Saxons defeat Utica in 48-31 shootout
ALFRED, NY – The Alfred University football team piled up 526 yards of offense and the defense forced three turnovers in a 48-31 victory over visiting Utica College Saturday afternoon at Yunevich Stadium.
With the win, the Saxons improved to 7-2 overall and 5-1 in Empire 8 Conference play. AU came into the game hoping for a Salisbury win over Ithaca, which coupled with Alfred victories in its final two game – against Utica and next weekend at St. John Fisher – would have given the Saxons the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA championship tournament. Ithaca defeated Salisbury, 28-27 in overtime, meaning the Saxons will look to beat Fisher and hope they receive an at-large bid to the NCAAs.
The Saxons were solid on offense against Utica. After punting on their opening possession and spotting the Pioneers a 7-0 lead with just under nine minutes left in the opening frame, the Saxons responded, driving 66 yards in four plays, with freshman quarterback Tyler Johnson (East Syracuse, NY/East Syracuse-Minoa) tossing a 43-yard TD pass to senior wide receiver Jonathan Ruffin (Copiague, NY/Copiague).
Utica went up 10-7 on a field goal with 6:52 left in the first, but AU answered with a seven-play 73-yard drive that ended with the first of four TD runs by sophomore cornerback Calvin Bain (Rochester, NY/East), from six yards out. Utica reclaimed the lead, at 17-14, 3:18 into the second, but Alfred scored 17 unanswered points to end the half with a 31-17 advantage. Bain scored on two six yard touchdown runs – the first with 8:06 left in the half and the second with 3:26 left – and freshman kicker Thomas Gioia (West Seneca, NY/Bishop Timon) booted a 26-yard field goal with three seconds left in the half.
Utica scored on its second possession of the third quarter to make it 31-24, but Alfred boosted its lead back to two touchdowns, at 38-24, on a seven-yard run by Bain that capped a 10-play 74-yard drive with 2:09 left in the third. Utica scored on its first play after recovering an AU fumble at the Alfred 23-yard line – just the Saxons second turnover in four games – to make the score 38-31. Alfred scored the game’s final 10 points, on a 38-yard Gioia field goal with 7:39 left in the fourth and a 35-yard TD pass from Johnson to senior fullback Chuck Beckwith (Victor, NY/Victor).
Johnson was outstanding for the Saxons, completing 19 of 25 passes for 342 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He completed passes to seven different receivers: senior wideout Josh Phillips (Syracuse, NY/West Genesee) caught five passes for 66 yards; Ruffin caught four for 99 yards and a score; sophomore tight end Isiah Young (Dryden, NY/Dryden) caught four for 76 yards; and Beckwith caught three for 55 yards and a TD.
Senior tailback Tyler DeRosa (Miller Place, NY/Miller Place) ran 11 times for 64 yards as the Saxons had 184 yards on the ground. Senior tailback Austin Dwyer (Hornell, NY/Hornell) rushed 11 times for 48 yards and added a 39-yard reception.
Connor Butkiewicz completed 25 of 39 passes for 344 yards and a touchdown. Anthony Acevedo caught six passes for 123 yards and Jerred Beniquez caught seven for 97 yards and a TD. Ryan Burnett ran for 106 yards on 30 carries with two touchdown.
Sophomore linebacker Corry Wallace (Mastic Beach, NY/Longwood) had 12 tackles and an interception to lead the AU defense. Junior linebacker Justin Liberta (Hamburg, NY/Frontier) had 10 tackles and an interception; senior linebacker D.J. Welch (Avon, NY/Avon) had nine tackles and junior linebacker Davis Turner (South Glens Falls, NY/South Glens Falls) had eight tackles, including a half-sack. Junior free safety Michael Perkins (Rochester, NY/East) had seven tackles and an interception.
Dana Cristofferson had 13 tackles and Joe Giametta had 10 to lead the Utica defense.
AU wraps up its regular season next Saturday, Nov. 16, when the Saxons take on host St. John Fisher in the Courage Bowl at 1 p.m. The annual game benefits Rochester-based Camp Good Days and Special Times. Founded in 1979 by Gary Mervis following the diagnosis of his daughter, Teddi, with a malignant brain tumor, Camp Good Days today provides residential camping programs and year-round recreational and support activities and events.
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