NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Christopher Newport's defense again stood tall Saturday afternoon, and junior kicker/punter Dylan Curran provided all of the points, as the Captains concluded the 2018 football season with a 16-14 victory over Wesley College. The Senior Day nail-biter in front of 3,862 fans at POMOCO Stadium gave the Captains a 7-2 final overall record, and a 6-2 mark in the New Jersey Athletic Conference. The victory was the fourth straight for CNU, as the Captains finished the year with two defeats for just the third time in the 18-year history of the program. "Our defensive coaches put in a great plan for this week," Head Coach Art Link said following the victory. "I think we've shown week in and week out that our defense is one of the top in the country. We knew today that they would probably put up some big yardage, and they did with 428 total yards, but that's fine when you only allow 14 points. We made the stops when we had to."
Wesley finishes the season with a 6-4 overall mark and a 5-4 NJAC record. The Wolverines suffered their four losses this year by a total of just five points, as Wesley came into the season finale with three one-point defeats.
Curran, a junior kicker/punter, provided all the points by virtue of three field goals, a five-yard run on a fake field goal attempt, and an extra point. It's the second-highest point total from a kicker in a CNU game behind only Stephen Denuel's 17-point performance at Stevenson in 2011. "Dylan's got a big leg and I think he just needed the confidence," Link continued. "He's come on and hit some big field goals for us and from long range...he bailed us out today and did a great job."
Curran opened the scoring on a sunny and breezy day six minutes into the opening quarter with a 32-yard field goal after the Captains intercepted a pass and took over at the Wesley 20-yard line. The pick would be the first of four for CNU on the day. Christopher Newport later put together an impressive 91-yard drive that carried from the first quarter into the second. The Captains executed 19 plays on the drive, with the final looking like a field goal attempt. Instead, holder Nick Hunter pitched the ball to Curran who scampered five yards for CNU's only touchdown of the day.
Wesley bounced back with a big play with 1:20 left in the first half as senior quarterback Khaaliq Burroughs connected with senior receiver Alex Kemp on a 65-yard scoring strike. The Wolverines would get the ball back again in the final minute of the first half, only to be turned away by CNU's defense, and the Captains held a 10-7 advantage at the half.
Following the intermission, Curran added to the lead at the 12:17 mark of the third quarter when he connected on a 47-yard field goal, matching his longest effort of the season and his career. CNU held a 13-7 edge at the end of three quarters. The Wolverines began the final stanza backed up at their two-yard line. Wesley traveled 98 yards on 14 plays, with junior E.J. Lee scoring on an 11-yard run to cap the drive and give Wesley its first lead of the day, 14-13.
Curran and the Captains weren't done, though, as CNU senior safety B.J. Hill recorded the fourth interception of the afternoon and the Captains took over at the Wesley 31-yard line with 6:32 to play. CNU's offense was held to just three yards on three plays, but Curran came on again and connected on a 45-yard field goal that proved to be the deciding score of the game. Christopher Newport's defense then took over, holding the Wolverines scoreless on their final two possessions of the game to preserve the 16-14 verdict. The game concluded in frantic fashion as the Captains stopped the Wolverines at the CNU 30-yard line and time expired.
CNU's defensive effort included contributions from many areas. Junior Ben James led the squad in tackles with 11, including two sacks. Fellow junior Conner Ryan made five stops, with four coming on sacks. He tied the CNU record for sacks in a game set by Ian Vincent in 2003 against Averett. On Senior Day, seniors Rhett Morris and Collin Banks each registered nine tackles, and seniors Marckel Bonds and Hunter Boone had six stops each. The Captains four interceptions Saturday gave them 18 for the year in nine games, just one shy of last year's single season record of 19 which was set in a ten-game season. Junior D.J. Wright made two picks, while senior B.J. Hill and junior Damian Jiggetts posted one each.
Christopher Newport's two losses in 2018 both came in overtime at POMOCO Stadium in defeats to Montclair State and Salisbury. CNU went 4-0 in road contests, finishing undefeated in road games for the first time in program history. The Captains played just nine games this year due to the cancellation of the game at Frostburg State due to Hurricane Florence.
The Captains have now posted an all-time record of 121-67 (.644) since the start of the program. Link concluded his second year at the helm, improving from five wins last year to seven, and giving him a 12-7 overall mark leading the Captains. "I'm really excited for our guys and where we're going and how we're building," Link continued. "The mentality of our team is so locked in that it's a joy to coach...they've got a lot to be proud of and there's a lot of good things coming here."