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Football: Aggies Down Kean 16-7, Win ECAC South Atlantic Bowl Championship

Nov 22, 2008

Matt Cook rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns while Anthony Byers tied a school record with three interceptions as Delaware Valley College notched a 16-7 victory over visiting Kean University in the 2008 Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) South Atlantic Bowl Championship.

The Aggies finished the season with an 8-3 record, a share of the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) title and their second ECAC championship. The first crown came in Delaware Valley's turnaround season of 2003 as it took the Southeast Bowl with a 54-37 triumph over The College of New Jersey. Over the last six years, the program has gone 54-15 with three MAC championships, two NCAA Division III quarterfinal appearances and a pair of ECAC titles. The Cougars, who were searching for their second ECAC championship in the last three years, saw their season end with a 7-4 record.

Byers, a senior cornerback playing in last collegiate game, tied 10 other players in Aggie history with his three picks as he led a Delaware Valley defense that forced five turnovers on the day. The first two interceptions came on back-to-back possessions late in the first half and he returned them for a combined 72 yards. The last came with 3:47 remaining in the game with Kean down 16-7 and driving deep in Delaware Valley territory. Byers also added a team-high seven tackles and two pass breakups and received the game's Most Outstanding Player Award.

High gusts of wind throughout the day made the game a battle of field position. Both teams had to punt on its first two possessions. The Cougars were then stopped at their own 15 on their third drive and a short punt gave the Aggies the ball at the Kean 43-yard line.

Cook netted 15 yards over the first four plays, but Delaware Valley faced a fourth-and-12 later in the drive. Quarterback Mike Isgro found Chad Peterman for a 21-yard reception and a first-and-goal at the 10. Cook took care of the rest with an eight-yard run followed by a two-yard plunge into the end zone. Shane Toohey added the extra-point for a 7-0 Aggie advantage with 2:12 remaining in the opening quarter.

Those were the lone points of the first half as Kean never got closer than its own 47-yard line in the opening 30 minutes. Delaware Valley had a pair of golden opportunities late in the half as it reached the Cougar seven and 10-yard line on successive drives. However, the Aggies turned the ball over on downs on the first drive and Isgro was intercepted by Darnell Butler on the second.

In the third quarter, Delaware Valley had another great chance as a fumbled snap by Kean was recovered by the Aggies' Derek Porter at the Cougar 29. Delaware Valley drove to the nine-yard line and had to settle for Toohey's 26-yard field goal and a 10-0 lead with 3:41 to go.

Kean got right back into the ballgame as it took the ensuing kickoff and drove 61 yards on eight plays. It marked the first time in the contest that they reached Delaware Valley territory and they ended it with a 21-yard scoring strike from Tom D'Ambrisi to Durell Dukes. Rick Jaeger's extra-point cut the Aggie lead to 10-7 just five seconds into the final quarter.

With the wind at his back, Jaeger sent the ensuing kickoff through the end zone for a touchback. However, the Aggies responded with a 13-play, 80-yard scoring drive that took more than six minutes (6:15) off the clock. They converted one third down as Isgro hit Dan Heiland for 11 yards on a third-and-10. Delaware Valley then appeared to be stopped with an incomplete pass on a third-and-8, but a roughing the passer call gave the Aggies an automatic first down and the ball at the Kean 41.

Later in the drive, they faced a fourth-and-4 at the 35, but Isgro connected with Matt Mariano for a 20-yard passing play. Cook galloped for seven yards on first down, and went into the end zone untouched from eight yards out on the next call. The extra-point attempt failed, leaving the score at 16-7 with 8:40 remaining.

Kean drove deep into Aggie territory on its next two possessions, but turned the ball over each time. The Cougars reached the 15 on their first attempt, but linebacker Kyle Gesswein stripped the ball loose from D'Ambrisi on a sack and it was recovered by nose guard Dustyn Seifert. The sack upped Gesswein's season total to 11.5 to tie a school record. Kean was at the Delaware Valley 26 on its next possession, but Byers recorded his third and final interception at the eight-yard line to seal the win.

Cook's effort marked the eighth time this season that the sophomore went over the 100-yard mark. He lugged the ball 37 times in the game and finished in second place on the school's single-season list with 276 carries, 1,323 yards and 13 touchdowns. Isgro, a junior and the 2008 MAC Offensive Player of the Year, was 10-for-22 for 134 yards and also added 18 yards on the ground. Peterman had four catches for 56 yards. Senior linebacker Phil Blazejewski and Kyle Reuter had six tackles apiece while fellow senior linebacker Zach McCann added five stops.

D'Ambrisi completed 19 of 34 passes for 210 yards and one touchdown, but was intercepted three times. Dukes hauled in seven passes for 93 yards and the team's lone score. Jared Chunn, the New Jersey Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year, was held to just 30 yards on 12 carries. Butler notched 10 tackles, one interception and half a sack to pace the Kean defense.