The Georgetown football team won its first game of the season on Saturday, defeating Marist University on the road by the score of 27-7. The win was the first under new Head Coach Rob Sgarlata.
Defense was the key for the Hoyas (1-2), as they forced three interceptions from the Red Foxes (0-3). One was returned for a 48-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter by sophomore defensive lineman Phil Novacki. Novacki added on a sack and three tackles to complete a successful game.
“[Defensive Coordinator Luke] Thompson called a play where I knew I’d be in a good position to make a play,” Novacki said. “The [defensive] line got a good push to force the quarterback to throw it early, and I made the play. I think the real reason I scored was because [junior linebacker] Hunter Kiselick made a great block for me and he really opened things up.”
Senior captain linebacker Nick Alfieri also lead the way on the defensive side of the ball, collecting a team-high 14 tackles and intercepting a pass that lead to a Georgetown field goal. The Hoya defense, which has forced at least one turnover in every game, dominated the first half while Georgetown’s offense, on the other hand, struggled to get going.
“Everyone was flying around to the ball. We had worked all week on correcting little things, and there’s more attention to detail,” Alfieri, who was named the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week, said. [There was] some great play calling on [defensive coordinator] Coach [Luke] Thompson’s part. The defense is starting to gel and mesh together, and a big thing we talked about was trusting the guys you are playing with. So you can trust the guys you are playing with to know that if you go maybe make a mistake, somebody’s going to have your back. That was a real big factor in the game on Saturday, and I think it showed.”
After a defensive first-half battle ended with the score 6-0 in favor of Georgetown, the Hoya offense was able to move the ball more effectively after halftime. The Hoyas broke the game open in their first drive of the third quarter, scoring a touchdown to take a 13-0 lead. Junior quarterback Kyle Nolan completed a third-down pass to senior wide receiver Michael Cimilluca for an 11-yard score with just over nine minutes to go in the quarter. It was his second passing touchdown of the season.
Nolan praised the work of his teammates, while admitting that their first touchdown of the game should have come sooner.
“The offensive line did a great job with protection in the pass game as well as opening up holes in the run game,” Nolan said. “In the first half we need to execute a little better. We got down to the red zone a couple times and converted field goals, but we have got to get the ball in the end zone. In the second half we had the lead and we were just trying to run down the clock as much as possible. The offensive line did a great job letting [junior running back] Jo’el Kimpela just run the ball as well as [senior running back] Daniel Wright.”
Georgetown took a commanding lead on Novacki’s pick-six early in the fourth quarter. After a sack by senior captain defensive end Alec May set up second-and-long, Novacki intercepted the pass by the Marist quarterback and returned it 48 yards to give Georgetown a commanding 20-0 lead.
“We made more plays. In critical situations we came up big and our defense played incredible the entire night,” Coach Sgarlata said, explaining the team’s success. “Phil Novacki broke the game open with a pick for a touchdown. We had three interceptions on the night. [Junior defensive back] Ettian Scott, Nick Alfieri and Phil Novacki all had interceptions at critical times, and every time the defense was asked to step up they did. I think that combined with the fact we had two 10-plus play drives on offense for touchdowns was definitely the difference in the game.”
The second offensive touchdown came after the Red Foxes returned a punt 91 yards for a touchdown while trying to mount a late comeback. Instead of wilting under pressure, Kyle Nolan led the offense on a 10-play, five-minute drive that ended with him running into the end zone from 10 yards out to give Georgetown a 27-7 lead, effectively ending the game.
“It was a read option, reading the defensive end. We ran the play a couple times in the game,” Nolan said. “We knew the defensive end was crashing pretty hard in previous plays so coach made a great call on that play. Coming off the edge, [sophomore tight end]Matthew Buckman did a great job getting around the corner to block the last guy inside.”
The running game showed major improvement in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., as the team rushed for 118 yards behind balanced efforts from Kimpela and Wright. Georgetown had run for just 95 yards in the previous two games combined.
For coach Rob Sgarlata, getting his first win as Georgetown’s coach was a big moment, but he was happier for his players more for himself.
“[The win] felt great. The kids did a great job and battled the entire night,“ Sgarlata said. “It really felt great for this group to see them go through a whole game, face some adversity, fight through it and win at the end.”