Saxons rally to take down UC in final seconds

Patrick Rivers
Asst. Sports Editor

The Utica College football team lost its third consecutive game last weekend in a game against Alfred University. The final score: Alfred 20 Utica 16.

Juniors Juwan Wilson and Joe Castellitto team up to make a tackle in an earlier game against St. John Fisher. Wilson led the team with 12 tackles in the team’s loss against Alfred on Saturday. Photo by Jeff Pexton.

The Pioneers have had six games come within a single touchdown this season; only two were in their favor. The other four were losses against Ohio Northern, Cortland, St. John Fisher, and most recently Alfred. Each of those teams have had pretty successful seasons this year. Cortland, Fisher, and Alfred each have just two conference losses and no more than 3 total losses. Ohio Northern has only two losses in the highly competitive OAC.
Coach Blaise Faggiano really commends this group of guys because of the work ethic they’ve maintained despite the heavy adversity they faced throughout the entire season. Each week, they came in, practiced hard, and never hung their heads.
“After two tough losses we had a bye week, and that could’ve been a disaster for some teams, but not our guys,” Faggiano said. “They worked hard, they healed up, got better, and went out and gave Alfred a good game.”
UC lost games against Fisher and Alfred by five points or fewer this season, and those two will be playing for a share of the conference title this weekend. Which goes to show, this UC team can compete with the best of the best in the Empire 8.
Quarterback Teddy VanGalen finished with 166 yards on 18 completions. It can be considered a subpar game for him as he has played a great season up to this point. The offense failed to post a touchdown for the second consecutive game. Injuries could have contributed to this, as VanGalen was coming off of an injury and running back Ryan Burnett broke his hand early in the game. The Pioneers also missed the presence of Mr. Versatility, Jerred Beniquez, due to a leg injury.
The defense played well in this one, but gave up a 15-play, 91-yard drive to the Saxons in the final quarter capped off by a two-yard touchdown by quarterback Tyler Johnson with 21 seconds remaining. Alfred had been facing a third down with two yards to go earlier in the drive and linebacker Juwan Wilson came up with a huge sack, resulting in a loss of nine. On the ensuing fourth and 11 play, the Pioneers gave up a 24-yard pass completion for a first down with under three minutes remaining, setting the Saxons up with a first and 10 on UC’s 15-yard line.
“We just didn’t come up with the stop when needed,” said junior cornerback Chance Harris.
Go figure, Wilson led the Pioneers in tackles again with 12, increasing his season total to 103. He is just the tenth Pioneer to post 100 tackles in a single season in school history, surely a notable accomplishment. His All-American cohort Nick Woodman recorded six tackles and one sack on the day, increasing his career sack record to 26.5.
The focus will now shift towards Hartwick in the season finale. The team is extremely confident that they will finish the season in the victory column. It is important for the guys to go off on a high note heading into the off-season where it is important to remain focused.
“Our kids are tough and resilient, and I’m confident that we’re going to finish at a positive angle,” said Faggiano.
Hartwick is not going to lay over and give UC a win, and the Pioneers will have to go out and earn a victory. A win will set them at .500 on the year and a good mark to improve on next season. Hartwick, like UC, has had a fair share of close games this season also; The Hawks took Cortland to overtime, lost to Fisher by a single score, and fell to Morrisville by 3.
The game is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday at Charles A. Gaetano Stadium, as the seniors will step on the turf one last time.