FINAL SCORE: The College of New Jersey 21, Morrisville State College 20
Morrisville State College (3-3, 2-1) vs. The College of New Jersey (4-2, 3-0 NJAC)
October 19, 2013; Lions’ Stadium; Ewing, NJ
Ewing, NJ ….. In a game that featured the New Jersey Athletic Conference’s best defense and its best offense, it was those two units that took center stage when the game was on the line. The College of New Jersey’s league-best defense won out, stopping Morrisville State College on a 4th-and-5 in the final minute of the game as the Lions celebrated homecoming with a 21-20 victory.
The win was the fourth straight for the Lions as they moved to 3-0 in the conference standings and 4-2 overall. The loss halted Morrisville’s own three-game win streak as the Mustangs are now an even 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the NJAC.
The outcome came down to the final minute with the Mustangs getting possession with 3:32 left at their own 10 and moved onto TCNJ’s side of the field. A big tackle by Nick Bricker (Middletown, NJ/Middletown South) and Sean Kley (Titusville, NJ/Hopewell Valley) on third down set up a 4th-and-5 from the Lion 37. TCNJ’s defensive line flushed Mustang quarterback Lemar Johnson (Ossining, NY/Ossining) from the pocket forcing his throw to fall incomplete and turn the ball over on downs.
The Lions then ran off the final 48 seconds to clinch the win.
TCNJ’s defense entered the game ranked 12th nationally in defense and bent, but didn’t break against the Mustangs. What they did do is hold Morrisville to less than 20 points for the first time this season and kept them well under their league-best 510 yards a game with 431.
The deciding score came with 10:09 left in the fourth quarter when Fred Sprengel (Wall, NJ/Wall) made a nice over-the-shoulder catch for a 30-yard touchdown reception from Chris Spellman (Mount Laurel, NJ/Bishop Eustace Prep). Kicker Evan Costello (Sparta, NJ/Sparta) added the crucial extra point, putting the hosts in front 21-20.
After the teams entered the second half tied 14-14, the Mustangs forged ahead with a three-yard run by Edwin Soto (Liberty, NY/Liberty), but TCNJ’s Jeffrey Adubato (Lincoln Park, NJ/Butler) blocked the extra point giving the Lions a chance to win the game with a touchdown later in the game.
In the opening quarter, Morrisville struck first thanks the feet of Johnson as he scored from 13 yards and a successful point after by Zach Drake (Canastota, NY/Chittenango) put the guests in front 7-0. That score came with 3:03 left in the opening period.
TCNJ then used a combination of a 65-yard punt by Costello that pinned the Mustangs at their own one and the defense then came up big when Joseph Urcioli (Matawan, NJ/Matawan) intercepted a Johnson pass at the Morrisville 43.
The Lion offense then needed only two plays to find the end zone when Spellman lofted a pass to the near corner that Ryan Baranowsky (Moorestown, NJ/ Bishop Eustace Prep) hauled in for a 27-yard scoring strike. The PAT by Costello knotted the game at 7-7 only 38 seconds into the second quarter.
The Mustangs came right back with a long 93-yard drive that took 11 plays and ended when Johnson pushed his way into the end zone from the one and Drake pushed the difference to 14-7 with the extra point.
The Lions finished the half in a flurry using a long drive of its own. They got the ball with 4:45 showing on the clock and began at their own three. A couple of runs by running back Victor Scalici (Freehold, NJ/Colts Neck) and a pair of key completions by Spellman took TCNJ out of the shadow of their own end zone. Once into Morrisville territory, Spellman tossed a long pass to the near corner of the field that freshman receiver Jeff Mattonelli (Hamilton, NJ/Steinert) made and outstanding play leaping up and snaring the pass away from the defender scoring on the 51-yard play. That score came nine seconds before the half and Costello booted the PAT sending the teams into the break tied.
Bricker had a huge game for the Lion defense with 19 total tackles and Ryan Lowe (Howell, NJ/Howell) was right behind him with 15.
On offense, Spellman had his best game of the season with three touchdown passes, finishing the day going 11-of-22 for 190 yards.
Johnson, who leads the NJAC in total offense at 356 yards, was held more than 100 yards below his average going for 181 through the air and 70 on the ground.
The NJAC’s leading rusher, Cristian Pena Ridgewood, NY/Enterprise) added to his total with 158 yards on 27 carries.
TCNJ faces another tough conference opponent on Saturday, October 26, heading to SUNY Cortland to face the Red Dragons at 1 p.m., while the Mustangs return home for a noon start against Montclair State University.