Football Outlasts WPU for Homecoming Victory, 24-17

Montclair, NJ (10/3/09) – Senior running back Jeff Bliss (New Milford, NJ / New Milford) scored from two yards out for what would be the game-winning score while the Montclair State defense came up with two turnovers on William Paterson’s final two possessions as the Red Hawks outlasted the Pioneers, 24-17 before a Homecoming crowd of 6,337 at Sprague Field on Saturday evening.

Senior Scott Kubrak (Caldwell, NJ / Caldwell) returned a punt 54 yards for a score while sophomore Byron Lewin (Carteret, NJ / Carteret) had a touchdown catch and two-point conversion as the Red Hawks remained perfect in the NJAC at 3-0 while improving to 3-1 overall. MSU’s win was its 15th straight against its backyard rival and 35th in the 38 all-time meetings between the schools.

Sophomore defensive back Stephen Bovo (Dunellen, NJ / Dunellen) had two interceptions, including a 29-yard runback for a score for William Paterson which fell to 1-3 on the season, 0-3 in the conference.

William Paterson, which trailed 14-0 at halftime, got within 14-10 in the third quarter as Matt Marshall (Burlington, NJ / Burlington City) connected with Joel Rivera (Hoboken, NJ / Hoboken) for a 14-yard score and Ryan Brzycki (Charlotte, NC / Charlotte Catholic) booted a 23-yard field goal.

On its next possession, Montclair drove to the WPU 6 however Bovo came up with the first of his picks in the end zone to thwart the drive.On the interception, the Pioneers were flagged for a 15-yard penalty which would back them up to their own 10. After gaining a yard on the rush, WPU went to punt however the ball was snapped over the head of Dan DeCicco (Wayne, NJ / Wayne Hills) out of the end zone for a safety as Montclair went back up 16-10 with 12:39 to play.

In a weird sort of way, the safety nearly worked out for WPU as the free kick, plus a Montclair penalty on the return backed the Red Hawks up to their own 17. On third down, MSU’s Tom Fischer (Livingston, NJ / Livingston) rolled out of the pocket and tried to throw the ball along the side line. Bovo pulled down the pass with one hand and then raced the final 29 yards to give the Pioneers their first lead of the game at 17-16 with10:19 to play.

Montclair State responded with a 13-play, 60-yard drive that was setup by a Matt Jimenez (Waldwick, NJ / Waldwick) kickoff return to the 40 yardline. Fischer hit A.J. Letizia (Dumont, NJ / Dumont) for 16 yards to the WPU 44, but Montclair would face a 4th-and-1 from the WPU 37. Fischer would scamper around the left side for two yards to keep the drive going and later went 17 yards on a 3rd-and-10 to get the ball down to the WPU 18. Bliss would carry three times for the final yards, the last a two-yard run for the touchdown. MSU elected to go for the two-point conversion and failed however the Pioneers committed a pass interference penalty and Montclair got a second chance. This time, Fischer hit Lewin for the two points as Montclair State led 24-17 with 5:25 remaining.

The Pioneers were not through as the marched down to the Montclair 23 yard line. Marshall kept the drive going with a one-yard run on a 4th-and-1. After reaching the 23, Marshall was intercepted by Gary Knoeppel (West Long Branch, NJ / Shore Regional) at the MSU 12. WPU would get one last possession with 54 seconds left. But another bad snap was recovered by Montclair’s Alex Iachetta (Spring Lake Heights, NJ / Manasquan) with 14 seconds to go to seal the victory for MSU.

Following a scoreless first quarter, Montclair would get on the board in the second as Kubrak returned a DeCicco punt 54 yards for the touchdown, MSU’s third punt return for a score this season. The Red Hawks would extend that lead to 14-0 before half with a 65-yard drive capped off by a Fischer six-yard touchdown pass to Lewin.

William Paterson sliced that lead in half as Damian DiIorio (Totowa, NJ / Passaic Valley) intercepted a pass and returned it to the Montclair State 12. The next play, Marshall found Rivera along the right sideline of the end zone as William Paterson made the score 14-7 with 64 seconds gone by in the third. WPU would trim the lead further with 3:11 to play in the quarter as Brzycki hit his field goal for a 14-10 MSU leading into the fourth quarter.

Bliss finished with 61 yards on 21 carries for MSU which totaled 260 yards of offense for Montclair. Fischer was 13-of-33 for 169 yards (four interceptions) with Lewin grabbing four of those for 31 yards. Defensively for Montclair linebacker Ed Kirschenbaum (Lake Como, NJ / Manasquan) had nine tackles while Brian Tweer (Butler, NJ / Butler) added six, including two for loss and a pass breakup. Knoeppel had four tackles while cornerbacks Dominique Dixon (Elizabeth, NJ / Morris Hills) and Nate Brown (Avenel, NJ / Colonia) had two breakups apiece.

Marshall finished 19-of-43 for 174 yards. Chris Schule (Rutherford, NJ / Rutherford) had six catches for 48 yards while Rivera finished with five for 50 yards. Junior linebacker Jim Hamill (Stanhope, NJ / Lenape Valley) posted a game-high 12 tackles along with an interception while lineman Dyon Moore (Brooklyn, NY / Hudson Catholic) added nine tackles – four for losses. DiIorio also had nine tackles in addition to his interception.

Montclair State outgained the Pioneers 260-200.

Both teams are back in action next Saturday, October 10 with NJAC contests. Montclair State hosts No. 19 Cortland at Sprague Field beginning at 1:00 pm. William Paterson is back on the road at Morrisville State for a 12:00 pm kickoff.