The last two games the football team has played exemplify Newton’s Third Law. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For every heart-stopping win, there is an equally heartbreaking loss. The team’s 28–24 Cortaca Jug loss to SUNY Cortland on Nov. 16 serves as proof.
Cortland junior wide receiver John Babin caught a 41-yard pass from junior quarterback Tyler Hughes with 1:08 remaining in the fourth quarter to silence the raucous crowd at Butterfield Stadium. Babin was the Red Dragons’ main threat on offense as he entered the game with 1,000 receiving yards. He finished the game with eight receptions for 174 yards and two touchdowns. Bomber senior safety Tom Scanlon said the team was aware of Babin’s threat to the secondary.
“We had some stuff installed that was designed to keep him on lockdown,” Scanlon said. “As you guys just saw, the kid’s an A-plus receiver, an A-plus football player. He’s the best receiver we could potentially see all year.”
The Bombers attempted to respond, but junior wide receiver Vito Boffoli fumbled at the Red Dragons’ 41-yard line, and the Red Dragons fell on it to seal the game.
Boffoli’s fumble was the final nail in a coffin that the Bombers could have easily escaped had they not left points on the scoreboard. After driving 81 yards in the third quarter, junior quarterback Tom Dempsey tried to force a pass through coverage to senior tight end Jared Prugar in the back of the end zone, but it was intercepted by junior safety Andrew Tolosi.
For the second straight Cortaca Jug, the Blue and Gold had a golden opportunity to score a fourth-quarter touchdown. When senior running back Justin Autera dropped a punt, the Bombers recovered at the Cortland 20-yard line. After two runs, the Bombers had third and five at the Red Dragons’ 15-yard line when junior wide receiver Joel Lynch dropped a screen pass, forcing the Bombers to settle for a 32-yard field goal from junior kicker Garrett Nicholson.
Lynch was at the center of another pivotal play set up by a Cortland fumble. After freshman tight end Josh Riley fumbled with three seconds left in the first half, the Bombers had an opportunity to take a 21–14 lead into the locker room. Dempsey was able to avoid the Red Dragon pass rush and launch a pass toward the right corner of the end zone. Lynch leaped and caught the ball, but the referees ruled that Lynch lost possession of the football upon hitting the ground.
Lynch said he lost possession after having his arms tangled with a defender.
“My arm was around his arm, and as I fell to the ground, his body popped up and the ball came out,” Lynch said. “I didn’t have possession, so I guess that’s why they didn’t call it a touchdown.”
Bomber head coach Mike Welch also agreed, adding that the team’s three turnovers were costly. Welch downplayed the fact that the Bombers’ seniors will be known as the first group of seniors to have lost four straight Cortaca Jug games.
“I don’t deal in the negatives,” Welch said. “These guys played hard, and they earned an opportunity to play college football and earned an opportunity to be in the playoffs this year, and that’s what we’re focusing on.”
Scanlon, one of the 21 seniors to have gone winless in the Cortaca Jug competition, paused when asked about how that felt.
“It feels horrible; it feels pathetically bad,” he said. “I really wish for this group of guys that we could’ve got one. We worked too hard not to win those things.”