No. 12 Monroe Football Steps up Late, Defeats No. 11 Lackawanna in Overtime Thriller
SCRANTON, Pa., October 10, 2021 – A battle of the northeast football powerhouses of the NJCAA became an instant classic Saturday evening at the Scranton Memorial Stadium. The No. 12-ranked Monroe College Mustangs football team erased an early two-score deficit and came up clutch late to defeat No. 11 Lackawanna College by a score of 49-48 in overtime. The Mustangs remain unbeaten at 4-0, while the Falcons drop to 3-2.
Monroe went down, 14-0, in the first quarter and appeared to be in trouble on the road, but the resilient Mustangs fought their way back in the second quarter to tie the game before Lackawanna took the lead back just before halftime. The Mustangs then became nearly unstoppable in the second half taking the lead before the teams traded scores throughout the final two quarters of regulation. Monroe fell behind with time running thin, but came up clutch to force overtime, where they came out victorious in the first extra period.
The Falcons started the game with the ball and managed to methodically drive down the field. On the 13th play of the drive, X'Zavion Evans punched it in on 3rd-and-goal from the one-yard line to take a 7-0 lead.
The Mustangs could not get anything going on their first possession, quickly going three-and-out and punting the ball back to Lackawanna. Despite good field position, the Mustangs managed to stop the Falcons, taking the ball back after a turnover on downs. The Mustangs then struggled once again to move the ball, going backwards on the ensuing drive before punting back to Lackawanna.
On the third play of Lackawanna's next possession, Barry Brown hit Colbie Young for a 50-yard touchdown, doubling the Falcons' lead to 14-0 late in the first quarter.
Monroe finally got things going on their next drive. A pass interference penalty on Lackawanna bailed out the Mustangs early in the possession, and they made sure to take full advantage of it. Shelton Applewhite Jr. nearly threw a long touchdown pass on 4th-and-8 later in the drive. A holding penalty on the Falcons broke up the play, but gave Monroe a new set of downs. The Mustangs wasted no time after that, as Applewhite found LaMarcus Brand for an 18-yard score up the seam to cut the deficit in half at 14-7.
The Falcons looked to have a good drive going after the Mustangs' score, but on 2nd-and-7 from the Mustangs' 42, Michel Lucien intercepted Brown, setting Monroe up at Lackawanna's 46-yard line.
Applewhite converted on second down with a 13-yard completion to Jamarii Robinson. Two plays later, Applewhite found Halim Dixon-King for a 31-yard score, tying the game at 14-14.
The Falcons responded well, opening the next drive with an 18-yard pass from Brown to Delvin Palmer. Brown later converted on third down with a five-yard pass to Jasiah Purdie. After another first down, Brown was able to hit Young for another score, this time from 33 yards out, giving the home team a 21-14 lead heading into halftime.
Monroe came out flying to open the second half. A 3rd-and-11 pass from Applewhite to Idrissa Nikiema kept the drive going, and a 15-yard pass to Dixon-King put Monroe on the 25-yard line. Kimon O'Sullivan then broke through the line and rumbled for a 25-yard score, tying the game at 21-21 early in the third quarter.
The Mustangs quickly halted the Falcons on their next drive, taking the ball back on their own 26-yard line after a Lackawanna punt. Applewhite made another clutch pass on third down, hooking up with Nikiema for 34 yards to get into Lackawanna territory. A pass interference on Lackawanna moved Monroe up to the 26-yard line, but a false start then backed the Mustangs up. Monroe converted back-to-back first downs, with Dixon-King falling just short of the goal line on a 19-yard reception. Two plays later, O'Sullivan punched it in for his second straight score, putting the Mustangs ahead, 28-21.
The Falcons found their rhythm once again on their next drive, eventually scoring on a 25-yard pass from Brown to Palmer early in the fourth quarter, knotting the game up again at 28-28.
After Applewhite was sacked to force a 3rd-and-11, he hit a long pass to Dixon-King for 44 yards down to Lackawanna's nine-yard line. A penalty then put Monroe on the three, where O'Sullivan was able to rush it in for the third time in the half, giving the Mustangs a 35-28 advantage with 10:58 left in regulation.
The Falcons used a few big plays to once again drive down the field on the next series. Palmer caught a 38-yard pass, and Isaiah Edwards had runs of 16 and 28 yards to get to Monroe's 25. Evans had a 16-yard run to make it 1st-and-goal, and two plays later, Brown connected with Nazir Armstrong for an eight-yard touchdown. The Mustangs managed to block the point-after attempt to hang onto a 35-34 lead.
Monroe made a costly error on the next drive. Looking to convert a fourth down on Lackawanna's 35, an errant snap led to a loss of 16 yards, setting up Lackawanna on Monroe's side of the field.
The Falcons looked to get into the end zone, but also take time off the clock after taking over with 4:10 to play. They ran the ball five straight times, but a 3rd-and-16 from the 28 turned into a touchdown from Brown to Palmer. Brown then ran in the two-point conversion attempt himself to give the home team a 42-35 edge with just 1:14 left in the fourth.
A good return on the kickoff set up Monroe on its own 35. Applewhite immediately went to Dixon-King, who went out of bounds after a 15-yard gain. Applewhite then went downfield and connected with Jalen Rose Hannah for 39 yards down to Lackawanna's 11-yard line. A completion to Dixon-King put the Mustangs on the three, and then O'Sullivan got the Mustangs a first down on a two-yard run to the one. Applewhite then called his own number, rushing in from a yard out to tie the game at 42-42 with 19 seconds left.
The Mustangs kicked it short on the kickoff, setting up Lackawanna on its own 48 with 18 seconds remaining. Brown threw an incompletion on first down, and then tried to go for the end zone on second. Jakai Coker intercepted the deep ball and landed short of the goal line, allowing Monroe to run out the clock and send the game to overtime.
The Mustangs got the first possession of overtime. O'Sullivan rushed for three yards on first down, but lost a yard on the next play to force 3rd-and-8. The Mustangs then did what they were doing all night long, as Applewhite went to Dixon-King in the end zone, hitting him for a 23-yard score to take a 49-42 lead, needing a stop to end the game.
The Mustangs had the Falcons going backward on the first two plays, but Brown made a big play, completing to Cohen Russell for a 27-yard touchdown. The Falcons lined up for the extra point, but after the Mustangs blocked the previous one, Lackawanna called timeout and lined up to go for a two-point conversion and the win. Like their last two-point attempt, Brown attempted to rush it in himself, but he was slowed down in the backfield and tripped up well short of the goal line, as the Mustangs made the stop they needed to pick up the one-point victory.
The most efficient passer in the NJCAA so far this season, Applewhite completed 17-of-24 passes for 320 yards and three touchdowns, while also rushing for another score. O'Sullivan rushed for 78 yards and hit paydirt three times, adding a seven-yard reception as well. Dixon-King had the best game of his Mustang career, making nine receptions for 184 yards and two scores after getting open all night long.
Zharell Walker led Monroe defensively with nine total tackles on the evening, making one in the backfield for a loss, and also breaking up a pass near the end zone in the win. Lucien and Coker each picked off Brown in the game, and they both made three tackles apiece as well. Johnathon Weir had the Mustangs lone sack in the victory. Nick Evans and Cade White each had six tackles, while Douglas Blue-Eli and Andrew Hardin each registered five.
Nikiema caught two passes for 47 yards in the game, and was also good on all seven extra-point attempts, the last one proving to be the difference in the game. Bailey Marzola punted three times for 117 yards. Robinson had 76 yards on three kickoff returns in the win.
The win was the Mustangs' third-ever victory over the rival Falcons, the last coming on Oct. 18, 2014, a 14-13 victory in Scranton. The Falcons had won each of the last five meetings between the two teams.
The undefeated Mustangs will host Milford Academy next Saturday, Oct. 16, in the annual Homecoming Game at Joseph F. Fosina Field in New Rochelle. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.