Union faces difficult football opener

Union College will be in for a severe test when the Dutchmen open their season tonight at 7 at peren
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Union College will be in for a severe test when the Dutchmen open their season tonight at 7 at perennial power Springfield College on Amos Alonzo Stagg Field in Springfield, Mass.

The Pride, who already opened their campaign last week with a 55-27 trouncing of Fitchburg State, own a 7-4-1 lead in the all-time

series. The Pride have won six of the last seven games against the Dutchmen.

In last week’s opener, Springfield, known for its option attack and devastating ground game, got 141 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns from freshman quarterback Josh Carter. The Pride ran for 541 yards and passed for another 97.

“I don’t know what speed we’ll get from them, but they’ve already got a win under their belt, and they’ve had an opportunity to work some things and get the kinks out. It’s more of a dangerous game for us,” said Union head coach John Audino, who has a record of 120-42 with the Dutchmen.

“They are young, and they have good athletes. They always have good athletes, and it’s always a good game.”

One of the difficult things about preparing for Springfield every year is that Union’s defense probably won’t face a similar offense the rest of the season.

“You try to play everything from your base defense, but they’ve got wrinkles we won’t see all year long,” said Audino. “You must make adjustments and do certain things to play to their scheme. That’s where the X’s and O’s come in. We would obviously love to have seen three or four films on them, but we don’t have anything on them. Who knows what they have up their sleeves for us. Their first game was on a Thursday night, and they’ve had some extra days to prepare for us. They’re well coached, and they have a very good football program. We’ll have our work cut out for us.”

Union will start Andrew Catel­lier at quarterback. He completed 60 of 108 passes for 655 yards and two scores a year ago. Chris Coney (467 yards, four touchdowns) will be his primary runner, but the Dutchmen have numerous other ball car­riers, including John Johnson, Kyle

Holmes (Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake) and freshman fullback Joe Grassia (Mohonasen).

Charles Kaliades, Mike Concannon and converted quarterback jared Gourrier are Catellier’s prime targets at receiver, and Zach Epley will handle the kicking duties.

On defense, the Dutchmen will be paced by returning All-Liberty League all-stars Joe Catalano at linebacker and Sean Conerly at defensive tackle.

Union was 5-5 a year ago, and lost its final three games.

Audino said he doesn’t mind playing Springfield, a perennial NCAA Division III playoff team, in the opener every season.

“The schedule is the schedule,” he said. “It’s been that way for six or seven years. All we can do is dial it up and play. We sell the positives of it to our players. It’s a good sit­uation to play against a really good program. We’ll make adjustments as a program whether we win, lose or draw.

“It’s been a good week of football in practice. Our kids are excited, and we’re fairly healthy.”

ALBANY AT HOFSTRA

The University at Albany travels to James M. Shuart Stadium to take on Hofstra at 7 in Hempstead.

Albany, which had a bye last week, lost to fifth-ranked Mass­achusetts, 28-16, in its season opener in Amherst, Mass.

Dave McCarty, who played for LaSalle, ran for better than 100 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns for the Great Danes. McCarty ran for 1,503 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2007. Vinny Esposito, who passed for 1,810 yards and 12 TDs a year ago, is the UAlbany quarterback.

Hofstra (0-1), of the Colonial Athletic Association, is coming off a 35-3 loss to Connecticut of the Big East.

Quarterback Bryan Savage, who passed for 2,668 yards and 13 touchdowns and also ran for 10 scores a year ago, is out for the season with a herniated disc in his back. Cory Christopher has taken over at quarterback and will look for Anthony Nelson (44 catches, 543 yards) or

6-foot-5 Ottis Lewis (27 catches, 465 yards, four TDs) to try to open up the field against the UAlbany defense. Larry Gaskins and Justine Buries are the tailbacks.

The Pride led the CAA in rushing defense and was second in total defense last year.

RPI HITS THE ROAD

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute opens its season on the road against the Endicott Gulls at Endicott Stad­ium in Beverly, Mass.

RPI, 8-2 a year ago, is the defending Liberty League champion. End­icott (0-1) lost to Framingham State, 25-20, in its opener last week.

Jimmy Robertson, a fourth-year starter at quarterback, is the key player for the Engineers. He completed 191 of 310 passes for 2,574 yards and 17 scores a year ago. He is closing in on the school’s all-time records for passing yards and touchdown passes.

Nick Costa (419 yards) is RPI’s top running back. Leading defenders are Anthony Casale (111 tackles) and defensive back Tim Acker (six interceptions).

Freshman quarterback Phil Kon­opka, who completed 21 of 31 passes for 231 yards, is the key offensive player for the Gulls.

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