Morgan Golliver, Sports Editor
After finishing the 2017 season with a 3-7 record, the Utica College football team opened up its 2018 season with a 9-6 overtime win over St. Lawrence University on Aug. 31.
Head coach Blaise Faggiano called it an “ugly win,” in which 22 penalties were called in a game that was played on a wet grass field, as his team will look to turn the corner.
“We’re looking to get better, and I’m sure we’ll be better on every aspect next week,” Faggiano said. “I made them promise me after the game that they have to learn from this game and they all agreed.”
After using “Brick by Brick” last season, Faggiano and the team’s leadership council have introduced a new theme for this year’s season, “All In,” which is meant to guide the players throughout the season.
“‘All In’ means a lot of different things,” Faggiano said. “‘All In’ means doing well academically, getting involved in campus activities, making all your weight room sessions and working hard in all aspects of your life. ‘All In’ encourages us to just get better everyday in a growth mindset.”
Coach Faggiano’s goal for this season is to win close games after five of the team’s seven losses last season were by seven points or less.
“Last year, we were a pretty young team, one time we had seven sophomores on offense, so we didn’t have much of, say, team depth,” Faggiano said. “But now we’re a veteran team with pretty much our entire offense and defense returning, so we have good depth across the board, which is definitely an exciting.”
In May, UC announced their four captains for the 2018 season. On offense, captains include quarterback/wide receiver Peyton Miller and running back Malcolm Stowe, while defensive lineman Jack Derby and defensive back Matt McCoy will lead the defense. Each captain is also involved with the team’s leadership council.
For Peyton Miller, this is his third year with the team and his first year as captain, which is a huge honor to him.
“Being captain is a big role,” Miller said. “I’ve never been too vocal like most leaders, but when I do talk, it’s very inspiring or important. I don’t just talk to talk, so being a captain is very special to me as a junior.”
Miller started last season as quarterback before splitting time with Vinny Aloi and taking reps at wide receiver. He will be strictly playing wide receiver this season as he hopes to improve on “little things” to help him execute on big plays.
“I mention all the time that little things go a long way, so I try to hammer the little things like route running and footwork and paying attention to the details of what the coaches ask us to do,” Miller said.
Miller also mentioned that the team as a whole needs to work on their confidence level.
“We have to have the mindset that we’re better than the team we’re facing, and we have to be confident at all times,” he said. “We lacked the confidence last year losing close games, so we need to bring that back and play better than the teams we’re up against.”
Running back Malcolm Stowe is a two-time captain and has been nominated for a prestigious award. Stowe is one of 169 finalists on the 2018 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. The AFCA recognizes athletes who demonstrate a dedication to community service and have a desire to make a positive impact on the lives around them.
“I’m very thankful to be nominated, but to me, I look at it as like that’s just me being me helping people, Stowe said. “I was the Vice President for B.O.N.D last year and had the opportunity to work with the Underground Café where we played basketball with the kids and talked to them and motivated them to do the right stuff and be positive role models.”
This is Stowe’s last season, so he is looking forward to scoring and staying motivated.
“As an offense, we have to get rolling and I have to score points myself,” he said. “We have to stay motivated and go 1-0 in practice. Of course, I want to get an E8 like every senior, but we have to stay motivated.”
On defense, Derby is looking forward to getting back on the field after starting in all ten games last season.
As Derby leads the defensive line, their biggest goal this season is to cause mayhem for the opposing team’s offense.
“We want to make all the plays, that’s our mindset, and if we don’t the linebackers, safeties or corners will,” Derby said. “We’re the first line of defense, so if we can cause the most mayhem possible, we can make their jobs easier. We are a unit and we want to get it done.”
UC’s defense views themselves as one, so the injury to defensive back McCoy last season caused some adverse effects. All of a sudden, the once-whole unit was down a key component.
“Not having McCoy last season was a shock,” Derby said. “We didn’t expect that, and it was really hard, but he did a really good job of coaching up the guys filling his position and was a very good captain. He used all his knowledge to help everyone else be successful.”
Defensive back Matt McCoy is eager to return for the Pioneers for his final season after missing most of the 2017 season with a hip injury.
“It’s frustrating because you want to be out on the field and contribute to the games, but there’s other ways you can contribute,” McCoy said. “As an older guy, I almost took on a coaching role to the younger kids and helped the JV team, which was exciting teaching them all the plays and strategies.”
As the Pioneers welcome the Cardinals of the Catholic University of America this Saturday, Coach Faggiano and the team are very excited to play in front of their home crowd for the first time this season.
“We’re looking forward to showing our fans the new home uniform combinations, which was a big thing on social media,” Faggiano said. “Our first home game is ‘Orange Out,’ and the first couple hundred fans will receive an orange rally towel, compliments of the McQueen family, the family behind our Believe Bowl, and then every one of the games has a different theme after that.”