RPI football regains Dutchmen Shoes, clinches Liberty League title and postseason bid in dramatic comeback

Sports

Schenectady, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Playing in his first collegiate football game following an All-American career with the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) soccer team, fifth-year senior Trevor Bisson made a 36-yard field goal as time expired to give the No. 21/23 Engineers a 19-17 come-from-behind win over No. 22/24 Union College in the regular season finale for both teams.

With the victory, RPI (9-1; 4-1 Liberty League) regains the Dutchman Shoes Trophy, earns the Liberty League title and the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA Playoffs and ties the school record for regular season win. The Dutchmen (8-2; 3-2) miss out on an opportunity to share the league championship and a potential NCAA post-season bid.

Bisson, who kicked throughout high school in Louisiana, joined the Engineers on Monday after it was announced Rensselaer did not get selected to the NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament. The second field goal attempt of his career was set up following a successful onside kick, which came after RPI’s go-ahead two-point conversion attempt with 29 seconds remaining failed.

Trailing 17-10 with 4:44 to play in the fourth quarter, Rensselaer started with the ball on its own 20 yard line following a punt. Quarterback George Marinopoulos, a graduate student, methodically moved the offense down the field, highlighted by a 17-yard completion to senior Peter Lombardi and a 7-yard connection with running back Delano Munoz Whatts on a 4th-and-6 play that brought the ball to Union’s 19 yard line.

Marinopoulos then found classmate Vinnie McDonald in the back left corner of the end zone, but the play was negated by an RPI penalty. Following another short pass to Munoz Whatts, Marinopoulos hit McDonald on a slant between three defenders and the receiver found the end zone untouched.

RPI originally brought Bisson out to attempt to tie the game, but following a timeout, chose to go for two points. The attempt, a pass to Lombardi in the back of the end zone, was no good and Union held a 17-16 lead with less than 30 seconds to play.

The Dutchmen were assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the missed point-after so RPI set up the ball at midfield, where Diego Fernandez punched it toward the right sideline. It eluded a Union player and was recovered by Jimmy Leblo at the Union 38 yard line with 28 seconds left.

Consecutive pass completions from Marinopoulos and Sterling Walker-Sutton netted 18 yards, setting up Bisson’s attempt with four seconds showing on the clock. His right-footed boot had plenty of distance and accuracy.

Marinopoulos finished the game by completing 20 of 29 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns. Walker-Sutton, a junior, had game-highs of six catches for 87 yards with a touchdown, while Lombardi caught five passes for 77 yards. Munoz Whatts had five receptions for 14 yards and 79 rushing yards on 16 carries.

Defensively, Leblo (6 solo), a defensive back, and Magnus Wamble (2 solo), a rover, both had eight tackles and three others had six apiece. Freshman defensive lineman Nate Sicard finished with five stops with 2.5 coming behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of 13 yards.

Union jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first quarter thanks to a 36-yard field goal from Andrew Lau with 1:11 to play in the opening frame.

The Dutchmen made it a 10-0 advantage after getting the ball at midfield on a fumble and going all 43 yards on eight running plays with senior Ike Irabor finishing the drive with a 2-yard plunge up the middle. The score came with 1:31 to play in the second quarter.

The Engineers answered right back when they marched down the field in the final stages of the first half, led by Marinopoulos, who found Walker-Sutton for a 35-yard score with no time remaining. After beginning the drive on their own 28 yard line, Marinopoulos and Walker-Sutton combined on a pair of 10-yard plays before Lombardi had an 18-yard reception that put the ball on Union’s 35 yard line with six seconds remaining. Marinopoulos took the snap in the shotgun, stepped up in the pocket and sent a fluttering throw inside the 10-yard line after being hit. Sutton-Walker flashed across the field and caught the ball in the middle before running to the right front corner of the end zone. Bisson, the 2021 Liberty League Defensive Player of the Year in soccer, drilled the extra point to make it a 10-7 score at halftime.

Union’s backup quarterback Donovan Pacatte, a junior who rushed four times from the QB position, scored from three yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter to give the Dutchmen a 17-7 lead. The drive covered 12 plays and 48 yards.

A 26-yard field goal by Brisson on the ensuing drive made it a one-score game, 17-10, with 9:30 to play in regulation. RPI covered 47 yards in 13 plays, including 25-yard and 14-yard receptions by Lombardi. The Engineers had favorable field position thanks to a 24-yard kickoff return by Walker-Sutton, who later had a 14-yard reception on the series.

An apparent Union fumble deep in its own territory on its subsequent possession was negated by an RPI penalty. The Engineers defense held and forced the punt that led to RPI’s second touchdown.

For the Dutchmen, who were held to 178 yards of total offense, quarterback William Bellamy was 8 of 16 for 59 yards and Irabor collected 58 net yards on 31 attempts. Andre Ross Jr. led Union receivers with four catches for 35 yards.

Colin Lama had a game-high 10 tackles, including seven unassisted and one for lost yards (1), along with a forced fumble. Cam Adams added nine stops that included a four-yard sack.

The Engineers find out who their first round opponent in next Saturday’s NCAA Playoffs matchup is when the field is announced on Sunday at 5:30pm. It can be viewed online on the NCAA’s website.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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