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SUNY - Cortland Football "A Rival from Another Time"


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At the same time this evening SUNY-Cortland will be playing for the DIII Football Championship



Burgess, Capone help power Cortland

Players are two of seven Section II athletes set to play North Central for Div. III crown


By Mark Singelais

Courtesy of Larry Radloff/d3photography.com

SUNY Cortland running back Ashton Capone of Saratoga Springs has rushed for 579 yards and 13 touchdowns entering Friday’s Division III national championship game vs. North Central in Salem, Va.

SUNY Cortland football teammates Cole Burgess and Ashton Capone are used to a big stage.

Burgess, a wide receiver from Chatham, and Capone, a running back from Saratoga Springs, played in front of more than 40,000 fans at Yankee Stadium last year and in excess of 45,000 at MetLife Stadium in 2019.


Neither game went their way, losses to rival Ithaca in the Cortaca Jug Game. But seeing the two largest crowds in Division III football history left a lifelong impression.

“It was an unreal experience,” Burgess said. “As a kid growing up in Greenwich, New York, playing football next to a corn field, going to MetLife Stadium and then the mecca of sporting stadiums, Yankee Stadium, and playing in front of the biggest crowds in Division III history, it’s actually wild that’s where Cortland and Ithaca are at this point. I’m glad I was a part of it.”

Burgess and Capone, both fifth-year seniors, return to the spotlight on Friday night. They can go out as national champions with a victory over North Central (Ill.) in the Stagg Bowl, the Division III national championship game in Salem Va. Kickoff is 7 p.m. on ESPNU.

They’re among seven Section II graduates on Cortland’s travel roster for the game at 7,157-seat Salem Stadium. The others are senior tight end Jeff Halusic of Niskayuna, sophomore offensive lineman Jake Hromada of Hudson, sophomore linebacker David Romer of Columbia, freshman defensive back Anthony Luciano of Shaker and freshman linebacker Aidan Lochner of Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk.

The Red Dragons (13-1) earned their spot with a 49-14 rout of Randolph-Macon last Saturday in Ashland, Va.

“Obviously, the emotions are high right now,” Capone said. “We just came off a big win down there in Virginia and we’re looking to go back. This is surreal. Not many people get this opportunity and I’m just grateful to be in the spot I am with the players I’m with and this team.”

The semifinal victory was extra sweet for Cortland, which avenged a 35-28 loss at Randolph Macon in the first round a year ago.

“As a senior, I know the feeling of walking off that field last year and it didn’t sit right,” Capone said.

Burgess and Capone enter the Stagg Bowl as key contributors to Cortland’s offense, which ranks eighth in the country at 46.8 points per game. Burgess leads the Red Dragons with 76 receptions for 1,241 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Capone is third on the Red Dragons with 579 rushing yards and second with 13 touchdowns.

The irony isn’t lost on Burgess that he’s only on this team because of a mistake he made three years ago. He and his house-mates threw a Halloween party in violation of COVID-19 guidelines. Burgess was suspended for two semesters and didn’t play in the 2021 season.

While he was suspended, Burgess lived with friends in Albany and bussed tables at Delmonico’s in Clifton Park.

The silver lining was a remaining year of eligibility this season because he sat out 2021.

“Through all the bad stuff that was going on, I was staying positive and told my mom that everything happens for a reason,” Burgess said. “At the time, I didn’t know what the reason was going to be. Now that I’m here, that’s clearly the reason. I mean, playing in the national championship is the furthest that Cortland’s ever gone and it’s fun.”

Cortland, which has never won a national title, is the first New York team to reach the Stagg Bowl since Ithaca won it in 1991. Union reached the title game in 1983 and 1989, but lost both times.

To earn the prize, Cortland must beat defending national champion North Central, which leads the nation in scoring at 60.1 points per game.

“It’s obviously a challenge, but we love challenges,” Capone said. “This is definitely a great team. We’re not looking past any opponent. Never have. This is definitely one that would really put an end to my career here at Cortland. I’d love to go out on a win and that’s exactly what we expect to do.”


When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Salem (Va.) Stadium


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