After dropping the season opener in a hard fought teeter totter battle against the Salve Regina University Seahawks that came down to 26-20, the Red Hawks roared back with a vengeance this past Saturday at Southern Virginia University. The Red Hawks blanked the Knights 24-0 to improve to 1-1 on the 2017 campaign and 1-0 in New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) play.
The Red Hawks grabbed the upper hand from the get-go as junior kicker Hunter Daly executed an 18-yard field goal attempt on their initial drive to put them ahead 3-0. On their next drive, junior bell cow running back Anthony Traviasano set the tone on the ground, rumbling his way to 42 yards on six carries, moving the chains three times while accounting for more than half the total offense on the Red Hawks’ 12-play, 68-yard drive that lasted 6:19. Sophomore quarterback Ryan Adzima capped off the drive by connecting top with senior wide receiver Joe Schultz for 7-yard touchdown pass.
Not even two minutes later in the ensuing Southern Virginia possession, senior defensive back Jabari Ray Garvin picked off the Knights’ quarterback Ty Jones’ pass that was disrupted by senior linebacker and team captain Joshua Betts’ relentless pursuit, bearing down on Jones and ripping him down as he released the ball. Garvin nearly brought the hurried pass to the house for a 40-yard interception return before taken down at the Southern Virginia 5-yard line.
Due to an illegal blocking penalty on the interception return and a holding on the next play, the Red Hawks were pushed back to the Southern Virginia 25-yard line. Yet, no fret, as Adzima hit freshman Zahir Wilder amidst traffic for a 24-yard touchdown heave on the run to bolster the Red Hawks lead to 17-0. Adzima would go on to throw for his third touchdown on the day in the third quarter, hooking up with sophomore tight end Brian Kowalczyk for a 14-yard touchdown strike in the back left corner of the end zone.
Adzima’s performance could be summed up in one word and that is efficient. Despite only 10 pass attempts throughout the entire game, Adzima capitalized on his opportunities as he completed five of them for 102 yards and three touchdowns on beautifully placed balls, allowing the Red Hawks to drain the clock for the majority of the second half with a cozy lead. Adzima’s poise in the pocket and more fluent progressions are both extremely encouraging signs for the Red Hawks.
Senior defensive back Shaon Stephenson earned himself Montclair State Athletics’ Athlete of the Week honors for his continued stellar play, flying around all over the field to corral eight total tackles along with an interception. Fellow senior defensive back Michael Stradford led the team in total tackles with 10: six solo and four assisted. Junior linebacker Mauro Altamura also chipped in with eight tackles of his own. As the season progresses, the Red Hawks’ playmaker-laden defensive unit appears primed to wreak havoc on opposing offenses.
Crossing the longest trips of the season off the schedule within the first two weeks can only bode well for the Red Hawks as all but one (the Red Hawks will visit Frostburg State on Oct. 21, 2017) of their remaining eight games will be held in the Garden State. After splitting their first two contests, the Red Hawks seek to build off their convincing victory in their home opener clash versus NJAC rival Christopher Newport University Captains at 1 p.m. at Sprague Field on Saturday. Head on down to ‘Red Hawk Country’ and show your support because this squad is ready to take flight to new heights.