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Red Hawks Lose Heartbreaker at Home to #17 Salisbury

On Saturday afternoon, the Montclair State Red Hawks hosted 3-0 Salisbury University Seagulls. Coming into Saturday’s game, the Seagulls were ranked #17 in the country according to D3football.com polls.

In the first quarter, the Seagulls were able to jump out to a 6-0 lead when Quarterback Jack Lanham threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Shamar Gray. The Red Hawks secondary did not have a good start and the Seagulls took advantage of them early on in this game.

In the second quarter, the Red Hawks’ defense started to have an impact on the game. Freshman linebacker Michael Stefkovich sacked Lanham and forced a fumble in the second quarter. Defensive-lineman Dominic Ferrarra then recovered the loose ball, giving the Red Hawks good field position on the Salisbury 40 yard -line. Senior running back Ralph McLean ran the ball for a 16-yard touchdown and gave the Red Hawks the 13-6 lead with under ten minutes remaining in the second quarter.

Salisbury would get on the board next aftera  ten-play, 92-yard drive in which Lanham ran for 14 yards and the score to tied the game with under a minute remaining in the first half.

Late in the third quarter, the Red Hawks would get their chance to break the game open. Junior quarterback Ja’Quill Burch found Daunte Fletcher on a 62-yard-pass. Fletcher was tackled at the Salisbury 8 yard-line. However, the Red Hawks failed to score a touchdown and instead Anthony Marinel kicked a field goal, which gave the home team a narrow 16-13 lead with a minute left in the third quarter.

When the fourth quarter began, the Seagulls took the lead on another Lanham rushing touchdown. Lanham ran the ball in for a 3-yard touchdown run to put his team ahead 20-16 with 10:24 remaining.

Burch and the Red Hawks were kept off the scoreboard and had to punt. The Seagulls went back to work on offense and put together nine plays for 42 yards and a touchdown to take a 27-16 lead with 3:05 left in the game.

The Red Hawks would not go quietly. Burch ran for three first downs on his team’s last drive. Then, Burch threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kason Campbell and converted the two-point conversion to make it a 27-24 game with about a minute left.

The Red Hawks decided to make an onside kick, but Salisbury recovered the onside kick and that ended the game.

Burch had an average day. The Red Hawks quarterback went 13-for-30 for 180 yards and a Touchdown. Both veteran running backs Craig Merkle and Ralph McLean scored a touchdown.

The defense also played well. Sophomore defensive-back Brennan Ray had 11 tackles and Jaier Garret had ten tackles and a forced-fumble in the loss.

Senior Ralph McLean spoke about what he wants to see his offense do more of going forward.

“I think we played a tough team today, but we’re a tough team. We stayed in it and fought to the end, but when you take that many penalties it’s not likely you will come away with the victory,” McLean said “[Also] We have to find a way to score more points efficiently, not only [take the lead] but stay in the lead.”

Former defensive-lineman turned student-assistant coach Jake Weber spoke about his team’s approach going into next week’s match with The College of New Jersey.

“Through the years we’ve been in plenty of dogfights with that program,” Weber said, “I know they bring recruits, they bring guys up for that game and they will try and bring it against us,” Weber added, “But I always say  [to our team] it’s not about them, it’s about us. I know if we can get all eleven guys on the same page at the same time, we’re a dangerous football team. We’re going to get in the film room and try and correct our flaws before next week.”

The Red Hawks are now 1-3 overall and 0-1 in the New Jersey Athletic Conference. Next week, the Red Hawks face a familiar foe in TCNJ and will look to rebound on the road in Ewing.

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