Union football relying on diverse cast heading into Utica clash

Union College wide receiver Robbie Tolbert is congratulated by lineman Kevin Dewing (73) and wide receiver Andre Ross Jr. (2) during a Sept. 4 game at Frank Bailey Field in Schenectady.

Union College wide receiver Robbie Tolbert is congratulated by lineman Kevin Dewing (73) and wide receiver Andre Ross Jr. (2) during a Sept. 4 game at Frank Bailey Field in Schenectady.

SCHENECTADY — Returning players, new players, so far this season it doesn’t matter who the Union football team is putting the ball in the hands of, they’re all making positive things happen.

Through three games, the undefeated Dutchmen are scoring 46.7 points per game while spreading the ball around, succeeding even in situations when some of the squad’s most reliable playmakers haven’t been available.

“We’re just looking to play good football,” Union senior left tackle Tim Driscoll said Wednesday, “no matter who’s back there.”

Last Saturday against Springfield, in Union’s stiffest test to date, the Dutchmen still put up 30 points despite playing without No. 1 wide receiver Andre Ross Jr., while All-American running back Ike Irabor left the game with an injury and was limited to just 11 carries.

Union is preparing to potentially be without Irabor again in Saturday’s 1 p.m. road game against fellow 3-0 squad Utica, as Dutchmen head coach Jeff Behrman said Wednesday that the 6-foot, 200-pound senior’s status was “day-to-day” heading into the weekend, though Behrman declined to elaborate on the type of injury that was hindering Irabor.

The absence of Irabor would lead to sophomore Michael Fiore stepping into the role as Union’s feature back against Utica.

It was a role that Fiore thrived in when Irabor left the game against Springfield, carrying the ball 20 times for 110 yards and a touchdown. That was Fiore’s second-straight game topping 100 rushing yards, as he gained 107 yards on just 11 carries the week prior against Worcester State.

“Michael, from the minute he got on campus last fall, has worked really, really hard,” Behrman said. “He’s really understood what we’re trying to do offensively, and has a great football mind and good athleticism. He runs the ball the way we like guys to run the ball — downhill and hard.”

That Union’s corps of skill players has been able to succeed while being largely interchangeable casts the group plowing the road for them in an extremely positive light.

Though only two of the Dutchmen’s five starting offensive lineman — Driscoll and left guard Chris Katchadurian — are returning starters, the newcomers in the cast have stepped right in seamlessly.

“It’s always nice when you have some new guys step up,” Behrman said. “We’ve got some new faces on our O-line, too, even though they’ve been here for a couple years. The game experience, they’re getting that now. It’s not just the first-year guys coming in, it’s also some other guys in some different areas.”

Senior Stephen Crevani is one of those new starters, though he’s no stranger to taking the field as he saw action in 15 games over his first three seasons on campus.

“Me, [Katchadurian], Driscoll, we’ve been together for four years,” Crevani said. “We’ve all been close. Adding two underclassmen, it’s been fun working with those kids and getting in sync.”

After breezing to victories in their first two games, last week’s down-to-the-wire test against Springfield should prove beneficial as Union heads into its Liberty League schedule next month.

“Getting that matchup was big,” Driscoll said. “There’s a lot for us to improve on from that game.”

Behrman said that Union will need to keep up its high level of play Saturday against Utica. The Pioneers are averaging 462 yards on offense during their 3-0 start, while the defense is limiting opponents to less than 300 yards of offense per game.

“Utica, they’re an all-around really good football program,” Behrman said. “[Head coach] Blaise Faggiano does a great job there developing the team. They know who they are offensively. They’re a big, strong physical front on defense. They’re going to stop the run and make you throw the ball, and vice-versa I think they’re very effective throwing the ball offensively — more than capable of running the ball, too.”

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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