-2 Red Hawk lead 2:50 into the second quarter.
William Paterson started its next drive at its own 29-yard line and marched all the way down to the Montclair State-4, twice benefitting from sophomore quarterback Ryan Gresik (Newton, N.J./Newton) pulling the ball down and running for big gains. But, on third-and-goal, junior running back Corey Paladino(Lodi, N.J./Lodi) threw into the arms of Dan Avento(Montvale, NJ / Pascack Hills) in the end zone on the failed trick play.
That play didn’t keep the Pioneers off the scoreboard for long, though, as A.J. Scoppa (New Milford, NJ / New Milford) fumbled on the Red Hawks’ second play on the ensuing drive and senior defensive back Leer Biddle (Sicklerville, N.J./Lenape) collected the loose ball and sprinted 22 yards for a William Paterson touchdown. The extra point was wide, but the Pioneers were ahead, 8-7, with 3:46 remaining in the first half.
A 24-yard completion from Fischer to LaSala ignited the next MSU drive, and Scoppa finished it off with a one-yard surge through the left side of the line. DelVento’s kick was true, and the Red Hawks snatched back the lead at 14-8 with 44.7 seconds to play before halftime.
DelVento had a chance to add to that margin less than seven minutes into the third period, but his 27-yard attempt was wide right. The two teams were content to trade punts until early in the fourth quarter, when freshman Cory Mundt’s (Rockaway, N.J./Morris Hills) kick from his own end zone was returned 17 yards by Byron Lewin (Carteret, NJ / Carteret) to the Pioneers’ 13-yard line. Three rushes, the last for four yards by Matt Jimenez (Waldwick, NJ / Waldwick), made it a two-score game at 21-8 with 11:57 remaining. Neither team registered a first down for the remainder of the contest.
Gresik was 7-for-20 for 64 yards through the air, while sophomore Dawys German (North Arlington, N.J./North Arlington) led the ground game with 15 carries and 39 yards. Sophomore tight end Joseph Cordato (Bayonne, N.J./Bayonne) caught a pair of passes for 22 yards.
Junior bandit Doug Dudek (Rockaway, N.J./Morris Hills) led the Pioneer defense with 12 tackles (five solo, 2.0 TFL), while senior defensive lineman Dyon Moore (Brooklyn, N.Y./Hudson Catholic) had nine stops and sophomore linebacker Luigi Napolitano, Jr. (Morris Plains, N.J./Parsippany Hills) contributed seven tackles.
Fischer was 6-for-13 for 134 yards and a touchdown for the Red Hawks. Jimenez gained 85 yards and scored once on 23 attempts, while Scoppa rushed 13 times for 49 yards and a score. LaSala led the receiving corps with four catches for 85 yards and a touchdown.
Junior defensive back Chad Faulcon (Cranford, NJ / Cranford) made a team-best nine tackles (four solo, 1.0 sack). Avento registered eight stops and an interception, and senior defensive back Ed Kirschenbaum (Lake Como, NJ / Manasquan) posted seven tackles.