Football wraps up disappointing campaign

By: Carl Stoffers

The Kean University football team wrapped up a disappointing 2013 campaign on November 16 with a loss at Montclair State, registering its first losing record since 2005, the year before head coach Dan Garrett took the helm.

The season began in rocky fashion in September, as Kean dropped its first two contests, including blowout losses to Albright College and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, before securing its first victory over Endicott College.

There was a bright spot in the 1-2 start, though. Freshman Damian Corredor returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown vs. Mary Hardin-Baylor, earning him NJAC and ECAC Southeast Special Teams Player of the Week honors, along with being named to the BSN National Division III Team of the Week. Corredor ended the month with 246 total return yards, good for a stellar 35.14 average.

October began with the Cougars dropping a tough contest at SUNY Cortland 17-7. The game was a costly loss, as quarterback Christian Bailoni injured his shoulder in the third quarter. Bailoni, a senior, would not play another down in 2013 due to a severely separated shoulder.

Kean followed the loss to the Red Dragons with a heartbreaking 7-0 loss at home to The College of New Jersey on October 11. After a defensive struggle for most of the game, sophomore quarterback Robert Meade III was able to engineer a 15-play, 93-yard drive in the final minutes, only to have it stall on the College of New Jersey one-yard line with under two minutes to play, dropping the Cougars to 1-4 on the season. After the game, Garrett’s frustration was evident.

“We’ve got great kids,” the coach said after the loss, “great kids who want to work, who want to win. Right now, we’re just not putting enough points on the board to do that.”

The following week brought more heartbreak, as Kean hosted William Paterson University for homecoming. More than 2,300 fans watched as the Cougars squandered a fourth quarter lead, falling to the Pioneers 21-20. Following the loss, freshman wide receiver Tahj Hammary was named the NJAC Offensive Rookie of the Week for his 3-catch, 155-yard performance.

Kean ended the month with a 17-7 loss to The College at Brockport, dropping its record to 0-4 in October and 1-6 overall. The loss to the Golden Eagles assured the first losing season of Garrett’s tenure in Union.

“It’s outstanding, phenomenal that this program isn’t used to losing,” Garrett said after the loss. “Eight years later, the fact that the standard is so high.”

Coming out of a nightmare month, the Cougars had seemingly little to play for. But they showed the resilience and heart that Garrett has instilled in the program over the last eight years, exploding for 47 points in a November 2 route of Morrisville State College.

The victory featured three touchdown passes by Meade III, including two to senior wide receiver Prince Stewart, as well as senior running back Sean McKee adding a score on the ground while rushing for 129 yards. The defense was led by senior linebacker Bob Klecha, who recorded a sack and nine tackles and junior linebacker Corey Miller, who added a sack and eight tackles.

Senior kicker Bill Cullen was named NJAC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance, which included field goals of 43 and 33 yards, as well as connecting on all four extra point attempts.

The win over Morrisville State also marked a milestone for coach Garrett, who recorded his 50th win at Kean.

It was the final win of the season for the Cougars, as a tough losses to Rowan and Montclair State closed out the campaign.

Looking ahead to 2014, the Cougars will have several key players returning, including Meade III, Hammary, Corredor, defensive backs James Leavy and Darren Dixon and running back Kevin O’Connor. With more than three quarters of the current roster coming back next season, coach Garrett will have an experienced squad of veterans to work with.

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