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Gulls set to soar into NCAA Tournament versus Cortland State

Gulls set to soar into NCAA Tournament versus Cortland State
Beverly, Mass. – At noon on Saturday, the Endicott football team will be competing in their first ever NCAA Division III Tournament game on what should be a cool yet sunny afternoon in Cortland, New York. 

The Gulls (9-2) will be taking on a Cortland State (9-1) program that is making its seventh NCAA Division III Tournament appearance in school history after earning the NJAC automatic bid. The Red Dragons were named tri-champions with both Montclair State and Rowan, but tiebreaker rules awarded Cortland State the second seed in their eight-team bracket of the 32-team national tournament.

Seeded seventh in the bracket, “underdog” is not a term that will be not used to compare Endicott to their opponent during practice this week. The Gulls accumulated enough memorable wins with their backs against the wall in the 2010 season that from the coaches down to the players, everyone believes that this team has a chance to win this game. A triple-overtime season opening win at Framingham State, a 19-point fourth quarter comeback against Salve Regina, a program-first triumph over Curry, clinching their first NEFC Boyd Division, and stopping an unstoppable force at Maine Maritime to win the conference championship have all told the story of Endicott’s unheralded path to the NCAA Tournament. 

Endicott’s football history is a brief one having established its varsity program eight years ago in 2003 and for the first time will be competing against a NJAC school. Five other NEFC programs, however, have faced off against Cortland State with no success compiling a 0-5 record. In 2008, both Plymouth State and Curry lost to the Red Dragons in the NCAA Division III Tournament by scores of 31-14 and 42-0, respectively. Cortland also won ECAC bowl games versus Plymouth State (1991), Maine Maritime (1994), and Westfield State (2002). 

Scouting the Cortland State Red Dragons...

Cortland State completed a 9-1 regular season after defeating visiting Ithaca College in the annual Cortaca Jug game 20-17. Trailing 17-3 early in the third quarter, the Red Dragons overtook the lead early in the fourth on a rushing touchdown by Justin Autera (Mahopac, N.Y.). It was his second time in the end zone. Two field goals by Marc Corrado (Newburgh, N.Y.) also proved to be crucial in the win.

Cortland State ranks first nationally in scoring defense at 7.8 points per game and have only allowed 225.5 yards per game in total offense, including 80.8 rushing yards per game. Linebacker Cody Allen (Medina, N.Y.) leads the team with 96 tackles, 46 solo. Cornerback Joe Lopez (Port Jefferson Station, N.Y.) tied a school record for interceptions with eight and holds the school record with a current streak of six straight games with a pick.

Offensively, Autera has rushed for 1,232 yards and 17 touchdowns and has caught 23 passes for 165 yards and two scores out of the backfield. Quarterback Dan Pitcher (Cortland, N.Y.) has completed 117-of-213 passes for 1,351 yards and 13 touchdowns. The team’s leading receiver is Anthony Giuliano (Thornwood, N.Y.) with 39 receptions for 632 yards and six touchdowns. 

Placekicker Corrado has hit 8-of-12 field goal attempts with two makes from 36 yards out. He is 37-of-39 on point-after kicks. Pete Furey (Niskayuna, N.Y.) averaged 35.4 yards per punt and has pinned the opposition inside the 20-yard line 15 times with only three touchbacks.

On the sidelines, head coach Dan MacNeill is in his 14th season with the Red Dragons. He has an overall record of 96-51 (.653) ranking him second at Cortland State in career victories and first in winning percentage. He was named NJAC Coach of the Year and a finalist for the Liberty Mutual National Division III Coach of the Year honors in 2008 after leading the Red Dragons to the league title (9-0 league mark) and the NCAA Quarterfinals. He has guided Cortland State to nine postseason berths – NCAA showings in 1997, 2005, 2008 and 2010 and ECAC appearances in 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2009. MacNeill is a 1979 Cortland State alumnus who played linebacker and defensive tackle from 1975-78. He is the 11th head coach in program history dating back to 1924 and has previous served as linebackers coach and the defensive coordinator at NCAA Division I-AA Villanova University from 1988-96.  

Scouting the Endicott Gulls...

Endicott won its first ever NEFC title following a 38-35 victory over Maine Maritime in the matchup between Boyd and Bogan Division winners. The Blue and Green had won the division with a 6-1 record to earn its spot in the title game against the Mariners.

With 58 seconds remaining, \#Mike Lane\# (Medfield, Mass.) scored the game-winning touchdown on a 5-yard run and finished with 123 rushing yards. Quarterback \#Phil Konopka\# (Shelton, Conn.) completed 27-of-34 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns in the conference championship win. He also ran in two scores en route to being named MVP of the game. His favorite receiver in the game was \#Ryan Carino\# (Stratford, Conn.) who caught 10 passes for 85 yards and teammate \#Neil Powers\# (Westford, Mass.) added eight receptions for 82 yards.

Defensively, the Gulls forced three fumbles, two by \#Oscar Moore\# (Lynn, Mass.), and \#PJ Bay\# (Darien, Conn.) led the team with eight tackles. 

Lane has rushed for 1,203 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on a NCAA Division III-best 307 carries. Konopka has completed 57.0% of his passes (172-of-302) for 1,984 yards and 19 touchdowns with just three interceptions against him. Carino leads all receivers with 47 catches for 464 yards while \#Taylor Allen\# (Westboro, Mass.) had been a powerful red zone presence with seven touchdown catches.

Defensive end \#Kevin Eagan\# (West Hartford, Conn.) is Endicott’s leader with 85 tackles, 18 for a loss. He has eight sacks and is tied for second on the team with six pass breakups. Linebacker \#Craig Lussier\# (Dracut, Mass.) has made 78 tackles and \#Peter Kallas\# (Beverly, Mass.) has 60 tackles. 

\#Dylan Rushe\# (Palos Verdes, Calif.) in his first season is one of the nation’s top placekickers. He ranks sixth nationally with 1.3 field goals made per game. Rushe is 14-of-19 on field goal tries, including 2-of-3 from 40 yards or more and 7-of-11 from 30-39 yards and is a perfect 34-of-34 on point-after kicks. \#Sean Griffith\# (Marshfield, Mass.) averages 34.4 yards per punt. 

Head coach \#JB Wells\# has been the leader of the Endicott program since its first varsity season in 2003. He has an eight-year coaching record of 43-36 (.544). In 2005, he led the Gulls to a 7-3 record and a top-10 New England ranking. Prior to his arrival at Endicott, Wells was the assist head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Illinois Wesleyan University. He helped the Titans to the first back-to-back College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin championships since 1964-65. 

Wells graduated from Trinity College (Conn.) in 1991 where he was a three-year starter and letter winner at guard and center. He had two coaching stints at his alma mater as an offensive line coach (1992-93) and as offensive coordinator (1998). He served as the offensive line coach at Bates College (Maine) from 1994-95. Wells also spent an additional two years at the University of Chicago as quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator from 1996-97.