Story and photo courtesy of Kutztown Athletics
– The Kutztown University football team turned in a champion-like performance Saturday afternoon. In the opening game of the NCAA Super Region 1 playoffs, KU defeated Concord University, 17-14, and earned its first-ever playoff win in the 96-year history of the program.
Kutztown moves onto the second round of the Super Region 1 playoffs and will travel to second-seed New Haven on Saturday, Nov. 26 for a playoff matchup beginning at 12 p.m.
It was a record-setting day for the Golden Bears (11-1 overall). With the win, KU set a school record for wins in a season. Last year's ten wins was the previous record.
It required a total team effort for the Golden bears to pull out the win. Members of both the offense and defense deserve to be credited for the milestone victory. From game-changing runs to blocked kicks, Saturday's showdown featured a bevy of exciting plays.
The Kutztown defense is in the midst of a phenomenal stretch of games. It has not allowed over 14 points in four straight games as well as five of its last six. It saw the Concord offense begin drives on KU's end of the field and it continued to shut down any attack the Mountain Lions could throw at them.
“I'm very proud of the way our defense came out and played today,” head football coach Raymond Monica said. “We had so many big plays and with five turnovers, our guys had an outstanding day. I have to give credit to Coach Iezzi and the defensive staff. They had an unbelievable day today.”
Senior defensive end Brett Moss had four sacks in the victory, setting a KU single-season record with 17 sacks. The previous record was 16 set by Jay Schiavello in the 1980 season. Moss's four sacks are the most by a Golden Bear this season. He found ways to penetrate the CU offensive line time after time. He finished with eight tackles including two forced fumbles and a pass breakup. Moss entered Saturday's playoff contest ranked fourth in Division II in sacks per game (1.18).
“It means a lot to me,” Moss said about being a part of the Kutztown record books. “I've never really held any records before, and with this being my first year at Kutztown, I am very thankful for being able to contribute to the team.”
Junior defensive back Alex DiNolfi intercepted passes on back-to-back possessions Saturday. With Concord inside the Kutztown 35-yardline on consecutive drives, DiNolfi used his talents that has helped KU become the top interception team in the conference to take away a pair of passes from CU quarterback Zack Grossi. DiNolfi now leads the NCAA and set a KU single-season record with 11 interceptions this season. The previous record was ten by Kevin Keeler in 1976.
Junior linebacker Andrew Hodges has exploded on the scene this season and has become one of KU's most consistent and dominant linebackers. He had 14 tackles Saturday including ten solo tackles and two for a loss. Hodges leads KU with 109 tackles this season and entered the game ranked 73rd in Division II in tackles per game (8.64).
John Kreuer had 13 tackles in the victory and is second on the team with 83 tackles this season. Kreuer was a key ingredient in KU's rush defense that allowed just 102 rushing yards including just seven in the second half.
Freshman cornerback English Peay shadowed opposing receivers all day and finished with ten tackles, nine of which were solo. Colin Henny chipped in eight tackles, and Corey Harris, Jason Henshaw and Jason Ulmer each added seven.
Henshaw gave the Golden Bears a much-needed boost early in the second quarter on the defensive end. With Concord prepared to take a two-possession lead with an ensuing field goal, the senior defensive tackle charged through the CU line and blocked Dwayne Stokes' attempt from 32 yards. Peay scooped up the blocked kick on KU's own 2-yardline and took it 46 yards to set up an eventual KU touchdown.
“In our first playoff game, we knew we needed to be sharp on defense,” Moss said. “It's an unbelievable feeling to be a part of a team with this many wins and to be a part of such a great team-defense this season.”
Senior running back Robbie Frey ran for a game-high 157 yards on 25 carries including a 52-yard scamper up the middle early in the second quarter to tie the game at seven apiece.
Frey has done an outstanding job for KU this season and has been rewarded with what is sure to be a memorable achievement. With a 1-yard run to end the first quarter, Frey achieved the 1,000-yard mark for the season. He has now racked up 1,139 yards on the ground this season and is averaging 103.5 per game with 11 touchdowns.
Senior quarterback Marshall Vogel stepped in for an injured Kevin Morton again this week and was able to effectively contain the ball on offense and lead his team to victory. He finished with 88 passing yards on 6-for-15 passing including a 21-yard TD strike to Josh Smith in the final minute of the third quarter to give KU a 14-7 lead. KU would not trail for the rest of the game.
“I knew there may be a higher chance of me playing today than other games, but my preparation has stayed the same all year,” Vogel said. “I worked with Kevin and Coach Folmar all week on preparing for Concord and they have really helped me get better. These guys have always supported me and had confidence in me, and that was a very reassuring feeling heading into today.”
The TD was Smith's 23rd of his career, tying Mark Steinmeyer for the most in KU history. Smith finished the game with a team-high 67 yards on two catches.
Despite the tough defeat, Concord (7-4) received a valiant effort from its junior quarterback. Grossi threw for 338 yards on 33-for-52 passing and two scores. Brian Kennedy ran for 104 yards on the ground including a 16-yard run to open the scoring late in the first quarter.
The Mountain Lions had 26 first downs compared to Kutztown's 11. Its downfall was capitalizing on just 2-of-4 red zone chances and converting on 1-of-4 fourth-down conversions.
Kutztown's historic season continues next week after protecting its home field for the sixth straight time this season. Next Saturday's trip up to Connecticut hopes to be one that returns a Regional Championship-bound Golden Bear bunch.