Long Island talent fuels Cortland’s charge in DIII football championship on Friday



That’s the whopping grand total of former Long Island high school football players on Cortland, which has enjoyed a storybook run to Friday night’s NCAA DIII national championship versus North Central (Illinois).

On both sides of the ball, the SUNY school features standout Long Island performers from the likes of Sayville, Comsewogue, Plainedge, Ward Melville, Westhampton Beach, Lindenhurst and Patchogue. In all, more than 30 Suffolk and Nassau county high schools are represented on the Red Dragons roster.

The 50th Stagg Bowl takes place in Salem, Virginia, at 7 p.m. It will be televised on ESPNU.

In the program’s first-ever national semifinal appearance, Cortland (13-1) routed Randolph-Macon, 49-14, last Saturday. The defending champs North Central (14-0) beat Wartburg , 34-27, to return to the Stagg Bowl.

Cortland is the first team from New York to play in the Stagg Bowl since Ithaca in 1991.

Fueling Cortland’s high-powered offense

On offense, Westhampton Beach graduate Jaden AlfanoStJohn has rushed for 1,378 yards and 17 touchdowns to help spearhead one of the nation’s most explosive offenses. AlfanoStJohn transferred to Cortland after one season at Long Island University, and has now rushed for over 1,000 yards in two of his three seasons with Cortland. The 2019 Hansen Award winner rushed for 109 yards on 16 carries in the win over Randolph-Macon.

Ward Melville product JJ Laap is one of stalwart quarterback Zac Boyes’ favorite targets. The senior wide receiver has caught 68 passes for 1,216 yards and 13 touchdowns. An exercise science major, Laap earned first-team All-Empire 8 honors in 2021 and 2022 and is a three-year starter for the Red Dragons.

Joe Iadevaio of Massapequa has 29 receptions for 367 yards and four scores. A Plainedge High School graduate, the sophomore took over a starting role at wide receiver midway through the season. He caught four passes for 53 yards in last week’s semifinal victory.

Freshman Tyson Taylor out of Longwood High School has contributed 331 yards rushing on 53 carries, with two scores.

Strong Island of defense

Two tackling machines from Long Island — linebackers Jack Winey of Lindenhurst and Jaden Martinez of Comsewogue — lead the Red Dragons’ defense.

Winey, a junior, has amassed 134 tackles; he’s reached double figure in six games. With Lindy, he won two Long Island championships.

Martinez, who played four years of varsity football for Comsewogue and five seasons of varsity basketball in high school, has totaled 80 tackles, even while missing three games. Winey and Martinez both transferred this year from Nassau Community College.

Cortland’s starting defensive ends are both from Suffolk high schools. Nick Lardaro of Smithtown East leads the team with 7 1/2 sacks. The 6-foot-4 junior has 21 tackles.

Max Llewllyn of Sayville has 4 1/2 sacks and 48 tackles. He also leads the team with 21 quarterback hurries. One of the team’s three captains, Llwellyn had seven tackles against Randolph-Macon in the semifinals.

Sayville’s Llewllyn voted in by his peers as Cortland’s team captain

The 2021 Zellner Award Winner, Lllewllyn was a two-time defensive MVP at Sayville and won the Rutgers Cup with the Golden Flashes during the spring 2021 season.

Defensive lineman Will Ruckert of Lindenhurst is the younger brother of New York Jets tight end Jeremy Ruckert. He was high school teammates with Winey. He has 21 tackles and four sacks, and has played in all 14 of Cortland’s games.

Patchogue native Eli Alvarez, a freshman defensive back, recorded nine tackles in Cortland’s first-round playoff win over Grove City, 25-24.

Click here to scroll through Cortland football’s roster and see where the rest of the team’s Long Island players are from.

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Top photo: Cortland wide receiver No. 5 JJ Laap, a graduate of Ward Melville High School, helps the official indicate a first down for the Red Dragons during the team’s 49-14 NCAA DIII tournament semifinal win over Randolph-Macon.
(Source: Facebook/SUNY Cortland via @edlphotography)

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