Defense delivers in Redhawks 21-7 win over TCNJ
Montclair State Head Coach Rick Giancola was still fuming a week after a difficult 28-21 double overtime loss to Christopher Newport University where the Redhawks were flagged 15 times for 146 yards to Christopher Newport’s nine times for 96 yards.
“No coach likes to blame officiating but I have to say 24 penalties in one football game,” said Giancola. “I don’t think that’s a well officiated game and it had sever consequences from our standpoint because we took the game into double overtime and some key calls that were instrumental in the decision going our way. Our guys played hard and we didn’t back away and kept going after it. As you know in football momentum changes it all time and from one series to a next.”
Fast forward a week later at Sprague Field in Montclair, Giancola felt much better in the 84th installment rivalry game against The College of New Jersey which is the oldest active in the Garden State as Montclair State jumped to a big 21-0 first quarter lead and held on as the defense registered eight sacks on the day including six of them in the fourth quarter. Senior defense lineman Joe Falato led the way registering three and half sacks on the day.
“Individual efforts by the players that fortunately went our way and gave us the opportunity to have scores,” Giancola said. “Obviously when you score points it’s to your advantage to get a lead and you can play a different type of football.”
The Redhawks jumped out to an early lead thanks to the running of senior John DiStefano. On first down from the Lions 47-yard line, sophomore quarterback John Apicella(7-14, 111 yards) tossed a short pass into the flat to junior wide receiver Julanee Prince who did the rest outracing the defense down the right sidelines for the score with 11:42 on the clock.
It only took a minute and five seconds for Montclair State to pad their lead with the defense lending a hand as Falato sacked TCNJ quarterback Trevor Osler and in turn causing a fumble that junior defense lineman Nick Volpe scooped up and returned for a 22-yard touchdown. After forcing the Lions into a three and out, Apicella went to work completing key passes to freshman Ralph McLean and Price to get back into the red zone. Stymied by TCNJ’s defense on the first three plays, DiStefano powered around the right side of the line and stretched across the pylon making it 21-0 with 1:21 remaining. For the sixth time in seven games this season DiStefano went over the century mark carrying the ball 33 times for 128 yards.
The Lions answered with a 10-play 47-yard drive that consumed 5:20 of the clock but the Redhawks defense rose to the challenge on a 4th down pass from Osler to John McDonald as junior defensive back Shaon Stephenson tackled McDonald for a loss in the backfield. After forcing Montclair into a three and out, TCNJ started out at their own 46 and moved rapidly down the field culminating in Osler’s 4th down scored from the 1-yard line with 2:46 left in the first half.
Next up for Montclair State (4-3, 3-3 NJAC) is a game at Wesley College on Saturday starting at 1:00 p.m. Last season the Redhawks lost 56-22 to the Wolverines at Sprague Field. Wesley’s overall record stands at 5-2 and 5-1 in the NJAC.
“They had a pretty good quarterback (Joe Callahan) last year who is with the Green Bay Packers,” said Giancola. “We tried everything to stop him and handled us pretty well. Last year we were trying to play catch up football and to some degree but obviously not to overcome 50 points. They’re a good solid team that deserves to be where they are and done very well in the league and got good speed, size and technically good and we have our hands full.”
“We will be on the road so that’s not easy to play,” Giancola continued. “This is the most important game I said to our team and every time I come back on Monday I re-emphasize to them the next game is always important.”