Story and photo courtesy of Ithaca Athletics
ITHACA, N.Y. - The Ithaca football team maintained its perfect record with a 40-22 win over Utica on Saturday at Butterfield Stadium in Ithaca. The Bombers are now 4-0 overall, 2-0 in Empire 8 play, while Utica fell to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the Empire 8. Ithaca has now won 12 of the 13 all-time meetings between the teams.
Quarterback Phil Neumann (Burnt Hills/Burnt Hills-Ballston Spa) threw for 310 yards, and found wide receiver Joseph Ingrao (Nesconset/St. Anthony's) 10 times for 174 yards and a touchdown. Clay Ardoin (Dolgeville/Dolgeville) ran 20 times for 141 yards and the Bombers totaled 22 first downs, didn't commit any turnovers in the game, and held the ball for almost 39 of the game's 60 minutes.
The Bombers raced out to a 21-0 lead and never looked back. Ithaca got on the board midway through the first quarter on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Phil Neumann (Burnt Hills/Burnt Hills-Ballston Spa) to Jared Prugar (York, Maine/York) that capped a six-play, 61-yard drive.
Freshman Josh Oliver (Poughkeepsie/Poughkeepsie) played an intergral role in the offense, as he lined up for direct snap formations out of shotgun formations in the red zone. He scored Ithaca's next touchdown, making the score 14-0 with 3:58 left in the first quarter on an 8-yard touchdown run. That drive started after Ithaca's defense forced and recovered a Utica fumble. Joe Armeli (Falconer/Falconer) made the hit on a Utica ball-carrier and Zach Matuszak (Binghamton/Johnson City) recovered at the Utica 29.
Ithaca's third touchdown came at the end of an eight-play, 39-yard drive that was set up by an 18-yard punt return from Sam Carney (Hanover, N.H./Hanover). Wide receiver Joseph Ingrao (Nesconset/St. Anthony's) hauled in a 4-yard pass from Neumann to extend the Bomber lead to 21-0.
Ithaca held a 17-minute advantage in time of possession, highlighted by two drives in the second half that put the game out of reach. The Bombers led 24-10 with 6:00 remaining in the third quarter and took over possession at their own 5 yard line. Ithaca mixed run and pass effectively over 13 plays, and went 95 yards for the touchdown. It took 6:28 off the clock, and early in the fourth quarter the Bombers were ahead 31-10 after Oliver rushed for his second touchdown of the game.
Utica responded with a 70-yard touchdown drive, but the Bombers put the game away with a 14-play, 82-yard touchdown march. The Bombers capped the march with a 1-yard run from Jarrett Naiden (Easton, Pa./Easton Area).
The Bomber defense was paced by safety Tom Scanlon (Bethany, Conn./Amity Regional) who made 11 tackles. Joe Ricotta (Perry/Letchworth) and Skyler Schlenker (Norwich, Vt./Hanover) each had two tackles for loss, and Dan Sheldon (Ridgefield, Conn./Ridgefield) and Chris Williams (Johnson City/Binghamton) had one each. Brian Garvey (Franklin, Mass./Franklin) broke up three passes and had seven tackles.
Ithaca blocked two extra-point attempts in the game. The first was blocked by Ryan Michaels (Succasunna, N.J./Roxbury) early in the fourth quarter. The second came wth 1:57 remaining in the fourth quarter. Malik Morris (New Hyde Park/Sewanhaka) blocked an extra-point kick attempt and it was returned by Chris Williams (Johnson City/Binghamton) for a two-point score for Ithaca's special teams unit. It was the first extra-point return score for the Bombers since 2009 against St. John Fisher.
Place-kicker Garrett Nicholson (State College, Pa./State College Area) converted all five extra-point attempts and also made a 27-yard field goal in the game.