Last Saturday marked the playing of the third annual Courage Bowl – a faceoff between the St. John Fisher College Cardinals and the UR Yellowjackets at St. John Fisher.

The Courage Bowl was created to benefit Camp Good Days – an organization designed to improve the lives of families, adults and children whose lives have been effected by cancer and other life challenges.

In the previous two games, the ‘Jackets were far outplayed by the fifth-ranked Cardinals. However, this year was different, as UR put up a fight and gave themselves a chance to win. Unfortunately, Fisher pulled ahead late and won the game, 37-21.

“The team showed a lot of fight,” senior running back Matt Bielecki said. “Some of the calls didn’t go the way we wanted to, but people kept their heads up and played a great game.”

For most of the first quarter, the game was a defensive battle, resulting in no points accumulated. With about two minutes left in the quarter, Fisher scored the first touchdown of the game, beginning a series of scoring drives that would bring the Yellowjackets to a 20-0 deficit with only 20 seconds left in the first half. UR fans sat freezing and disheartened, waiting for the Yellowjacket football chemistry to kick in.

Finally, with only six seconds left in the first half, ‘Jackets’ sophomore quarterback Adam Barrett threw a desperation pass toward the end zone on third down from the Fisher 32. Five men in the end zone seemed to leap together reaching for the ball, among them four red jerseys and one lone Yellowjacket, junior tight end Tom Malczewski. An electric energy immediately hit the crowd as the ball bobbled up and then landed gracefully in Malczewski’s hands, marking his first career touchdown catch in the final seconds of the first half. Sophomore kicker Griffin Moar topped it off with an extra point, bringing the score to 20-7 at the end of the second quarter.

Coming back from half-time, the Yellowjackets looked to continue along the comeback trail. Although Fisher started the scoring off in the third quarter, converting an interception into three points, the Yellowjackets seemed to have a new energy about them. The team finally began to connect, answering the Cardinals with a 15-play, 59-yard scoring drive. The drive culminated with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Barrett to sophomore tight end Pedro Sosa with approximately four minutes left in the third quarter, bringing the score to only 23-15.

The ‘Jackets further closed in on the Cardinals in the beginning of the fourth quarter, when senior captain Jim Milks intercepted a pass at the Fisher four-yard line and returned it the short distance for another UR score, closing the gap to 23 to 21. The ‘Jackets’ offensive unit stayed on the field to attempt to tie the score with a two-point conversion. However, the pass fell incomplete, leaving the Yellowjackets with a two-point deficit and a little under 12 minutes left in the final quarter.

In an effort to regain possession, freshman kicker Zachary White-Stellato sent a high, short kickoff. Senior defensive back Andy Rape leaped for the ball and made the catch, seemingly returning the ball to the Yellowjackets. However, this was not the case, and the ruling on the field was kick-catching interference with a 15-yard penalty, giving the ball back to the Cardinals at the UR 44-yard line.

“Up until the fourth quarter, we had the number five team in the country on the ropes,” Malczewski said.

On their ensuing possession, Fisher rebounded with a five-play, 44-yard drive, ending in a touchdown, and then further extended their lead with another touchdown just a little later in the fourth quarter. The Yellowjackets were unable to regain momentum and recover from these two late scores, as they fell to Fisher by a score of 37-21, despite outgaining the Cardinals 305 yards to 252.

Regardless of the final score, the Courage Bowl inspired a new energy and confidence in the team that they can look forward to a strong season. Blue-and-yellow clad fans packed the bleachers on the east side of the stadium and were often louder than the much larger Fisher fan base. In the second half, the Yellowjackets finally began to look like a team that will lead UR to many victories this season.

This game also marked the return of captains and seniors Bielecki and wide receiver Jay Jay Vanderstyne, both of whom missed the opening game against Carnegie Mellon University last week due to injuries.

Bielecki totaled 98 yards on the ground on 31 carries, earning him the Rochester MVP, and Vanderstyne reeled in a game-high six catches for 51 yards.

Bielecki expressed his enthusiasm for returning to the game, especially one that was filled with so much excitement and importance.

“It was great to be back playing again after sitting out through camp and the first game,” he said.

Barrett finished the day for UR by completing 18 of his 33 passes for 160 yards, including two touchdowns and one interception, in addition, he rushed for 45 yards.

“A lot of the young players who are in starting roles stepped up this game, particularly Adam Barrett,” Bielecki said.

On the defensive side of the ball, Milks led the ‘Jackets with nine tackles and one pass breakup in addition to his interception return.

This weekend, UR goes head-to-head with Union College on Saturday at noon in Fauver Stadium. Last year, Union was a co-champion of the Liberty League with Hobart College, so this weekend’s game will be yet another challenge for the Yellowjackets to face.

“We have a huge game this weekend against Union – our league rivals,” Bielecki said, “and if we play with the heart we played with on Saturday, we have a good chance of winning.”

Gewirtz is a member of the class of 2009.



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