Buoyed by outstanding performances from an array of former Long Island high school football players, Cortland captured the NCAA Division III football championship Friday night with a thrilling 38-37 win over defending champion North Central (Illinois) in Salem, Virginia.
Plainedge High School product Joe Iadevaio caught two second-half touchdowns and totaled eight receptions for 95 yards. Another wide receiver from Long Island, JJ Laap out of Ward Melville hauled in a 65-yard touchdown in the third quarter, as Cortland’s high-powered offense exploded for 35 points in the second half.
Leading the way was the Red Dragons’ stalwart quarterback Zach Boyes, who threw for four touchdowns, while completing 26 of 34 passes for 349 yards. The Kenmore, New York, native also rushed for 132 yards on just 16 carries.
Boyes’ final touchdown strike came with 1:40 to play and put Cortland up 38-31. In what had become a familiar theme throughout the second half, North Central struck back fast. The Cardinals quarterback Luke Lehnen connected on a 60-yard touchdown with receiver Deangelo Hardy, leaving North Central behind by one.
North Central fell short on it’s two-point conversion attempt when Cortland’s Jaden Martinez of Comsewogue and Naz Jean-Lubin of Freeport swarmed Lehnen short of the goal line.Embed from Getty Images
Cortland recovered the subsequent onside kick and Boyes was able to run out the clock, making the SUNY school the first team from New York to win the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl since Ithaca in 1991.
Sen. Chuck Schumer congratulated Cortland with a post on X, noting that the Red Dragons “make history.”
Cortland, located Upstate in central New York, recruits heavily on Long Island. Thirty-seven players on this year’s roster are from either Nassau or Suffolk.
Martinez, a junior who plays middle linebacker, led Cortland’s defense with 10 tackles. Jack Winey of Lindenhurst had seven tackles. Several other Long Islanders, including defensive end Max Llewllyn of Sayville and defensive lineman Will Ruckert of Lindenhurst (the younger brother of New York Jets tight end Jeremy Ruckert) contributed on defense for Cortland.
On offense, running back Jaden AlfanoStJohn of Westhampton had 26 yards rushing and 19 yards receiving.
Championship in picturesEmbed from Getty Images