Youth, depth and talent.
Those are the themes for this year’s Union College football team, which has put head coach John Audino in an extremely good mood following last week’s scrimmage with Brown.
“We are very pleased with the way we came out of the Brown scrimmage,” said Audino, whose team finished 5-5 a year ago, but lost its final three games. “We had a good day against them, and our kids competed very well. We got a lot of work done, and we were able to make quite a few decisions about who will be the starters this season.”
The most important decision is at quarterback, where veteran Andrew Catellier (Voorheesville) and freshman Andrew Connolly have moved to the head of a crowded pack of signal-callers.
Catellier, who appeared in nine games last year, completed 60 of 108 passes for 655 yards and two touchdowns. He was only intercepted three times.
“Andy brings a wealth of experience. He started quite a few games for us, and he is much improved,” said Audino. “I like what I’m seeing from him. He is someone I certainly feel good about. As far as Connolly is concerned, he had a nice beginning of camp, but then he hit a lull. He had an ankle and a knee injury, nothing serious, but he only practiced three days before the Brown scrimmage.”
Union is loaded with solid running backs, and the Dutchmen should be able to move the ball on the ground. Chris Coney, Kyle Holmes (Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake), John Johnson and Joe Grassia (Mohonasen) will share most of the carries, but Audino also has three or four freshmen that could see some playing time.
“At this point, our top four guys in the backfield should play quite a bit,” said Audino. “Chris [Coney] is our key returning guy, and he had a good year last season.”
Coney ran for 467 yards on 84 carries (5.6 average). He also scored four times.
Tony Morello (6-foot-2, 270 pounds) anchors an offensive line that is bigger, stronger and much improved over last season, according to Audino, who will miss the services of Dylan Hawkins, a 6-4,
285-pounder who is out for the season with a knee injury.
Wideouts include converted quarterback Jared Gourrier, Charles Kaliades (27
catches, 334 yards), Mike Concannon (12 catches, 132 yards) and Hudson Valley Community College graduate Justin Gallo (Lansingburgh). Another converted quarterback, Ted Civetti, will split time between tight end and fullback. Josh McKelligan, a co-captain, is another solid tight end.
Kaliades, who began his Union career as a quarterback, is often used on trick plays, while Gourrier, one of the team’s leading runners last year while sharing the starting QB duties, could be a breakaway threat for the Garnet.
“We need someone with his athletic ability on the field all the time,” said Audino, who has a 120-42 record in 16 seasons at Union.
Keeping with his theme of depth, Audino will split his kicking/punting duties among Zach Epley (five field goals, 20 of 25 PATs), Blaise Ancona and Ben Rappa, who sat out last season.
Defensively, Audino plans on rotating personnel at virtually every position.
“We’ve got four guys, plus another one who is dinged up right now, who will rotate at defensive tackle, and we’ve got another four who will play defensive end,” he said.
Sean Conerly, a first-team All-Liberty League selection, is the key player on the defensive line, along with last year’s sack leader, Charles Hovseplan.
Joe Catalano, another first-team All-Liberty choice, paces the linebacking corps. He made a team-best 97 tackles a year ago, to go along with three pass deflections. John Peters and Matt Santa Barbara will also help make up for the loss of the graduated Vito Pellerito, one of the team’s all-time greats at the LB position.
The Dutchmen must revamp their secondary, which suffered numerous graduation losses. Kevin Rautenstrauch (38 tackles) and Chris Brolley (two interceptions) have the most experience of the returning group, while J.P. Sticco has moved over from the offensive side of the ball.
“We’ve got the right personnel in the right spots,” said Audino. “The big question is how our quarterback position will play, and how productive it will be. We also have a lot of new people on defense.
“We could be very improved this season, but hopefully, our record will also be better. The schedule is tough. We open with Springfield and Muhlenberg even before we start our league season. Our kids must come to play every day, and so far in camp, that’s exactly what they’ve done. From what I see, everyone is extremely excited to play this season.”
Saturday — at Springfield, 7; 20 — MUHLENBERG, 1; 27 — ROCHESTER, 1.
4 — at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 1; 11 — at Hobart, 1; 18 — at St. Lawrence, 1.
1 — at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1; 8 — U.S. MERCHANT MARINE ACADEMY, 12; 15 — at Susquehanna, 12.
Home games in CAPS.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette: