SALISBURY, Md. (WAVY) – Last season, Salisbury put a massive spoil on Christopher Newport’s homecoming with a 70-point blowout win.

Saturday, with a New Jersey Athletic Conference title and an automatic NCAA tournament berth on the line, the two teams played an epic, back-and-forth game worthy of a title clash, but the Sea Gulls still came out on top, holding on for a 36-33 win over the Captains, which snapped their six-game winning streak.

Salisbury (9-1, 6-0 NJAC) advanced to the tournament behind a five-touchdown, career-high 238 yard performance from Joey Bildstein, winning their fourth-straight conference championship. Christopher Newport (7-3, 5-1), under first-year coach Paul Crowley, stayed with the Sea Gulls behind quarterback Matt Dzierski and freshman running back Gunner White (Tallwood HS, Virginia Beach, Va.), who caught two Dzierski passes for touchdowns.

“I can’t say enough about our seniors and how they led us this year,” Crowley said. “These guys made the decision to come back, and it’s a very emotional moment to see them finish their careers. They did so much this season to help change the culture and bring us back to where we need to be, the credit goes to them.”

The Captains got off to a strong start, scoring twice in the first six minutes of the game, first on a 16-yard pass from Dzierski to White. Ten seconds after that play, Shawn Hamilton recovered a fumble on Salisbury’s first play from scrimmage and ran 16 yards for another touchdown, giving Christopher Newport a 14-0 lead.

But Salisbury was able to turn to its workhorse, Bildstein, who scored the first of his five touchdowns with 2:04 left in the second quarter, cutting the Captains’ lead to 14-7 by halftime.

In the third quarter, Bildstein scored twice more on short runs, sandwiched by White taking a Dzierski pass and going in from 29 yards. Bildstein’s second score to end the third quarter put the Sea Gulls up for the first time, 21-20, as the Captains missed an extra point on White’s second score.

Christopher Newport retook the lead early in the fourth quarter on a Dzierski two-yard run following a four-play, 75-yard drive. But once again, Bildstein ran into the end zone, and with a 2-point conversion, put Salisbury ahead 29-26.

Dzierski and the Captains responded with a six-play, 75-yard drive, with the quarterback running in from a yard out to put them back on top, 33-29.

Bildstein would have the last say in the game, though, scoring on a 4-yard run with 1:45 left, and a Dzierski interception on Christopher Newport’s next drive formally put the game to rest.

“Their offensive line of Salisbury deserves a lot of the credit,” Crowley said. “They did a terrific job all night and made it difficult for us to make stops.”

Salisbury leads the all-time series with CNU, 16-5.

CNU junior defensive back Kindrick Braxton set a new school record with 21 tackles and he also intercepted a pass. Freshmen Deven Norman (Grassfield HS, Chesapeake, Va.) and Roshon Carter (Maury HS, Norfolk, Va.) each registered ten tackles, and junior Logan Baker made eight stops and intercepted two passes.

Dzierski finished 17-for-22 for 204 yards, and rushed for 105 yards with two touchdown runs and two scoring passes. He finished the regular season with 11 passing and 11 rushing scores. White led the Captains in receiving with five catches for 78 yards, and also ran the ball nine times for 36 yards.

“We came a long way, but you can see we still have a ways to go,” Crowley said. “It’s all about our guys, they worked hard all season and really bought into what we were trying to accomplish. Now we need to build on that and move forward.”