St. Lawrence Blanks Merchant Marine for Hoffman Cup

St. Lawrence Blanks Merchant Marine for Hoffman Cup
*Courtesy of St. Lawrence Sports Information*
Canton, NY -  The St. Lawrence University football team put the finishing touches on a memorable season Saturday, as the Saints shutout the United States Merchant Marine Academy 31-0 at Leckonby Stadium to win back the Hoffman Cup.  The defense forced six fumbles from the Mariners to earn the first shutout since September 10, 2005, (Norwich, 36-0) while Irby piled up a career-high 207 yards and two touchdowns only 18 carries to earn St. Lawrence Most Valuable Player honors.

St. Lawrence finishes the season with a 7-3 overall record, the first seven-win season for the Scarlet and Brown since 1982, and in second place in the Liberty League behind nationally-ranked No. 6 Hobart.  Meanwhile, the Mariners finish the season with a 4-4 record.

The Saints, who celebrated "Senior Day" on Saturday, owned a 393-250 advantage in total offense.  Junior quarterback Mike Lefflbine returned to the line-up and was 12-of-28 passing for 136 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  Merchant Marine was led by Tyler Washington's game-high 13 tackles, which earned him MVP honors for his team.  Captain Shane Hart, Cooper Keller and Jayson Leigh each had nine tackles for St. Lawrence.

St. Lawrence took the opening possession 58 yards in four plays, taking a 7-0 lead only 1:58 into regulation.  A 17-yard completion to senior Mike Tateosian set the offense up in the red zone, with Lefflbine connecting with a wide open Evan Shifley on the next play for a 16-yard strike.  Andrew Carvalho added the extra point for the 7-0 lead.

Matthew McDaniels would move the Mariners to the Saints 29-yard line on the visitors' first drive, but a fumble on 4th-and-1 would stall the effort and a 34-yard return by James Holley-Grisham set up St. Lawrence at the USMMA 45.  On 2nd-and-6, Irby took the handoff and seemingly ran into a pile of defenders, only to come out the other side and glide 41 yards for the score.  Carvalho's extra point made it 14-0 and capped the first quarter scoring.

Carvalho would make it 17-0 at the 4:00 minute mark of the second quarter when he added a 22-yard field goal to cap an 11-play, 71 yard drive.  With the defense playing strong and keeping the triple-option under wraps, Lefflbine stretched the lead to 24-0 with 4:39 to play in the half, as he connected with Max Johnson on back-to-back plays including a 13-yard touchdown pass.  Carvalho's extra point gave the Scarlet and Brown a 24-0 cushion at intermission.

Merchant Marine would cough up the football on four drives, as McDaniels fumbled twice, including once on the St. Lawrence 8-yard line, and back-up quarterback Kristopher Meyer also added two fumbles.  Josh Woodburn tried to keep the Mariners in the game offensively, but ultimately, the six turnovers were too much to overcome.

St. Lawrence would pad the lead, opening up a 31-0 advantage late in the third quarter.  After Irby had rushes of 33 and 11 yards, he got the call again on 4th-and-1 at the 5-yard line and finished the job, scoring his second touchdown of the game 3:34 to play in the third.  Carvalho's extra point made it 31-0.

Both teams went to the bench in the fourth quarter, with the Saints' defense forcing the final fumble on 1st-and-10 at the 24-yard line in the final minute, shutting down the scoring threat and finishing off an impressive victory.

Following the game, Mr. Tom Hoffman and his wife Debbie presented the MVP trophies to Washington and Irby, before turning over the Hoffman Cup to Shane Hart and head coach Mark Raymond.  The inaugural Hoffman Cup game was played in 2003 to commemorate the rivalry between the St. Lawrence University and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy football teams.  Tom Hoffman, a 1975 graduate of St. Lawrence, dedicated the game to his father, Captain Richard A. Hoffman, a 1944 graduate of Merchant Marine, for his 80th birthday.  Captain Hoffman passed away in 2006, but this tradition honors both he and his family's commitment to athletics, the Merchant Marine Academy and St. Lawrence University.