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Ithaca Athletics | November 23, 2013

Second-half comeback leads Ithaca to second round

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Ithaca scored 17 unanswered points in the second half and went on to a 20-17 win against Framingham State in the opening round of the 2013 NCAA Division III Football Championship tournament Saturday at Butterfield Stadium. Ithaca scored the game-winning touchdown on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Tom Dempsey to Vito Boffoli with 3:32 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Ithaca advances to the second round of the tournament and will face Wesley on Nov. 30 at noon at a location to be announced.

On a cold and windy day that saw weather conditions fluctuate between sunny skies and blowing snow, the Bombers pulled out the victory to move on the round of 16. It was Ithaca's first NCAA Tournament victory since starting the 2003 playoffs with two wins. It snapped a four-game losing streak in the NCAAs for the Bombers, and Ithaca now holds an all-time record of 28-14 in the national tournament.

The Bombers started slowly and trailed 17-3 at halftime. Ithaca turned the ball over twice and it led to 10 Framingham State points. After a fumble on the opening drive of the game by Ithaca, Framingham State drove 42 yards and converted a 25-yard field goal by William Menter to take a 3-0 lead.

Later in the first quarter, Ithaca recovered a muffed punt by Framingham State at the 7-yard line and tied the score on a 25-yard field goal by Garrett Nicholson.

Framingham scored a go-ahead touchdown in the closing seconds of the first quarter on an 11-yard pass from Matt Silva to George Jordan in the left corner of the endzone.

After a back-and-forth second quarter, Ithaca turned the ball over deep in its own territory following an interception and Framingham State punched it in from 1-yard out on a fourth-down run by All-American running back Melikke Van Alstyne just two seconds before the break.

Ithaca controlled the second half and scored all 17 points of the final two quarters. Framingham State gained 104 yards rushing and 83 yards passing (187 total yards) in the first half and did all of their scoring. In the second half, the Rams managed just 73 passing yards and 32 rushing yards (105 total yards).

The Bombers trailed by 14 and faced a fourth-down play on offense, but quarterback Tom Dempsey connected with Jared Prugar for a first down at Framingham State's 16. During Prugar's reception, the ball was punched away by the Rams' defense, but Ithaca recovered the fumble to maintain possession. On the next play, Dempsey found Prugar wide open over the middle for Ithaca's first touchdown of the game to make the score 17-10.

Ithaca's defense asserted itself and forced a three-and-out from Framingham State on the ensuing possession, and the Bombers regained the ball at the end of the third quarter and went 26 yards in seven plays to set up a 36-yard field goal by Max Rottenecker to make the score 17-13.

Framingham State then drove into Ithaca territory, but turned the ball over on downs at the Ithaca 32 yard line when the Bomber defense forced three straight incomplete passes.

That set up the game-winning drive, which began with 8:55 remaining in the fourth quarter. Dempsey connected with Prugar for 19 yards to move the ball across midfield and a 15-yard penalty on Framingham State set up Ithaca at the Rams' 34. A pass interference penalty advanced the ball again for Ithaca and Dempsey connected on passes to Boffoli and tight end Steve DelMoro to move Ithaca inside the 10. After losing yards on a rushing play and firing an incomplete pass, Ithaca faced third down, trailing by four points. Dempsey lofted a pass to the right-side corner of the endzone and Boffoli made the catch and tapped his foot inside of the sideline to score the go-ahead touchdown.

Ithaca's defense made two stops in the final four minutes of the game, including an interception by cornerback Brian Garvey on the last-gasp effort by the Rams.

Bomber safety Tom Scanlon led Ithaca with 12 tackles in the game, including one tackler for loss. Garvey had 10 tackles, as did linebacker Brian Hardenberg.

Framingham State's Jeffrey Touron made seven tackles in the game including three sacks for losses of 16 yards. Michael Altavista had the first-half interception and added six tackles including one tackle for loss. Olajuwon Dickerson had two sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss in the game.

It was the first meeting in the series history between these teams, and Framingham's second NCAA tournament game.