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Unfamiliarity could be key in NCAA Division III football playoff between Salisbury, Cortland

Unfamiliarity could be key in NCAA Division III football playoff between Salisbury, Cortland

Salisbury and SUNY-Cortland have clashed in the NCAA Division III postseason in several sports, most notably in four men's lacrosse championship games, four softball World Series games, and two baseball World Series contests.

But when the football programs meet in a first-round game this Saturday at 12 p.m. in Cortland, N.Y., it will mark only the second time the two sides have faced each other. The first meeting occurred in 1983, which was current Sea Gulls coach Sherman Wood's senior year at Salisbury.

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"We do know of each other and we respect each other's programs," Wood said Thursday afternoon. "But as far as physically playing, we haven't done that, and I think that's what makes this so intriguing. We have heard all these positive things about both programs, but we haven't faced each other."

Wood and his staff have spent considerable time studying the Red Dragons (8-2), and Wood said SUNY-Cortland may have the advantage against the No. 21 Sea Gulls (7-2) because of one key category.

"When you have two teams who are not familiar with each other, the No.1 portion of your game plan is not to hurt yourself, not to make mistakes or have unnecessary penalties," he said. "Their quarterback [junior Steven Ferreira] has thrown only two interceptions all year, and they don't make mistakes. I think that's going to be the big difference. Whoever makes the fewest mistakes is going to be in a position to win the football game."

Wood said he likes what he has seen from the players in practice this week even though he did have to deliver a pointed reminder during Wednesday's session.

"We had to check ourselves yesterday at practice," he said. "I thought we were a little playful, a little loose for some reason, and we had to remind them that although we made it to the playoffs, there are some things we still need to work on, there are still things we need to improve on. If you want to really make history, then you have to do the best you can and try to win this football game this weekend."

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