UNION – Senior Jay Gwaltney rushed for 257 yards and one touchdown and the Kean defense made three interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns, to lead the Cougars to a 34-14 win over The College at Brockport in New Jersey Athletic Conference action on Saturday afternoon.
Junior Bekim Bujari and senior Chris Lauda each had long interception returns for touchdowns, as the Cougars (5-3, 5-3 NJAC) won their third straight game. The Cougar defense forced five turnovers, while offensively they gained 313 yards on the ground.
Brockport quarterback Joseph Scibilia completed 17-of-27 passes for 221 yards for the Golden Eagles (2-6, 2-5 NJAC).
After the Cougars were forced to punt the opening possession of the game, Brockport opened its first drive on their own 12-yard line and methodically moved the ball inside the red zone to the Kean 16-yard line, before Bujari picked off Scibilia at the eight and returned the ball 92-yards for the touchdown.
The return was the second-longest interception return in school history and the extra point attempt by junior Billy Daniels gave the Cougars the 7-0 lead with 4:41 left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, a 24-yard return by Golden Eagle senior Derek Austin gave Brockport the ball near midfield, and with the Cougars defense back on the field after the initial drive that lasted six and a half minutes, the Golden Eagles again moved the ball back inside the red zone.
Scibilia completed both of his pass attempts for 12 yards and his three straight rushes for a combined 23 yards gave the Golden Eagles a first-and-goal at the Kean six-yard line, where junior running back Alex Hendrickson closed out the eight-play drive with the six-yard touchdown run and the Golden Eagles tied the game at 7-7 following the extra point attempt by EJ Genzano.
In the second quarter, Brockport was again driving into Cougar territory when Kean sophomore defensive back Justin McLendon intercepted the Scabilia pass at the Kean 11-yard line.
The Cougars opened the ensuing drive with an 11-yard completion from quarterback Thomas D’Ambrisi to senior tight end Matt Puorro, before Gwaltney ripped off a 26-yard run that gave the Cougars the ball near midfield.
D’Ambrisi followed with three carries for 19 yards to move the ball inside the red zone and after a Cougar penalty moved the ball back to the 20-yard line, D’Ambrisi completed the 20-yard scoring strike to junior wide receiver Chris Suozzo, as the Cougars took the lead for good at 14-7 following the Daniels extra point.
The Kean defense helped the Cougars set-up the final touchdown of the first half when junior defensive end Ray Wegrzynek sacked Scibilia for a seven-yard loss on third down deep in their own territory and the ensuing Brockport punt of 20 yards gave the Cougars the ball at the Brockport 34-yard line with less than two minutes remaining in the first half.
D’Ambrisi completed a 10-yard pass to Suozzo to the 24-yard line and Gwaltney had back-to-back carries of a combined 17 yards, before scoring on the four-yard touchdown run to give the Cougars a 21-7 lead at halftime following the extra point.
In the second half, the Cougar defense again helped set-up a touchdown, as sophomore Brett Yajcaji forced a fumble that senior Andre Dozier recovered at the Brockport 47-yard line. Gwaltney opened the drive with three straight carries of 21, 6 and 16 yards to give Kean a fresh set of downs inside the five-yard line. A Suozzo three-yard carry moved the ball to the one-yard line, before D’Ambrisi faked the hand-off to score on the one-yard run for the 28-7 lead.
The Golden Eagles cut the lead to 28-14 following a 12-play, 90-yard drive midway through the third quarter. On the scoring drive, Scibilia completed three passes for 50 yards, before carrying the ball the final 14 yards on the touchdown run to trail by a pair of touchdowns with 3:07 left in the third quarter.
Lauda closed out the scoring in the fourth quarter when he intercepted the Scibilia pass and returned it 65 yards down the Kean sideline for the touchdown and the 34-14 advantage. The interception was the 13th for his career, moving him into a tie for fourth place on the career charts, while the fifth touchdown return of his career was also the fourth longest return in school history.
Gwaltney posted his fourth straight 200-yard rushing game, as his 257 yards are the fourth highest total in school history. Gwaltney, who is averaging 161.5 yards a game and 5.8 yards a carry, carried the ball 33 times without losing a yard. He now has 1,292 yards this season, the third most in single season history.
D’Ambrisi finished 5-of-14 for 59 yards and one passing touchdown, while adding seven carries for 34 yards and one rushing touchdown. Suozzo caught three passes for 29 yards and Puorro added a pair of receptions for 30 yards.
Defensively, rookie linebacker Jerelle Peay made a game-high 14 tackles, including one sack for an 11-yard loss, and forcing one fumble. Yajcaji had 11 tackles and two forced fumbles, while senior linebacker Victor D’Arrigo made a team-high nine solo stops.
Hendrickson had 22 carries for 100 yards and one touchdown and added four receptions for 36 yards, while Scibilia also added 20 carries for 77 yards. Rookie Jake Spalik had five catches for a team-high 48 yards.
The Brockport defense was led by senior linebacker Nathan Bull, who finished with 10 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Junior linebackers Robert Lindquist and Derek DeCandia eached finished with seven solo stops and one tackle for a loss.
Kean heads to the road for the final two games of the regular season. Next week, they face host The College of New Jersey in the Cougars’ final NJAC game of the season. Kick-off is set for Noon on Saturday, November 6, at Lions’ Stadium.
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