Patrick Rivers, Assistant Sports Editor
The Utica College football team defeated OhioNorthern University, 34- 30, in thrilling fashion on Saturday. The Pioneers scored 24 points in the fourth quarter for a comeback victory at home.
Ohio-Northern was ranked #18 in the Division III national poll, making the win that much more important to the UC football program. During homecoming last year, the Pioneers defeated #17 ranked Ithaca College in similar fashion; a 25-yard touchdown from Teddy Van Galen to Jerred Beniquez in overtime.
Head coach Blaise Faggiano has always been pleased with his team’s resiliency in tough games. Senior leadership is an important factor in these particular situations and UC’s seniors stepped up.
“I was really impressed with Teddy’s leadership, Jerred Beniquez’s leadership; just the way our kids were on the sideline,” Faggiano said. “Coaches kept coaching and players kept playing.”
Van Galen completed 22 of 38 passes for 298 yards and three touchdowns on the day. Nine of those completions came in the fourth quarter when he threw for 116 yards and two touchdowns to junior receiver Shawn Marchant.
The Empire 8 Conference, awarding him offensive player of the week, recognized Van Galen’s play.
Beniquez and Imani Vincent combined for 10 catches, 139 yards and a 30-yard touchdown to end the first half from Van Galen to Vincent. Compared to the 298 yards through the air, the Pioneers only had 94 total yards rushing. Senior running back Ryan Burnett, sophomore Malcolm Stowe, and freshman Lindell Reed carried the load for UC’s ground game, sharing 19 carries out in the backfield. The trio ultimately ran well, combining to average over four yards per carry in the game.
On the defensive side, first-team all-conference linebacker Juwan Wilson led UC with nine tackles. Junior Derrick Sekuterski added seven tackles, while sophomores Anthony Bierria-Anderson and Dehstin Smart played well adding eight and six tackles respectively.
Yet, fellow sophomore Matt Stone stole the show with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter with a game-changing 83-yard interception return off a tipped pass by UC Freshman Jack Derby.
The Pioneers were down 30-13 before the interception, and just like that, they were back in it. The defense bounced back with a huge stop allowing the offense to march 80 yards in under three minutes to pull within three points with a minute and 40 seconds remaining.
A quick stop by the UC defense gave Van Galen the ball again with a minute and 16 seconds left and that proved to be plenty of time. Van Galen ultimately connected with Marchant on a sixyard touchdown strike and the game-winning score with 14 seconds to go.
Similar to last year at Brockport, the Pioneers won on a 35-yard field goal by Thomas Woodburn in overtime. In comparison, Coach Faggiano gives Brockport a slight edge.
“I fell to my knees and was out of breath,” he said. “That was crazy.” He went on to say that this game had the same breath-taking effect in the end, which is why we all love college football.
The Pioneer players and coaches may remember this game for the rest of their lives. Yet, for now, it’s over and done with according to senior captain Ryan Burnett. “It’s over, you can’t relive the past,” he said. “We have a long-season and our minds have to be right for a 7 o’clock home-opener at Morrisville this week.” The Pioneers look to improve to 3-0 for the second time in the past three years and could use as much support as possible in a tough Morrisville environment this Saturday. Be there!