Bucks County Herald

Aggies drop heartbreaker

DAVID CAMPBELL



Junior wide receiver Marquis Ellis slips past a diving Julius Brunson. Ellis finished with seven catches for 184 yards and three touchdowns, helping the Aggies come all the way back from a 28-7 deficit.

Nicholas DiGati had nothing to be sorry about on Saturday afternoon.

Still, the Delaware Valley University senior inside linebacker gave an impromptu apology to the Aggies community after DelVal’s 31-28 setback to visiting The College at Brockport in the NCAA Division III quarterfinals.

“I’m proud of the team; I’m proud of DelVal,” said DiGati, his face a Rorschach test of eye black and sweat. “I want to give a shout-out to everyone who showed up today who supported DelVal all throughout the season. It’s been an honor for all of us here. We apologize for what happened.

“Wish we could keep moving on,” DiGati added, “but that’s football.”

The Golden Eagles’ Brett Renzi split the uprights on a 33-yard field goal try as time expired to send Brockport (13-0) to the national semifinals against the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and DelVal home at 12-1.

The loss snapped a school-record 16-game winning streak.

“Brockport was the better team today,” senior free safety Shawn Miller said. “The elite eight is always nice, 12-0 is always nice. We wish we could have went to the final four for the first time in school history, but the ball didn’t bounce our way today.”

The Aggies trailed 28-7 59 seconds into the second half. Only a Marquis Ellis 68-yard touchdown reception from Dashawn Darden with 4:01 remaining in the first quarter prevented the Golden Eagles defense from posting a goose egg in the first 30 minutes. Meanwhile, Brockport quarterback Joe Germinerio threw for a touchdown and ran for two more as the Eagles built a 21-point advantage.

“Eventually, we pulled up our pants, put our boots on and we started playing football,” Miller said. “That’s all it really came down to. We realized that we couldn’t play their game; we had to play our game. That’s all that sparked the comeback: [grabbing] momentum and doing things right, doing things our way.”

DelVal got to work. The offense began to roll; the defense stepped up. Darden connected with Ellis twice more for touchdowns in the span of 1:55 early in the fourth quarter: the first covered 25 yards, the second 12. The Aggies came all the way back on a Darden 57-yard rushing touchdown and Pat Moran extra point with 9:41 left. Ellis, a junior, finished with a career-high 184 yards on seven catches.

“We were down 28-7. I wanted to win,” said Ellis, when asked for the moment momentum shifted. “That’s all it was: just being hungry, trying to win the game.”

“I think it took us a little bit to settle in and once we settled in,” head coach Duke Greco added, “we did pretty well. We made some big plays. Marquis made some plays – Dashawn, too. Defensively, we got some stops.”

Tied at 28, both clubs went cold offensively for the next nearly nine minutes. With 55 seconds remaining, Brockport started at the DelVal 48. Three Germinerio completions and a Justin Morrison six-yard run put the ball at the DelVal 16 with two seconds left. Renzi was unfazed by two Aggie timeouts and booted through the game-winner to propel the Golden Eagles to their first NCAA semifinal.

“It was just tough; it was really tough, something you don’t really want to experience,” senior center Tyler Sylvester said on watching Renzi’s winning field goal. “It happens. I’m just really proud of this team for fighting back.”

“It was a great game,” Greco added. “It was a good game for college football. They got us at the end, but they’re a good team.”

For DelVal, tailback Devauntay Ellis netted 92 yards on 20 carries. Darden had 23 carries for 80 yards. Darden threw for 262 yards on 17 completions and the three touchdowns, all to Marquis Ellis. He was sacked seven times. LaQuille Nesbitt caught five balls for 40 yards.

Defensively, Miller had 15 total tackles. Nick Wright made seven tackles, while Jalen Mayes and Christian Snowden each made five stops; Jarren McBryde was credited with four tackles. Snowden and Marc Isaac each had two tackles for loss. Sammy Mohr was responsible for two pass break-ups. Michael Ockimey forced a first-quarter fumble, which was recovered by Wright.

The Aggies were making their first appearance in the national quarterfinals since 2005. Interestingly, DelVal had trailed for only seven minutes all season heading into Saturday’s game. The Aggies will graduate 21 seniors.

“This class is nothing short of amazing,” Miller said. “Every single guy is a leader.
“You get all these older guys together,” Miller continued, “there’s no game that you can’t win because you always believe that you’re in a game.”

DelVal entered Saturday’s tilt having won its last four postseason games, including a pair in 2017 NCAA play.

“They’re amazing,” Greco said of his seniors. “I’ve never had a better group, never seen a better group. I think this is our best team ever here.”

dcampbell@buckscountyherald.com

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