|November 19, 2001|
Gilbert leads Union over Hartwick, 38-25, in ECAC northwest championship game
Senior quarterback Ben Gilbert, playing his last game in a Garnet uniform, completed 33 of 18 passes for 284 yards and four touchdowns and also led all rushers with 71 yards on 15 attempts with one score leading Union College to a 38-25 victory over Hartwick in the ECAC Northwest Championship game Saturday at Frank Bailey Field.
With Union trailing 13-10 at the break, Gilbert took control of the game, throwing three touchdown passes as Union outscored the Hawks, 21-0, in the third quarter. He gave the Dutchmen a 17-13 lead at 9:40 of the frame by connecting with tight end Pat St. Denis for a seven-yard score, found tight end Tony Metz all alone on the left side for a 28-yard score at 5:32 that moved Union's advantage to 24-13, and rounded out the period by connecting with Hank Papale for a 68-yard bomb down the right sideline for a 31-13 lead with 2:28 left in the period.
"I thought Ben played exceptionally well, said Union head coach John Audino. "He did a nice job of avoiding the rush and of finding the secondary receiver and he made some key decisions in third period that helped us get away from Hartwick on the scoreboard. Ben also did a real good job from a leadership standpoint. It was a great way for him to end a great career."
Gilbert's efforts earned him the game's Most Valuable Player honors as Union finished the season with a record of 9-2. This was the Dutchmen's fifth ECAC championship since1990 and their 14th postseason appearance since 1983. Hartwick, which has been to four ECAC games, concludes at 7-4.
"It was a great way to end the season, said Audino, who concluded his 10th season by picking up his 81st win at Union in 101 games. "I'm very proud of the way the players handled themselves during the week after disappointing loss to Springfield (a 49-35 decision that knocked the Dutchmen out of the NCAA playoffs) last week. "We did a real good job in the third quarter of mixing the run and the pass and the defense did a great job making Hartwick work for everything they got."
Gilbert, who has been Union's starter since he walked on to campus, led the Dutchmen to a four-year record of 33-9 and into three-straight postseason appearances. He graduates holding several Union all-time passing records including most yards (8,208), career touchdown passes (75), and touchdown passes in a game (four - a feat he accomplished three times). He also rushed for 865 yards during his stellar career, scoring 15 touchdowns. The four touchdown passes against the Hawks gives Gilbert 27 for the year, breaking the Union single-season record of 24 he set last year.
Hartwick junior quarterback Dan Pincelli, a star in his own right, also had an outstanding day. The Hawks' signal-caller completed 19 of 41 passes for 277 yards and four touchdowns. Pincelli, who came into the game with 2,948 yards and 40 touchdowns, gave the Hawks a 6-0 lead at 6:41 of the second quarter as he connected with Ty Smith on a 53-yard bomb as the PAT kick failed.
Union senior placekicker Andrew Ruffo's 30 yard field goal at 6:41 of the period not only cut the Garnet's deficit to 6-3, it set a new Dutchman career standard of 38. Ruffo, who also converted all five of his PAT attempts, finished his career with 38 field goals, 117 PATs (second all-time) and 231 career points, including a team-high 82 this season.
Gilbert put Union on top for the first time in the game by finding Craig Kopka on a three-yard touchdown pass with 56 seconds left in the half as Union took a 13-10 lead. That advantage was short-lived, however, as Pincelli connected with Ryan Soule down the right sideline on a third down play with just 18 seconds showing. Matt Mlinar's kick gave the Hawks a 13-10 at the break.
Trailing 31-13 after three periods, Pincelli got Hartwick back on the scoreboard when he connected with tight end Matt Young on a three-yard pass. The pass for two failed, but Hartwick was back to within 31-19 with 8:39 left to play. Gilbert, however, ended the Hawks' comeback hopes when he drove the Dutchmen 62 yards on just eight plays following the kickoff. He capped the drive by calling his own number on a 16-yard touchdown run that gave the Dutchmen a 38-19 lead with 3:40 left in the season.
Pincelli rounded out the final margin when he found Soule on a 38-yard yard scoring pass with 59 seconds left to play.