NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Christopher Newport posted a fourth quarter comeback Saturday, and outlasted Montclair State at POMOCO Stadium in a double overtime thriller, 28-21. The Captains, now 5-1 overall and 4-1 in the New Jersey Athletic Conference, used a dynamic defensive effort in the second half to send a Family Weekend standing-room-only crowd of 4,711 fans home happy.
Junior quarterback K.J. Kearney threw three touchdown passes and junior linebacker Brennan Gary recorded 16 tackles as the Captains kept pace with four other teams at the top of the NJAC Standings. "That was just a fantastic football game with two teams grinding it out," Head Coach Matt Kelchner said. "I think we were able to win because of our poise and conditioning down the stretch."
Kearney connected with sophomore wide receiver Joshua Davis on a four-yard scoring strike with just 33.3 seconds left on the fourth quarter clock, and sophomore kicker Grant Kelchner's extra point tied the game at 21-21. The Red Hawks then ran out the clock to send the game to overtime.
Both squads failed to score in the opening overtime period, as MSU blocked a Grant Kelchner 41-yard field goal try sending the game to a second extra session. The Captains opened the second OT with the ball, and Kearney found senior Taylor Loudan on back-to-back plays, the second an 18-yard scoring pass to give the Captains their first lead since early in the opening quarter. It was the second time the two had connected for scoring strikes on the day.
Montclair State, now 3-3 overall and 2-3 in the NJAC, then took over and was unable to get anything going against the stingy CNU defense. Senior defensive lineman Allen Hayes and junior lineman Chris Coggins combined on a sack and then three incomplete passes ended the Hawks hopes.
"We knew coming in this would be a tough battle," Kelchner continued. "Montclair State has good size and talent. I think we really made some big plays, especially on defense, in the second half when we absolutely had to."
CNU trailed at the half, 21-14, following a back-and-forth opening stanza. The Captains grabbed the lead on the opening possession of the game thanks to a 12-play, 93-yard drive that culminated with a 24-yard scoring run from junior Kyree Burton. Montclair State pulled even on its first possession and the game was tied 7-7 after the opening quarter.
Early in the second quarter, the Red Hawks took the lead on a 50-yard scoring strike from freshman quarterback Ryan Adzima to a wide open junior wide receiver Julanee Prince to make it 14-7 MSU. "We really gave them that score thanks to a blown coverage," Kelchner continued. "We knew we had to tighten up on defense in the second half and we did."
Montclair State senior running back John DiStefano ran wild in the opening half, posting 145 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns for the Red Hawks. CNU's defense then held DiStefano to minus 10 yards in the second half on 14 attempts. CNU overall held Montclair State to just 17 yards on 28 plays in the second half and overtime periods.
Kearney finished the afternoon 17 of 31 passing for 157 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Loudan caught 12 passes for 113 yards and two scores. Burton rushed for 106 yards on 11 carries with a score.
The game marked CNU's first overtime action in more than two seasons. The Captains are now 6-2 all-time in overtime games. CNU last went to overtime on September 27th of 2014 at POMOCO Stadium, a 51-48 double overtime victory over Methodist.
The victory evened the series with the Red Hawks at 1-1. Last year in Montclair, N.J., the Captains held the lead at halftime, 22-7, only to lose as Montclair State scored 25 unanswered points in the second half for a 32-22 triumph.
The Captains remain in a first-place tie with Rowan, Wesley, Salisbury and Frostburg State at 4-1 in the NJAC standings. All five squads in the first-place logjam were victorious on Saturday. Christopher Newport travels to Frostburg State next Saturday for a 1:00 p.m. kickoff with the Bobcats.