Patrick Rivers, Asst. Sports Editor
The Utica College football team was back in action this week as the first day of Spring Ball was marked off the calendar.
Spring Ball is highly anticipated every year because from this point on, football is non-stop until the end of next season.
Although summer is considered the off-season, it may be the most important time of the year for football players and college athletes in general because they are responsible for improving on their own. Coaches expect to see improvement from players coming into summer camp and expect to see some of the same coming into Spring Ball. Spring Ball is an opportunity for players to show off their off-season improvements and prepare for the inevitable hard work and dedication they’ll have to put in over the summer.
The Pioneers are getting their first look at practice inside the Todd and Jen Hutton Sports and Recreation Center. The dome features a turf field, and for the first time, the Pioneers are able to hold practices inside.
The returning senior duo of running backs Nicodemus Gambill and Ryan Burnett will be something to watch next season and they are excited to use the new dome. Both players say they are pleased with UC’s new addition to the athletic facilities.
“The dome is just so much more convenient,” said Gambill.
Specifically, because it can get cold in Utica during the months of March and April, the dome erases all weather concerns for the Pioneers.
Furthermore, returning seniors like Juwan Wilson and Jerry Bolivar are more focused on what improvements the team has to make in order to reach their goal next season.
“We’ve got work to do, and now is the time baby,” Wilson said.
“We’re not playing around next season, and it starts now,” Bolivar said. “We set a mark, and now we have to go after it.”
During an interview earlier this month, defensive coordinator Will Pluff said he sees success in this programs’ near future.
“Having success here and winning a conference championship is most important right now,” he said. “We’re headed in the right direction.”
The conference championship is the ultimate goal and the battle to being crowned champions begins now with Spring Ball.
For freshmen, this is their first time experiencing Spring Ball; for seniors, its their last. Great teams always have good backups and guys ready to step up. Therefore, the freshmen have to work just as hard as the seniors and the backups have to work just as hard as the starters.
Overall, Spring Ball gives coaches the chance to assess who is working to improve, who is going to take on leadership roles, and where on the field each player can be best utilized based on their abilities.
The Pioneers played a good season last year, but not great. The difference was just a mistake here and there which ultimately lead to their six losses. Five of their six losses were decided by a touchdown or less. A four point loss to Alfred, five point loss to Fisher, six point loss to Hartwick, and seven point losses to Ohio Northern and Cortland.
These close games emphasize the importance of execution.
“The only way to execute in the game is to execute in practice,” said cornerback Chancellor Harris. “Football is back.”
Featured Image: The Utica College football team opened up Spring Practice this morning. After years of practicing outside in the cold weather, the Pioneers now take advantage of the Todd and Jen Hutton Sports and Recreation Center. Photo by Maya Callender.