There is a story about this college football rivalry game with Ithaca and Cortland, two NY state upstate schools that go unnoticed because they are affiliated as NCAA Division III and not in a class with the Division 1 powers of Ohio State, Tennessee, Michigan, or Alabama.
Then again, this should not matter because the annual Cortaca Jug Game between two undefeated schools was played before 40,232 fans Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, the second largest to witness a Division III game.
When fans of that magnitude packed Yankee Stadium for a college football game in November the rivalry had to be special, except these two upstate schools, both 9-0, knew their fans would make their journey to the Bronx.
The buses came down I-87 and parked in droves at nearby lots. They packed nearby establishments hours before the noon kick off and some arrived in the second half. When it was over, Ithaca continued to lead the all-time series with their 34-17 win, so the jug was handed off to the Bombers for the fourth time in five years.
Oh, that jug? There is a history because Ithaca and Cortland started this rivalry in 1930, and the Cortaca Jug originated in 1959 when team captains of Ithaca decided to give the winning team an award, a jug purchased at a yard sale and each year the game’s result is etched to signify the rivalry.
“It was awesome to experience seeing people dedicated and passionate and will always be remembered,” said Cortland QB Zac Boyes. The sophomore immediately went to work and threw a 10-yard scoring pass late in the first quarter to answer Ithaca’s early lead.
And these Ithaca Bombers played to their name. They scored unlike those “Bronx Bombers” who occupy the building for six months, and with over 40,000 in the building, the Yankees organization is sure to host this rivalry again next year.
More importantly, Ithaca continues to make their statement as a prominent and exciting Division III college football program. They have finished their first undefeated season since 1986, awaiting another postseason game next week that will be announced Sunday.
Not as significant as a Division 1 college football powerhouse, but playing a traditional rival at Yankee Stadium, finishing undefeated, and on to another college playoff game is another accomplishment. You could not find a betting line on the game or game recaps on the major sports websites.
However, never underestimate what has been accomplished here, nor diminish the intensity that was seen on the field. Cortland won the Liberty League title outright and secured their spot in the NCAA Championship after a 31-8 win over Alfred on October 29th, and had a 19-game regular season unbeaten streak dating back to the start of last season.
Photo Courtesy of Ithaca Athletics
The Ithaca offense passed for 209 yards, 127 rushing and junior RB Jake Williams scored twice (69 rushing). Senior QB A,J, Wingfield threw for over 200 passing yards for the second time. Yes, they were playing for that jug in the final quarter.
It was tight, 20-17. Then these Bombers in the Bronx went to work on the Red Dragons defense and fans on both sides of the stadium also said this was for the jug. Senior WR Julien Deumaga, a 2021 Liberty League All Academic player, leaped over a defender and ran into the left corner with 9 more minutes on the clock.
First year coach Mike Toerper said his receiver was due for a big play that secured another jug game victory. It was the fourth touchdown reception for Deumaga, this after recording 12 receptions for 148 yards the previous year.
Photo Courtesy of Ithaca Athletics
“He started really hot in the year and he made a lot of plays and towards the end of the season the ball didn’t find him as much,” Toerper said.
“We lost the game, you can’t replay it over,” said Cortland coach Curt Fitzpatrick. “We want to look through the windshield, not through the rearview mirror.”
Regardless of the outcome, it was a win for everyone as the Cortaca Jug Game made a successful debut in the Bronx.
Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Facebook.com Watch “Sports with Rich” live on Tuesday Nights at 8pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with Robert Rizzo Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify under The SLG Network.