#12 Union Spoils a COVID “Homecoming”

All-American Kicker/Punter Maki Medici punts the ball away during what would have been Utica Colleges 75th Homecoming weekend.

Kayleigh Sturtevant

All-American Kicker/Punter Maki Medici punts the ball away during what would have been Utica College’s 75th Homecoming weekend.

Robert Stevens, Sports Contributor

As Will Sirmon lined up for the kick from 22-yards out, the Pioneers simply had to watch as the #12 ranked Union College Dutchmen ended their perfect 3-0 start to the season.

In a 30-9 loss, the Pioneers couldn’t find their way into the endzone on what was originally slated to be Utica College’s 75th Anniversary Homecoming weekend. This loss would push the Pioneers to 3-1 to start the season as their chapter of non-conference matchups comes to a close.

Blaise Faggiano, head football coach for the Pioneers, characterized this loss as more than meets the eye.

“Union is a good football team and I’ll give them that,” Faggiano said. “There was a long time where that game was 14-9 and we honestly just needed to make one more play.”

Maki Medici, Empire 8 Special Teams Player of the Week, was 3-3 on his field goal attempts and punted the ball five times, including one inside the 20. Through his strong performance, Medici silenced the doubters after his performance a week prior. 

“Maki truly came to play today with his field goals and his punting,” Faggiano said. “I was just telling him and joking that we would have liked at least one of those field goals to be a touchdown.”

Medici made his third field goal with just 35 seconds on the clock before halftime. This allowed the Pioneers to be within striking distance entering the third quarter. A team that has been identified as a second half team came out of the gates swinging defensively as they forced the Dutchmen to turn the ball over twice.

“We switched up the coverage,” Faggiano said. “We were running certain coverages that you could tell were effective in the first half with a couple near interceptions. They like to throw the ball deep so when we switched it up on them in the second half, it kept their offense off balance.”

Neither team was able to find their way onto the scoreboard despite multiple opportunities in the third quarter. It wasn’t until the Dutchmen found an answer to start the fourth quarter on a 14-yard strike from William Bellamy to Andre Ross Jr. that would open the flood gates on a painful fourth quarter for the Pioneers.

Everything was a worse case scenario for the Pioneers in the fourth quarter, as they would fumble the ball on the following possession. This costly turnover allowed the Dutchmen to quickly find themselves punching in another six points on a connection from Bellamy to Robbie Tolbert, making the score 27-9.

Defending Empire 8 Offensive Player of the Week, Sonny Badyna wasn’t able to find a way into the endzone this weekend going 25-49 for 219 yards and an interception. In the fourth quarter, the junior quarterback tried swinging for the fences but just couldn’t make contact.

“Towards the end he was losing some patience and trying to make a play down the field,” Faggiano said. “[Union] just isn’t a team that was going to give it to him. It was a good game for him to learn from and he will bounce back.”

The Pioneers will begin their Empire 8 journey next week against Hartwick where they will travel for the first time in two weeks. Faggiano emphasized that this is their time to shine and show the Empire 8 that they are battle tested from their non conference play.

“We’re looking forward to conference game week one,” Faggiano said. “I have no doubt that we are prepared.”