17 Cortland Blanks Utica, 45-0, to Improve to 7-0
CORTLAND, N.Y. – Cortland outgained visiting Utica, 509-82, in total offensive yardage and posted its first shutout in more than two years as the nationally 17th-ranked Red Dragons remained undefeated with a 45-0 win over the Pioneers in Empire 8 action. Cortland (7-0, 4-0) can clinch the Empire 8 title and the league's NCAA automatic berth with a win at home versus Alfred next Saturday. The Saxons will enter the game with a 3-0 conference record.
Cortland's last shutout came in a 61-0 win over Fitchburg in the 2019 season opener. Paul Imperiale (East Meadow) led the Red Dragons with nine tackles, an interception and a pass breakup. Justin Wheeler (Binghamton/Susquehanna Valley) finished with eight tackles and a fumble recovery, while Nick Lardaro (Smithtown/Smithtown East), Stone Murray (Latham/Shaker) and Dylan Dubuque (East Greenbush/Columbia) each made five tackles. Lardaro recorded two tackles for loss and forced a fumble and Murray had a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
Brees Segala (Webster/Webster Schroeder) completed 24-of-31 passes for 297 yards and four touchdowns, Derek Cruz (Oceanside) caught 11 passes for 110 yards and two scores, and Jaden Alfanostjohn (Westhampton/Westhampton Beach) rushed 14 times for 110 yards and a touchdown. Cruz's 11 catches are the most in a game by a Red Dragon since Jon Mannix caught 11 passes against Ithaca in 2016. In addition for Cortland, Jahon Moore (Hillside, NJ) scored two touchdowns – one rushing and one receiving – and JJ Laap (Stony Brook/Ward Melville) caught five passes for 75 yards and a score.
Dan Amady and Kwasi Addo led Utica (4-3, 1-2) with nine tackles apiece. Devin Bryant made six tackles and intercepted a pass and Janiel Taveras registered two pass breakups. Utica quarterback Sonny Badyna was held to 10-of-19 passing for 40 yards, with Nate Palmer making four catches for 18 yards. James Salles rushed for 52 yards on 18 carries. Utica moved the ball into Cortland territory only twice, getting to the Red Dragon 36-yard line in the first quarter before a penalty eventually moved the ball back to the Utica side of the field, and to the Cortland 47-yard line on the opening drive of the third quarter before losing a fumble that Murray forced and recovered.
Cortland punted on its first possession of the game, but followed that with scores on each of its next four series. Cruz caught a 2-yard TD pass from Segala with 3:47 left in the first to give the Red Dragons the lead, and Cortland drove 91 yards on its next possession, capped by an Alfanostjohn 2-yard scoring run, with 9:57 left in the half and Cortland led 14-0.
On Utica's next possession, Badyna threw a backwards pass that was tipped by Lardaro and fell to the ground near the Cortland sideline. The teams briefly paused believing the play was an incomplete pass before Mark Noel (Staten Island/Port Richmond) fell on the ball at the Utica 18-yard line. That led to Nick Guglielmo's (Staten Island/St. Peter's) 26-yard field goal and a 17-0 advantage.
The Red Dragons got on the board one more time in the quarter to take a 24-0 halftime lead. Devin Smith (Utica/Utica Notre Dame) sacked Badyna and forced a fumble that Wheeler recovered at the Utica 24-yard line. Cortland converted a 4th-and-1 situation at the Utica 15-yard line on Segala's 3-yard run, followed by an Alfanostjohn 10-yard run to the two. Segala connected with Cruz on a 2-yard TD pass on the next play. Alfanostjohn gained 96 of his 110 rushing yards and Cruz made nine of his 11 catches in the first half.
The hosts added two touchdowns in the third quarter on a Moore 1-yard run and a Laap 25-yard reception. Moore turned a short pass into a 24-yard TD catch in the fourth quarter to complete the scoring.