For the first time in school history, the SUNY Cortland football team is the NCAA Division III national champion.
In an upset Friday night at Salem Stadium in Salem, Va., the Red Dragons won the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, defeating No. 1-ranked North Central (Ill.) — last year’s national champion — 38-37. The Red Dragons prevailed thanks to a stop on North Central’s attempted 2-point conversion with 1:20 left.
Cortland (14-1) trailed 7-3 at the half, but the second half featured 65 combined points between the teams, with Red Dragons quarterback Zac Boyes throwing five second-half touchdown passes. The last one, a 21-yard TD pass to Cole Burgess with 1:41 remaining in the game, turned out to be the difference.
North Central answered quickly, with quarterback Luke Lehnen throwing a 40-yard TD pass to DeAngelo Hardy just 21 seconds later, but the Cardinals went for two, and Lehnen was stopped short of the end zone.
Boyes was 26 for 34 passing for 349 yards, outdueling his counterpart Lehnen, who had earlier been named the Gagliardi Trophy winner as Division III’s best player. Boyes also ran for 123 yards in the win.
Cortland entered the playoffs ranked No. 11 in the D3Football.com national poll, but rattled off five consecutive wins, upending four consecutive previously unbeaten opponents along the way. That includes the Cardinals on Friday night.
It’s the first NCAA Division III national title for a New York team since Cortland’s rival, Ithaca, won it all in 1991.