BUENA VISTA, Va. — The Southern Virginia football team fell short in their season finale at home against The College of New Jersey on Saturday afternoon, 33-30.
"When it's the last game of the season its always tough, there are players playing their last game, and today on top of that we fell short and suffered the loss, either way you look at today it was going to be an emotional game," said Head Coach Ed Mulitalo. "I am proud of the team, there was some bright spots in the game, Akiva's performance of becoming an 1,000 yard rusher is a great compliment to the work he has put in."
In the first quarter, turnovers took its toll with the Knights (3-7, 2-7) losing the ball on a fumble their first drive of the game. The following drive by the Lions (3-7, 3-6) resulted in a Southern Virginia interception by Albert Green for a 41-yard return into Lions territory. The Knights were unable to capitalize on the forced turnover.
The first score of the game reached late in the first with the Knights pinned back on their own goal line, when a mishandled snap was recovered by Southern Virginia in their own end zone resulting in a safety.
The Knights headed into the second trailing 2-0. With just over two minutes into the second quarter the Lions built on their lead on a 14-yard pass to Vinny Guckin, extending the lead to 9-0.
The response from Southern Virginia was sixteen unanswered points. The first points of the game for the Knights came from the foot of Jackson Hatch on a 40-yard field goal, cutting into the Lions' lead 9-3. Freshman quarterback Tyler Callens then busted through the line of scrimmage on two touchdown runs, one from eight-yards and then a season-high 56-yards.
The Lions were able to add one more field goal as time expired, with Southern Virginia holding onto the lead 16-12.
The only score of the third quarter came from the Lions quarterback Dave Jachera with a three-yard run giving The College of New Jersey the 19-16 lead heading into the final quarter.
The fourth quarter was full of back and forth excitement, due primarily to junior running back and NJAC leading rusher Akiva Wedge. At just under 12 minutes remaining in the game, Wedge would bust out a career long 73-yard touchdown run, pulling the Knights ahead, 23-19.
The Knights defense would come up big on the Lions next drive with a Neil Davis interception, giving the team great field position.
The offense of Southern Virginia was unable to produce any points the next drive and were forced to punt, placing the ball out at the Lions 10-yardline.
The College of New Jersey would take a gamble and throw from their own 10-yardline and it would pay off in a major way with a 90-yard touchdown bringing the Lions once again into the lead 26-23.
Minutes later in the fourth, Wedge broke free again this time from 41-yards, breaking a number of tackles and spinning himself free for the score. This run would move Wedge over the 1,000-yard mark for the season, the first time since 2006 and only rusher since the move to Division III. The Knights now lead 30-26.
After a quick possession by the Lions and then Southern Virginia, the Lions got the ball back with 3:19 remaining. The Lions would rely on the passing game heavily this drive, and with 26 seconds remaining Jachera would find Guckin one last time on an eight-yard touchdown reception, generating the final score 33-30.
Defensively the Knights were led by Green. In addition to his interception, he also totaled 9 tackles and a pass breakup. Brandon Austin and Jason Siaosi each collected six tackles and Malachi Fotu also recorded his first interception as a Knight.
"I am proud of how our defense played this season, offensively we have a good group of young players returning that will be key to our future success. This is a process and a journey, as we move forward, on Monday we start making our preparations for next season. I feel we have a great foundation we will be building on both sides of the ball," added Coach Mulitalo.