Several seniors played keyed roles as Union College held off Springfield in a bittersweet season finale Saturday on Frank Bailey Field.
Although senior quarterback Drew Connolly registered his sixth career 300-yard passing game and tossed three touchdown strikes to senior tight end Eric Zavadsky, and senior wideout Justin Gallo became the program’s all-time leader in pass receiving yards, the Dutchmen’s 44-36 victory over the Pride left many players battling their emotions.
Springfield, playing its final game as a member of the Empire 8 Conference, fell to 6-4. The Pride will compete in the Liberty League next season.
Union did win its sixth game out of the last seven contests and sent its seniors off with a win on Senior Day, but the Dutchmen, co-champions of the Liberty League, won’t be playing any postseason games. Union needed co-leader Hobart to lose at Rochester to earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament, but the Statesmen rallied for a 24-10-win. Meanwhile, Union administrators decided earlier this season that since the team played 10 regular-season games, the school wouldn’t put in a bid for an ECAC playoff game.
That means that Union finishes its season at 6-4.
Despite the win, Union seniors were seen fighting off tears all over the field.
“It was a pleasure,” said Zavadsky about both his best collegiate game and his entire career with the Dutchmen. “With three great receivers on this team, it’s easy to overlook the tight end, and that helped me out today. To play a big role in my last game like this was really special.”
Gallo, who finished his career with 3,288 receiving yards, surpassing previous leader Steve Angiletta (3,233) as the all-time Union leader, had mixed emotions after the big win.
“It feels great to be the all-time receiving leader on a team with this kind of tradition of wide receivers,” he said, fighting back tears. “My brother [Ryan] had the record at one time, and I know Steve Angiletta had it before me, and I heard that he was a great receiver, even though I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing him play. With all the great players Union has had, it’s an honor to have this record. But it’s very difficult to be leaving Frank Bailey Field for the last time.”
Connolly, who is fourth on the school’s all-time passing yards list, was also very emotional about his last college game.
“It was a good day all around for this team, but I’m not ready for this,” he said. “I don’t want this story to be finished. There are a lot of great teammates and friends of mine here that I will miss very much. It’s hard to say goodbye. It’s been a good run, though.”
Connolly was asked if the Dutchmen tried to find out about the
Hobart-Rochester score during the game.
“Our goal was just to win this game. We just wanted to play our best, no matter what happened,” he said.
The game was an offensive party for both teams. Union piled up 561 total yards, while Springfield amassed 521, but the difference was how each team went about it. While Union had a balanced offense with Connolly passing for 352 yards and T.J. Franzese rushing for 149 — his third career 100-yard game — the Pride’s offense was virtually all on the ground.
Quarterback Josh Carter, who entered the game with 1,229 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns, broke Union’s back with 299 yards rushing and four running touchdowns, three of them on runs of better than 60 yards. Although he completed just two of 14 passes for 71 yards, one of those passes was a 29-yard scoring strike to Mike Davis.
Union never trailed in the game, although Springfield did tie the game at 6-6 and twice got within a point at 23-22 and 37-36.
The game-winning play was a 50-yard touchdown pass from Connolly to Zavadsky, but it was deflected off Gallo’s hands first, and Zavadsky gained control of it just before diving into the end zone.
“If you look at the film, you’ll see that Justin knew exactly where I was, and he tipped it to me,” Zavadsky said with a laugh.
Franzese scored on runs of four and three yards, while Dylan Schuck added a one-yard plunge for Union. Adam Henry, also a senior, booted a 29-yard field goal.
Carter scored on runs of 38, 63, 60 and 64 yards.
“What a game,” said Union head coach John Audino. “It was like a track meet. We made some really good defensive plays when we had to, but we also gave up a lot of big running plays to their quarterback. He’s a very good player and a hard guy to tackle.
“But I’m very proud of our kids. We were so deep in the hole after losing three games in a row to start the season, but they did a phenomenal job of fighting back.”
Springfield 6 16 14 0 — 36
Union 16 14 7 7 — 44
U — Franzese 4 run (Henry kick blocked).
S — Carter 38 run (Poggio kick blocked).
U — Henry 29 FG.
U — Schuck 1 run (Henry kick).
S — Carter 63 run (Carter run).
U — Zavadsky 25 pass from Connolly (Henry kick).
S — Carter 60 run (Whtie pass from Carter).
U —Zavadsky 19 pass from Connolly (Henry kick).
U — Franzese 3 run (Henry kick).
S — Carter 64 run (run failed).
S — Davis 29 pass from Carter (Carter run).
U — Zavadsky 50 pass from Connolly (Henry kick).
First downs 23 28
Rushes-yards 61-450 44-209
Passing yards 71 352
Att-Comp-Int 14-2-0 42-22-1
Return yards 0 5
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Punts-avg. 4-36.5 3-30.7
Penalties-yards 3-30 6-63