Nearly 40 Long Islanders play for either Cortland or Ithaca, the Division III college football rivals squaring off Saturday in the annual Cortaca Jug game.
The two undefeated and nationally ranked teams square off at noon at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, in front of a crowd that stands a good chance of surpassing 50,000. In 2019, Cortaca set a record for a Division III football game, drawing 45,161 fans to MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, more than 200 miles away from the two Finger Lakes region campuses.
The game is so popular that alumni from both Finger Lakes region schools pack bars and others venues across the country for watch parties. The Cortaca Jug matchup has been held each year since 1959, routinely drawing over 10,000 fans on each campus and eventually came to be called the biggest little game in the nation.
This year, it will be televised by the YES Network, with 1978 Ithaca College graduate Bruce Beck handling the play-by-play.
Ithaca leads the series, winning 37 of the 62 contests. Due to the pandemic, the Central New York rivals did not play in 2020. Last year, Cortland held on for the win in a 28-27 nail-biter over the Blue Bombers.
Thirty-three Long Islanders are on Cortland’s roster, while Ithaca carries six players from Long Island. Here are some of the key players from Long Island expected to have an impact in the 63rd Cortaca Jug game.
CORTLAND RED DRAGONS
A running back transfer from Long Island University, Alfanostjohn earned the 2020 Hansen Award winner with Westhampton Beach High School. The sport management major leads the Red Dragons ground attack with 928 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns. The sophomore churned out a season-high 247 yards on 37 carries in a 28-7 win over Morrisville on Oct. 1.
The leading receiver for Cortland, Laap led Long Island in touchdown receptions and Suffolk County in receiving yards while playing for Ward Melville in 2018, earning All-Long Island honors and finishing as the Hansen Award runner-up. A double major in exercise science and fitness development, the junior is Cortland quarterback Zac Boyes’ favorite target so far this season, recording 32 receptions for 814 yards and five touchdowns. The Stony Brook resident caught nine passes for a whopping 312 yards in the season opener, a 48-28 win over Wittenburg.
A sophomore majoring in physical education, Messina was Suffolk’s top receiver in the spring 2021, playing for an undefeated Sayville High School team that earned the Rutgers Cup. This fall, Messina is second on the Red Dragons with 30 receptions. He has three TDS.
The junior physical education major is a huge scoring threat, with 27 catches and five touchdowns for the Red Dragons this fall. Before Cortland, Tucker was a starter for two seasons while playing for Nassau Community College, earning first-team JUCO All-America honors and finishing third nationally in all-purpose yards in 2018. A 2017 graduate of Freeport High School, he earned All-America honors and helped the Red Devils capture a Long Island Championship his senior season.
A 2021 graduate of Seaford High School, Ackerman, a physical education major, plays linebacker for Cortland and is second on the team in tackles with 42. At Seaford, he was a three-year starter and earned All-County honors.
Kolar, a sophomore studying physical education, ranks fourth on the Red Dragons with 40 tackles. The sophomore also has one interception. A 2021 Sayville High School graduate, Kolar was a key member of the Sayville team that earned the Rutgers Trophy in the spring 2021 season.
Lardaro, a sophomore, leads Cortland’s defense with 22 quarterback hurries and 5.5 sacks. He also has 24 tackles to his credit. At Smithtown East, the adolescence education major was a member of the National Honor Society and a three-year starter in football and basketball.
Llewellyn is Lardaro’s partner in crime on the Red Dragons’ defensive line. The sophomore ranks second on the Red Dragons with 15 quarterback hurries and 4.5 sacks. The physical education major also has 18 tackles. A 2021 Sayville, he too played on the Sayville squad that earned the Rutgers Cup in spring 2021. He was a three-time All-county and two-time All-Long Island and All-State selection.
ITHACA BLUE BOMBERS
A senior linebacker studying business administration, DeSimpliciis leads Ithaca’s defense with 64 tackles. At Garden City, DeSimpliciis starred in football and lacrosse. As a junior and senior, he was a key member of Garden City’s back-to-back Long Island Championships.
A senior defensive back, Stola has notched 31 tackles for the Blue Bombers this fall. At Northport, he earned All-League and All-County honors in football, and also played baseball.
Koumas has recorded 22 tackles while playing linebacker for Ithaca this season. The junior is a product of Huntington High School.