Red Hawks Football Shuts Out Christopher Newport in Homecoming Game

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Published October 23, 2019
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The Montclarion
Junior running back Craig Merkle stiff arms a defender on his way to the end zone. The touchdown was called back because of an offensive penalty. Ben Caplan | The Montclarion

After a rocky 1-3 start to the season, Montclair State Football has now won back-to-back games to even their record out at 3-3.

A dominant 24-0 shutout of Christopher Newport University in their last showing has left the team feeling confident moving forward. Defensive Coordinator Todd Agresta was ecstatic to have his team back in contention.

“It’s great,” Agresta said. “We said that last week before TCNJ, if we can get to 3-3 going into Wesley, we’re going to be in great shape.”

The first quarter of the game was largely uneventful, with neither offense able to generate more than 20 yards in a drive. This changed in the second quarter.

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Junior wide receiver Carsen Johnson catches a pass.
Ben Caplan | The Montclarion

On the first play of the quarter, senior wide receiver Kason Campbell brought home a 54-yard reception for a touchdown. Sophomore kicker Anthony Marinelli succeeded on the extra point attempt and put the Red Hawks up 7-0. This was the first time since week two that Montclair State was the first team to score.

Newport came out aggressive, which backfired on the third play of the drive. Junior linebacker Seamus Nelson caught the first of four interceptions for the Red Hawks defense.

A 53-yard drive followed for the Red Hawks offense that looked in control. Three first downs later and Marinelli converted a 32-yard field goal, putting Montclair State up 10-0.

The Red Hawks defense would force their second turnover of the quarter, an interception by sophomore defensive back Zack Zaccone with just under a minute before halftime.

Montclair State started the second half with the ball, looking to build upon their lead. On their first play, a pass that ricocheted off of the hands of Campbell was caught by a Newport defensive back for an interception.

Once again, the Montclair State defense forced a takeaway to halt the Newport offense. Senior defensive lineman Rodney DiPrenda forced and recovered the fumble from the Newport running back.

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Freshman running back Abellany Mendez dodges a Christopher Newport player.
Ben Caplan | The Montclarion

The teams traded ineffective offensive possessions before another successful Red Hawks drive. Freshman running back Abellany Mendez had back to back 15-yard runs that set the tone for the rest of the drive.

Junior quarterback Ja’Quill Burch went four for five on the drive with 54 yards, cultivating in a five-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Zach Skrivanic. Another successful extra point gave the Red Hawks a commanding 17-0 lead with about 20 minutes left in regulation.

The first play of the ensuing Newport drive resulted in yet another turnover. Junior defensive back Zahir Wilder intercepted a pass, giving the Red Hawks their fourth defensive takeaway of the game.

Despite the lead, the Montclair State offense suffered a huge loss in the third quarter, when Burch was sacked for a 12-yard loss. He was slow to get up and did not play another snap. Burch still finished respectably, going 13 of 21 with 160 yards to go along with two touchdowns and one interception.

The desperate Newport offense was looking to make up the 17-point difference heading into the final quarter. This led to another sloppy play, with sophomore defensive back Brennan Ray making an interception. This brought the Red Hawks offense back to the field, now led by junior quarterback Angelo Golino.

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Junior quarterback Angelo Golino runs in his 16 yard touchdown.
Ben Caplan | The Montclarion

Mendez burst out for a 45-yard rush that brought the team back to the red zone. The offense scored twice on the drive, with the first called back due to a penalty. Golino ran the ball in for a 16-yard touchdown that put Montclair State ahead 24-0.

On the ensuing kickoff, emotions boiled over. Both teams began pushing and shoving, being called for offsetting penalties. Senior offensive lineman Luc Excellent traced the incident back to a game last season.

“It all comes down to last year,” Excellent said. “We went down there on their homecoming and we kicked a field goal and celebrated on their logo. So ever since they came in, they [were] disrespecting us, stepped on the hawk. I guess it got chippy at the end, guys don’t like that, it’s a chippy sport. Guys are gonna push around. We don’t take that. Not here.”

Following the incident, the defense limited Newport to a measly two yards of offense over the rest of the game to top off an impressive shutout performance. The Red Hawks defense allowed as many first downs (five) as they had takeaways.

After the impressive showing, preparation for next week’s game against Wesley College will begin.

“Wesley next week, that’s gonna be a tough game,” Excellent said. “We[‘re] playing them at home. We beat them by a point last year, I think we can come out with that. As long as we come out aggressive, we’ll be alright.”

Agresta also commented on the Red Hawks looking towards next week.

“We’re gonna have our hands full, but if we have a good week of preparation, I like our chances going in,” Agresta said.

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