Douglas Seitz, Staff Writer
The Utica College football team pulled off a late game victory under the lights Saturday night. The Pioneers ended up in the end zone once per quarter to top Empire 8 rivals, Morrisville State, 28 to 21.
With this win, the Pioneers proceed to 1-0 in league play, and for just the third time in school history, they improve to 3-0. The last time UC started with 3 wins and 0 losses was 2014 when they recorded 7 wins, a school record.
Morrisville has always been a target for Utica ever since the tough loss in the Pioneers first ever Bowl Game appearance back in 2014. They have beaten Morrisville every season since that defeat.
The coaching staff knows that they have extremely talented athletes on both sides of the ball, a type of talent that can beat any opponent.
UC alumni and football coach, Marcus Gurdineer said, “We are very confident in our team and individual players right now. We knew that if we played our game and played all four quarters, we would walk away with a win. Overall we had the same message all week and right through to the end of the game focus, compete as hard as you can, and execute the game plan. Our players stayed true to that message and came out on top and we could not be more proud.”
For the third time this season, senior quarterback, Teddy Vangallen, had over 30 attempts through the air. He completed 18 for 31 with 193 yards and one touchdown. The one touchdown came late in the fourth quarter when he took a shot to junior receiver, Imani Vincent, who made an acrobatic grab to take the lead.
Vincent led the team in receiving with five catches for 73 yards and one touchdown. Senior, Jerred Beniquez, and junior Josh Connor, caught a combined seven balls for 54 yards. On the other side of the offense, the Pioneers had three different running backs take handoffs. Senior, Ryan Burnette, led the trio with 19 attempts for 78 yards followed by sophomore, Malcolm Stowe, who accumulated 25 yards on just four carries. Freshman Lindell Reed got 11 touches for 24 yards and two touchdowns. When asked about the three-man rotation at the running back position, Burnette said, “It gives us a new dimension of the offense with the trust we have in all of our playmakers.”
First-team all-conference linebacker, Juwan Wilson, led the defense for the second week in a row. Wilson put up 10 tackles where he sits at fourth on the pioneers all time lists. Junior, Anthony Bierria-Anderson, and sophomore, Dehstin Smart, weren’t far behind with eight tackles apiece. Sophomore, Anthony Beaubron, recorded an interception that he would return for 21 yards.
Wilson was asked about the defense’s performance and responded with, “We ran to the ball on defense which is something that can save a defense that has small mistakes. We were at our best when our best was needed, and that says a lot of about a team with young players “
On special teams, senior, Nicodemus Gambill had a standout performance. Gambill, who returned three kickoffs, accumulated an enormous 151 yards. His third and final return of the night answered Morrisville’s 89-yard touchdown run. He took it 99 yards to the end zone which may have very well been the turning point of the ball game.
Coach Gurdineer said, “Every game is a big game. In college football, you need to feel the pressure to be perfect every week because there is zero second chances against a conference opponent.”
That is the mentality the Pioneers are going to have to maintain going into a very important Homecoming weekend. UC will face off against the Cortland Red Dragons for the first time on home turf. Wilson says.” We need to have a fast start and keep our offense on the field. We have one of, if not the best offense in the Empire 8.” The Pioneers will attempt to improve to 4-0 on the season and 2-0 in conference play on Saturday at 1 P.M.