Rowan Football’s late rally is not enough to overcome Christopher Newport

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Josh Ortiz lines up before a play. Ortiz recorded nine tackles against Christopher Newport. - Photo via Rowan Athletics

After a game with many emotional highs and lows against TCNJ, head coach Jay Accorsi and the Profs returned to Richard Wackar Stadium in hopes of a win over the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) rival Christopher Newport Captains during homecoming weekend. The team was looking to ride the high of last week’s walk-off Hail Mary win, however, Christopher Newport had other plans, as the Captains spoiled Rowan’s homecoming and beat the Profs 21-18.

Things couldn’t have started any worse for Rowan, as Christopher Newport’s returner Trey Hayes would take the opening kick 95 yards to put the Captains up 7-0 before a play from scrimmage was even run.

“We are a better team than one that gives up easy scores like that,” Accorsi said. “We have to look at the film to see what happened but we got to be better, and it starts off that way.”

For the many fans in attendance and players on the field, Mother Nature chose to make the weather conditions far from ideal, as it was a combination of heavy winds and cold rain throughout.

Nate Maiers got the start under center for the injured Thomas Goldsborough. However, Maiers struggled to move the ball due to the weather conditions as in one play specifically, he was going through his throwing motion until the ball slipped out of his hand and landed in the arms of a Captains’ defender. 

“The ball was just slippery,” Accorsi said. “Nate was trying but some balls were overthrown and under-thrown… you expect that on a day like today, you’re not gonna be able to throw the ball all over the place.”

Goldsborough wasn’t the only Prof to miss action on Saturday, as senior running back James Fara was sidelined due to a broken hand, which opened the door for freshman running back Nunes Bukula IV to step up in a big way. Bukula IV rushed for 123 yards and one touchdown on 28 carries during Fara’s absence.

While both Maiers and Bukula IV had to step in for some older guys, they didn’t think any extra weight came with that.

“We don’t think it’s any pressure for us, I feel like we have the guys here that are all looking to make plays for us,” Bukula IV said. “We’re all here to do one thing and that’s play to win.”

Coach Accorsi also expressed how big of a boost Bukula IV has been in the absence of Fara.

“We don’t have Fara, and that’s just the part about football you have to try to manage and have players step up, and Nunes was huge for us today,” Accorsi said. “He’s a very slippery runner for how big and tall he is.”

Another player who stepped up was junior wide receiver Kevin Degnan, who finished the day with three catches for 120 yards and a touchdown, which he took 95 yards to cut the Captains’ lead to 21-16 with two minutes left. 

“He wiggles his way through the defense and takes off like a bat out of hell,” Accorsi said. “He’s still learning how to play and I think that the really good part is that he’s going to get much better and he’s a very dynamic player.”

The Profs would convert the ensuing two-point conversion after Maiers found wide receiver Shane Martin to make it a 21-18 game. With a sliver of hope left, the Profs attempted an onside kick, but they failed to recover, giving Christopher Newport the ball and the win.

After allowing just seven points in the win over TCNJ last week, the Profs’ defense picked up right where they left off, this time holding Christopher Newport’s offensive unit to just 14 points, all of which were in the first half.

The two touchdowns came from two touchdown runs, one being a one-yard run by quarterback Matt Dzierski and the other being a 49-yard run by running back Gunner White. Despite shutting the Captains down in the second half, junior defensive lineman and team captain Josh Ortiz thought the defense could have played better.

“At the end of the day we let up 14 points. We just can’t let those points happen,” Ortiz said. “The defense allowed a lot of big plays out there and in this instance, it cost us the game… if we stop those big plays we win this game.”

One thing that the Profs hope to take into next week is the play of Ortiz and freshman defensive lineman Carter Williams. The duo combined for 18 tackles, five for a loss, and a forced fumble. Coach Accorsi also loved how hard his players have been competing, and hopes to see it result in a win next week.

“We held the fort, we got the score at the end, got the two-point conversion and suddenly you’re only a field goal away from tying the game,” Accorsi said. “As long as we find that consistency on both sides we’ll be fine.”

The Profs will look to bounce back next week as they take on the visiting 3-3 Salisbury Ducks on Saturday, Oct. 21, at Richard Wackar Stadium.

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