Sprengel battles through injury to catch the game-winning TD in the Lions homecoming win

By Anthony Caruso III
The Capital Sports Report
Owner/Managing Editor/Sr. Writer

Ewing – Frederick Sprengel was injured early in the game.

Jeff Mattonelli's second quarter touchdown (Photo by TCNJ Athletics)

Jeff Mattonelli’s second quarter touchdown (Photo by TCNJ Athletics)

The senior wide receiver took a helmet to his leg in the first drive of the game. Then, he was dealing with pain throughout the game and after the game, as well.

“During the first possession, I had a reception,” said Sprengel. “I got caught up and took a helmet to the knee. I got a bone bruise on the knee, and I tried to keep it loose throughout the game. In the second half, I attempted to catch a pass and I came down on the same knee and bruised it again. I have a sharp pain in my knee after hurting it for the second time, so I got it taped up to get back in there.”

Yet, Sprengel would battle through the pain and would get the call early in the fourth quarter. Lions quarterback Chris Spellman threw to Sprengel for a 30-yard touchdown to make it 20-20.

“It was awesome,” said Sprengel. “It [the play] has been a play that we’ve practiced all week long. We called the play, and once the play started, I came across my route and Spellman threw a nice pass. I then caught it and walked into the end zone.”

Lions kicker Evan Costello would convert the extra point to give the Lions a 21-20 lead. That one-point lead would be good enough, as the Lions would win by that score.

The Lions are now 4-2 on the season and are 3-0 within the conference. SUNY Cortland is presently tied with the Lions, as they go for a 3-0 mark within the conference right now after a 4 pm kick off at Brockport. In addition, TCNJ travels to Cortland next weekend.

The Lions are also on a four-game win streak after starting out 0-2 to start the season. It is their first four game win streak since winning 4 in a row during the 2010 season from October 16th through November 6th, beating Morrisville State, Buffalo State, Western Connecticut State, and Kean in that streak.

“On the 15th [of October], that was our two month anniversary together, so the first game was three weeks into it,” said TCNJ head coach Wayne Dickens. “It was early [the first game], and we had the chance to win those games, but we would make the fatal flaws. We made some fatal flaws today, but we were able to come back and score on them. We’ve gained maturity and we gained confidence in ourselves and it shows.”

The Lions are a perfect 6-0 against Morrisville State since the inaugural game in 2008. And in the six meetings, this was the closest game of them all.

This is the first time in the six meetings that the Lions have beat Morrisville State on homecoming weekend. It is the first Lions homecoming win since the 2011 season, and their third homecoming weekend win in the past 7-years.

“It couldn’t feel any better,” said Sprengel. “It is something we obviously want to do every year. But as a senior, it couldn’t be any sweeter. I’m so happy right now.”

Spellman went 11-of-22 for 190 yards and three touchdown. Ryan Baranowsky led with 59 receiving yards, while Jeff Mattonelli had 51 yards and Sprengel had 46 yards. Brad Young had 60 rushing yards and Victor Scalici had 53 yards.

Lemar Johnson went 26-of-40 for a 181 yards for Morrisville State. He also had 70 rushing yards and Christian Pena had a 158 rushing yards. Anthony Gray had 82 receiving yards and Josh Powell had 56 receiving yards.

With the Lions up 21-20, the Mustangs had a chance to score. They received the ball on their own 10-yard line with 3:32 left in the game.

They would get all the way to the Lions 37-yard line, before the Lions would stop them on 3rd and 3 with a two yard loss and then 4th and five with an incomplete pass.

“That was a good situation,” said Dickens. “I would have been happier if we would have ran off another minute off of the clock. That wasn’t the way it played out, and our defense made the key stops when we needed it.”

Edwin Soto scored the lone Mustangs touchdown in the third quarter, as he rushed for 3-yards to make the game 20-14. Zach Drake’s extra point was blocked by Lions defensive lineman Jeffrey Adubato.

“We practice every day that in the first five minutes of practice after we stretch,” said Dickens. “Our field goal team vs. our block team. The block team has been able to get some blocks on us, which has caused us to be better on offense. It doesn’t surprise me that we blocked them.”

The game was tied at the half at 14, as Jeff Mattonelli scored with just 18 seconds left in the first half. Spellman threw a 51-yard touchdown to Mattonelli, as Mattonelli jumped higher than the Mustangs defender to get the ball in the end zone.

Lemar Johnson gave the Mustangs a lead early in the second quarter. He ran for a 1-yard touchdown to make the score 14-7.

Spellman also threw a 27-yard touchdown to Ryan Baranowsky to tie the game just seconds into the second quarter. The game was tied at 7 after Baranowsky’s touchdown.

Towards the end of the first quarter, Johnson put the Mustangs on the board with the first score of the game. He rushed for a 13-yard touchdown and after a Drake kick, Morrisville State was up 7-0.

Early in the first quarter, the Lions defense came up with a big stop, as Matt Chierici blocked Drake’s field goal attempt of 24-yards.

“That made the difference in the game,” said Dickens.

The Lions switched quarterbacks after the first drive of the game. Sam Paladino started and then did not complete either one of his passes in the first drive. He was replaced by Spellman.

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