Another heartbreaking loss for the Montclair State University football team.
The Red Hawks fell to the Captains of Christopher Newport University 14-13 in their homecoming game. They now fall to a 2-6 record and remain winless in the conference at 0-4.
Christopher Newport drove 41 yards down the field in seven plays to score a one-yard rushing touchdown, leading 7-0 in the first quarter. The score remained 7-0 until sophomore linebacker Nick Burgess caught an interception and returned it 85 yards to tie the game with less than a minute to go in the first half.
After a scoreless third quarter, Christopher Newport scored a late touchdown in the fourth quarter to retake the lead. The Red Hawks were able to answer back with a touchdown with two minutes and 18 seconds left in the game, but a missed extra point would be the deciding factor.
Despite the loss, the team put in a valiant effort for all 60 minutes, never backing down, which has been the story of the season.
Associate head coach Mike Palazzo spoke on the team’s performance.
“I feel for the kids, they’ve been working hard,” Palazzo said. “They don’t ever quit and that’s something I really respect about those guys. My heart breaks for them because it’s a tough loss and a couple of plays [go] the other way and it’s a comfortable homecoming win.”
There were some noteworthy performances on all sides of the ball. Special teams started the game off by recovering a fumble on the kickoff forced out by team captain graduate student Mike Ramos. Senior running back Abellany Mendez led the rush game with 14 carries for 81 yards. Burgess put on a show with a total of 11 tackles, one and a half sacks and an interception returned for a touchdown.
“Our defense is all about making big plays,” Burgess said. “It felt pretty good to be able to make a big play for the whole team.”
Putting the game aside, it was a special day for Montclair State as it was homecoming and a special ceremony honoring alumnus and recent inductee to the Professional Football Hall of Fame, Sam Mills. It was a special moment honoring Mills and having his wife and kids at the game. There were alumni all over including some of Mills’ former teammates at Montclair State.
“It’s great,” Palazzo said. “I’m an alumnus so I love this place, I love seeing some of the old faces back to watch the game and be part of this. I think we have some really good school spirit and I think it can continue to grow.”
With alumni, parents and current students all showing their support and school spirit, there were a whopping 3,469 people in attendance. The atmosphere sure was electric.
“This was the best crowd that I was a part of,” Burgess said. “This is my second year here so it felt good to be a part of this crowd. The day felt pretty good. [We] started off with the ceremony, it was lovely and good to see all of Sam Mills’ teammates from Montclair State. It was a different energy today. The crowd was in it, the crowd brought the energy, [it] was the best crowd I’ve had since I’ve been here. It definitely electrifies the offense and defense.”
The Red Hawks look to refresh heading into next week as they go on the road to face Rowan University.
“We just [got to] come in and focus in on the next opponent,” Palazzo said. “Wipe the slate clean this week and dial in on our next opponent.”
With only two games left in the season, the mindset is to keep pounding and end the season on a high note.
“The mindset is always keep pounding,” Burgess said. “We have two more games left, two more weeks left. All that matters is making every single moment count and obviously finishing strong with two wins.”