NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Christopher Newport opened the 2021 football season Saturday night, scoring in the final minute of the fourth quarter to pull out a 28-24 victory over Washington and Lee University. Sophomore quarterback Matt Dzierski, making his first start for the Captains, threw two touchdown passes and ran for two scores, including the game-winner with just 39 seconds remaining in the final stanza of the seesaw battle at TowneBank Stadium. The non-conference matchup marked the first game with fans in attendance in nearly 22 months, and a crowd of 3,160 was treated to an exciting back-and forth struggle on a beautiful night for action.
"I just can't say enough about my team and how well we played tonight," Head Coach Art Link said following the victory. "That was a gutsy performance against a good program, and I'm thrilled that we were able to get the job done. Our defense was solid against a very dangerous offense, and our offense really came alive. Matt Dzierski made some big plays, and was a great leader for us. Now we have to build on this effort and keep it going."
A product of South County High School and Lorton, Va., Dzierski scampered for what proved to be the game winner from six yards out to cap a 13-play, 75-yard drive that used up most of the final six minutes of the game. Dzierski completed 29 of 39 passes for 266 yards and also rushed the ball 14 times for 47 yards.
Dzierski opened the scoring midway through the first quarter with a 12-yard run that put the Captains up, 7-0. Washington and Lee answered with two scores in the second quarter on short runs by Josh Breece and Alex Wertz to post its first lead of the game, 14-7. In the final minute of the first half, Dzierski connected with quarterback-turned-wide receiver Xander Jedlick on a 36-yard scoring pass with just 26 seconds remaining to even the score at 14-14 heading to the intermission.
Following a scoreless third quarter, Dzierski and Jedlick connected again early in the fourth quarter on a 27-yard touchdown hookup that put the Captains back in front, 21-14. The Generals bounced right back, recording a four-play, 64-yard drive, to knot the game at 21-21 on a 20-yard touchdown run from Coby Kirland. W&L then re-claimed the lead, 24-21, on a 35-yard field goal from Arturo Ramirez with 5:59 to go, setting the stage for the exciting finish.
The Captains final drive featured six Dzierski pass completions to four different receivers, as well as four runs by the CNU quarterback, including the six-yard, game-deciding scamper with just 39 seconds left that sent the Captains fans home happy.
A total of eight different receivers caught passes, led by fifth year senior Garrison Mayo with ten receptions for 91 yards. Jedlick caught four passes, two for scores, for 88 yards. The Captains defense was led by fifth year senior Conner Ryan, who registered eight tackles. Fellow senior linebackers Jason Massengill (seven) and Sean Wilkinson (six) followed Ryan in the tackle column, as the Captains held the Generals to just 225 total offensive yards.
The game marked the start of the 21st season of Christopher Newport football, and the 20th fall campaign following a two-game spring season. Christopher Newport (1-0) will travel to Danville, Va., next Saturday to play the Cougars of Averett University (0-1). Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.