Touchdown in Final Seconds Lifts Football Over Brockport, 41-39

Brockport, NY (9/26/09) – Sophomore quarterback Tom Fischer (Livingston, NJ / Livingston) connected with sophomore Dan Keegan (Fairfield, NJ / West Essex) from 14 yards out with 10 seconds to cap a wild fourth-quarter as Montclair State rallied for a 41-39 victory over Brockport at Special Olympics Stadium on Saturday.

Senior running back Jeff Bliss (New Milford, NJ / New Milford) rushed for 82 yards and scored three times as the Red Hawks edged the Golden Eagles in the closing moments for the second straight season as they improved to 2-1 overall, 2-0 in the NJAC.

Last season, Montclair won 16-14 as kicker Marco Capozzoli (Bloomfield, NJ / St. Joseph’s (Montvale)) hit from 37 yards out with 16 seconds to play.

Brockport quarterback Jake Graci (Farnham, NY / Lake Shore), who set four Golden Eagle records in the loss, ran in from two yards out with 52 seconds left to give Brockport a 39-35 lead. The touchdown was set up by a Montclair fumble.

The Golden Eagles would squib the ensuing kickoff and the Red Hawks took over at their own 43 with 48 seconds remaining. On the second play, Fischer hit Keegan for 19 yards to the Brockport 38 and after a Montclair took its final timeout, he found A.J. Letizia (Dumont, NJ / Dumont) for 24 yards putting the ball at the 14. Two incomplete passes left the Red Hawks with a 3rd-and-10, but Fischer found Keegan in the end zone for the game-winning score.

MSU, which as scored 93 points in the past two weeks, outscored the Golden Eagles, 20-14 in the final quarter as the lead changed hands four times in the period and five times in the game total.

Bliss gave Montclair a 7-0 lead midway through the opening period as he ran in from four yards out to cap a drive that was setup by a Dominique Dixon (Elizabeth, NJ / Morris Hills) interception at the Brockport 33. The Golden Eagles answered with a touchdown, but missed the extra point as MSU led 7-6 after one quarter.

Montclair pushed its lead back to 14-6 two plays into the second quarter as it marches 62 yards in eight plays following the Brockport score. Fischer kept the drive alive as he connected with Scott Kubrak (Caldwell, NJ / Caldwell) for 19 yards on a third-down that moved the ball to the five yardline. Two players later Fischer hit fullback Ron Litz (South River, NJ / South River) out of the backfield for a four-yard touchdown.

Brockport would counter that with a touchdown of its own as Montclair led 14-13 at the half.

In the third quarter, the Red Hawks had the Golden Eagles pinned at their own five yard line before Graci found Hector Rosas for a 95-yard catch and run as Brockport took its first lead of the game at 19-14 with 10:56 remaining. Brockport failed on a two-point conversion.

Later in the period, a short punt gave the Golden Eagles great field position at the MSU 38 and they took advantage as Graci hit Matt Newman (Unadilla, NY/Unatego) for a 27-yard score as Brockport moved in front 25-14 with 5:32 left.

Fischer then led MSU on the comeback trail as he engineered a 65-yard in eight plays accounting for all by three of them. He found Letizia for 22 yards to the Brockport 37 and then threw to Keegan for 18 that pushed the ball to the 12. A three-yard run and incomplete pass left MSU with a 3rd-and-7, however Fischer ran nine for the touchdown as MSU pulled within 25-21 with 2:07 left.

Montclair would retake the lead at the start of the fourth quarter as the Red Hawks went 75 yards in five plays, the big gain coming as Fischer found Joe LaSala (Clark, NJ / Colonia) for 51 yards down to the Brockport 24. Following a Bliss 4-yard run, Fischer completed a 12-yard pass to Keegan down to the 8. Bliss then scampered the final yardage to give Montclair a 28-25 lead with 13:07 left.

The Golden Eagles swung the score back the other way on its next possession as Aaron Zurn ran in from a yard out to make the score 32-28 with 8:54 left. Montclair State answered as Matt Jimenez (Waldwick, NJ / Waldwick) returned the kickoff 35 yards to give MSU the ball at the Brockport 48. After Fischer completed a 13-yard pass to Letizia to open the drive, Bliss did the rest of the damage. A 21-yard run got the ball down to the 14 and he ended the drive with his final TD run of the game, this one from four yards out as MSU went ahead 35-32 with 6:33 to go.

Fischer completed 23-of-39 passes for Montclair State, which racked up 493 yards of total offense in the game. Keegan and Letizia combined for 14 of those catches with eight (119 yards) and six (111 yards), respectively. Kubrak added four catches for 37 yards. Bliss carried 23 times for 82 yards as MSU netted 130 in the ground game.

Defensively, the Red Hawks were led by seniors Chris Merkle (Nutley, NJ / Nutley) and Brian Tweer (Butler, NJ / Butler) who had 11 tackles apiece. Merkle also recorded his fifth sack of the year while Tweer intercepted one of four passes by Montclair. Ed Kirschenbaum (Lake Como, NJ / Manasquan) had 10 tackles with Mario McLean (Montville, NJ / Montville) collecting nine along with a pick. Safety Jesse Shenker (Freehold, NJ / Freehold Township) added eight tackles, a forced fumble and two breakups while Gary Knoeppel (West Long Branch, NJ / Shore Regional) accounted for the fourth MSU interception.

The Red Hawks are home next week for another NJAC contest. MSU will face backyard rival William Paterson in its annual Homecoming Game at Sprague Field. Kickoff is set for 6:00 pm.