The football team went into Saturday’s Liberty League opener against Union College determined to break a two-game losing streak, but unfortunately they found that a strong defense holding the Dutchmen to 13 points was not enough to solidify a win. The ‘Jackets were unable to match those 13 points, dropping a game filled with many missed opportunities, 13-7.
“I thought our team played hard but we are not executing when we need to,” senior wide receiver Jay Jay Vanderstyne said. “We can’t have unforced penalties, like off-sides or false starts, and when there is an opportunity to make a play we need to do that. We can’t have any dropped balls or missed assignments.”
Union’s sophomore kicker Zach Epley put the first six points on the board with two field goals. Midway through the first quarter, the Dutchmen’s 16-play, 63-yard drive culminated in a field goal to make the score 3-0.
With 43 seconds left in the first quarter, Epley added three more points to the scoreboard with a career-long 37-yard field goal after a 13-play, 52-yard drive.
Union’s senior fullback Zach Tillo added seven more points with a touchdown and the following PAT at 2:41 left in the first half.
The ‘Jackets quickly responded. They took control at their own 35 yard-line and worked down the field. On a third down at the UR 42, sophomore quarterback Adam Barrett rocketed the ball into Vanderstyne’s hands for a 53-yard gain. He was taken down at the five, but on the next play his confidant senior running back Matt Bielecki took it to the end zone with two minutes left in the half. This ended the scoring for the day from either side.
The ‘Jackets did have a few scoring opportunities later in the game, but were unable to make a connection. With under a minute left in the first half, Barrett misread his pass to sophomore Zach Ingoldsby, and Union’s R.J. Simoni intercepted the ball at the Union 15 and ran it 15 yards to the 30.
Early in the fourth quarter, UR was presented with another opportunity. Starting at their own 32, the Yellowjackets pushed down the field to come up at Union’s two and had a first and goal situation. However, the offense was unable to follow through. After three failed attempts to score a touchdown, sophomore kicker Griffin Moar left the sideline to attempt a field goal. His 22-yard attempt was blocked by a Union defender, and the ‘Jackets were unable to come away with an addition to the scoreboard.
With time expiring in the game, the ‘Jackets had another big opportunity, when senior defensive back Andy Rape ran a punt return 26 yards with 12 seconds left. Junior tight end Tom Malczewski and sophomore wide receiver Mike Coolbaugh became key receivers in helping Barrett move the ball up to the 21 yard-line, but after a false start, the ‘Jackets could not recover to find the end-zone in time to negate Union’s six point lead.
Vanderstyne noted that the defense made a great contribution by keeping the deficit at a mere six points.
“I think our defense has been playing very well,” Vanderstyne said. “They put us in a good position to win that game. It’s just sometimes things don’t go your way, but they have been playing very well the last couple of weeks.”
Contributing to the strong defense were seniors defensive back Jim Milks with 15 tackles and defensive back John Jackson and inside linebacker Joe Galantini with 11 apiece. There were some highlights on offense as well, with Bielecki rushing for 84 yards and sophomore tight end Pedro Sosa grabbing four catches for 46 yards.
Head coach Scott Greene is excited about the performances of some of the new guys.
“Some performances that stood out was the play of our two freshman offensive linemen, Matt Cohen and Zach Feldman, who have been very solid in their first season of play,” Greene said. “Watching them mature every game has been fun to watch. We are very excited to start watching [freshman] Clarence Onyiriuka get some more carries from the running back position as well.”
The loss highlights a few key weaknesses that the team is working hard to improve for the future.
“Some areas that we can improve in are special teams such as our field goal protection and operation time from kick to snap; we were too slow on our operation time, which resulted in a blocked kick,” Greene said. “Our offensive players need to step up and start making more plays for us in order to move the chains and gain some momentum from the offensive side of the ball.”
“We are still a very young team and with that comes growing pains,” Vanderstyne said.
“We are still working very hard and preparing for next week’s games against St. Lawrence [University]. The quarterbacks and wide receivers are working on timing and the line is working hard on their blocking schemes,” he added.
Greene echoed Vanderstyne’s statement.
“The players have been playing very hard and I could not be more proud of them. We are still trying to find our identity right now and with such a young and inexperienced team it could take some time,” he said.
“I believe that we are close to correcting mistakes that have been keeping us from having success on the field, when the young players realize that every play counts and mistakes can cost you games then the rest will take care of itself. Our goal has to be to become a better team week to week,” he added.
The ‘Jackets travel to Canton, N.Y. this Saturday to take on the Saints at 2 p.m.
“Looking ahead to St. Lawrence, I am optimistic that our team will be ready to take a step forward and get this program on the right track,” Greene said. “We just need our play makers to step up and give us a boost of positive energy. If we have a positive attitude this week in practice and believe in one another on Saturday then the outcome will be a culmination of all the ingredients that make for a recipe for success.”
Paret is a member of the class of 2008.