By Matthew Weinstein
The University of New Haven Chargers took on the Pioneers on Nov. 10. Both teams were the two remaining undefeated teams in the Northeast 10 conference, and this game crowned the Northeast 10 conference champion.
In front of a capacity crowd of 4,780 fans in the 45-degree weather, the Pioneers claimed their 13th conference title.
With one minute and 15 seconds left in the first quarter, the Pioneers struck first as senior Joey Tolgyesi hit his career high 12th field goal of the season, from 24 yards away, to give the Pioneers a 3-0 lead.
On the next drive, quarterback Chris Laviano led the offense downfield, capped by a one yard touchdown run by senior captain Malik Pierre, who picked up a total of 161 yards that day, placing him third in career rushing yards as a Pioneer.
Just before halftime, New Haven quarterback Ajee Patterson connected with wide receiver Ju’An Williams on a 46 yard touchdown pass. After Michael Stalenyj’s extra point, New Haven cut Post’s lead to 10-7 at halftime.
The first two scoring plays of the second half were 29 and 22-yard field goals from Stalenyj, which gave the Chargers their first lead of the day, 13- 10, with under nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Pioneers answered back as Laviano made his biggest play to date; a 44-yard bomb downfield to Mike Richardson – to retake the lead, 17-13.
With six and a half minutes remaining in regulation, there was still plenty of time for New Haven to strike back. Chargers’ player Patterson converted on a 22 yard pass to Williams before picking up another 17 yards
on the ground. On second and seven from the Pioneers, Patterson looked to Williams again but was picked off by senior linebacker Jake Carlock on the 10-yard line as the Pioneers regained possession.
“I felt like the QB was going to try to attack my side, but I had good coverage on the wideout,” Carlock said. “When I turned around the ball was right there and I just went up and got it.”
Patterson brought the Chargers’ offense all the way to the eight yard line with seconds left on the clock. On the final play of the game, Patterson connected with Brett Huber, but a swarm of Pioneers led by Carlock and Zach Cofrancesco made the tackle at the one yard line as time expired, giving the Pioneers the 17-13 victory and the Northeast 10 conference championship.
“It came down to who wanted the game more, and we refused to lose,” senior middle linebacker Connor Farrell said.
With the victory, the Pioneers earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Pioneers received the No. 2 seed in super region one, and will play the No. 7 seed Slippery Rock University at the Bethpage Federal Credit Union Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 17 at noon.