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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Stony Brook football to host NCAA playoff

    Head coach Chuck Priore and his Seawolves celebrated their 41-31 win over the University of Liberty Flames, earning their first outright Big South conference championship ever. (Kenneth Ho/The Statesman).

    The Stony Brook football team ran onto the field Saturday night in its new black commemorative jerseys and beat Big South rival Liberty, giving the Seawolves their first entrance into the NCAA playoffs in the school’s history.

    The team finished its regular season schedule on a school record-breaking eight-game winning streak.

    “You can go in and coach a game and be nervous, you can go in and coach a game and be scared, or you can go in and coach a game and be confident,” head coach Chuck Priore. “I was very confident in our team’s ability to win the football game.”

    With the way the team has been playing, it’s clear that confidence resonates throughout the entire team. Stony Brook has scored 385 points in the past eight games, compared to 154 by its opponents, and this year the Seawolves have dominated the Big South conference.

    Liberty’s quarterback, Mike Brown, had an impressive game, completing 23 of 36 passes with 361 yards and one touchdown, but he allowed three sacks by Stony Brook’s powerful defense.

    Brown put points on the board first when he ran for a 3-yard touchdown with 7:46 left in the first quarter. Running back Brock Jackolski answered back a few minutes later with a notable 39-yard run to tie the game 7-7.

    When running backs Jackolski and Miguel Maysonet speed through the opposing team, Stony Brook’s offensive line is always credited. However, the dynamic duo of running backs also return the favor and help the offensive line do what they need to do.

    “Playing the offensive line, you’re not always going to get every single block,” said offensive lineman Michael Bamiro. “While we’re playing out there, they move and they make plays out of gaps they find. They definitely make our jobs a lot easier.”

    Since the loss of quarterback Michael Coulter at the beginning of the season, quarterback Kyle Essington took over the job and has been impressive to say the least. He can run with the ball, is quick in the pocket and has a rocket for an arm. Essington found wide receiver Kevin Norrell for 26 yards and Stony Brook’s second touchdown of the game, giving the Seawolves a 14-7 lead.

    “He’s a hell of a quarterback,” said running back Miguel Maysonet. “Once Kyle was in there, we all believed in him. At the end of the day, I’m happy to have him here with us.”

    Essington’s debut as a starter is the best by a Stony Brook quarterback in the 12-year history of the program as a Division 1 School.

    “I definitely have done everything I can and I think what really contributed to the offense’s success was really just everyone believing in each other and working hard as a team,” said Essington. “I think this team, when we play together, we’re better than any 1-AA team out there.”

    The second quarter was a punch for punch battle between the two squads. Liberty’s running back Aldreakis Allen ran the ball into the end zone for nine yards, which was followed by a 36-yard field goal by Stony Brook’s kicker Wesley Skiffington’s, making the score 21-17.

    With 4:29 left in the first half, Essington found wide receiver Matt Brevi for a 49-yard touchdown pass.

    “That was a great play call by the coaches,” said Essington in response to the play. “Brevi did an excellent job at getting open and the line did an awesome job protecting.”

    Liberty scored first in the second half with a 45-yard field goal by its kicker Alex Kacere, tying the game up 24-24. With 3:53 left in the quarter, Jackolski proved that he could catch as well as run when he caught a 14-yard pass from Essington to bump up Stony Brook’s lead to 31-24.

    Liberty’s Brown hardly gave Stony Brook a chance to celebrate the touchdown when, 21 seconds later, he ran the ball 15 yards into the end zone to tie the game again 31-31 with one quarter left to go.

    In the fourth quarter with less than 10 minutes on the clock, Maysonet powered through Liberty’s defense at its one-yard line for a touchdown, giving Stony Brook a 38-31 lead with little time left on the clock.

    Shortly after Brown gained possession of the ball, Stony Brook’s defensive back Dominick Reyes forced a fumble on the normally sure-handed Liberty quarterback. Reyes recovered his own forced fumble and gave Stony Brook great field position with 8:39 left to go in the game.

    An 18-yard field goal from Skiffington sealed the deal for the Big South championship game and Stony Brook players, coaches and fans rushed the field to celebrate winning the Big South title.

    Stony Brook found itself in a similar position last year when it would have received its first NCAA playoff berth if it could have beaten Liberty in the final game of the season.

    Last year, Liberty defeated Stony Brook 54-28 and ended the Seawolves’ hope for the NCAA playoffs. This year is different.

    “Everybody asks, well last year they stopped you,” said Priore. “And they did stop us, but this year they didn’t.”

    Stony Brook showed up on the field with brand new commemorative black Nike jerseys, which gave the team a bit more confidence and swagger as it entered the game.

    “Did it score us a touchdown? No.” said Priore in response to the uniform change. “But it certainly allowed me to have a pretty good pregame speech, which was wear them, we’re proud of you, let’s go kick their butt.”

    This win not only gives Stony Brook its first NCAA playoff berth, but it also gives the team its third Big South conference title in a row.

    “To outright win it, solely win it, I think it’s a statement for Stony Brook as an institution,” said Jackolski. “It’s a big accomplishment for all of us to win the Big South.”

    Stony Brook has a week to prepare for what will be the biggest game in the school’s history.

    “We’re going to work on making sure we are 100% healthy for next Saturday afternoon,” said Priore.

    It was announced on ESPN Sunday morning that Stony Brook is going to face Albany for the first round of the NCAA playoffs at LaValle Stadium in Stony Brook, N.Y. Both Stony Brook and Albany enter this game with an 8-3 record in the regular season.

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