Union College learned some painful lessons in its season opener against Salve Regina, but the Dutchmen also showed promise and potential.
Although the Dutchmen carried a 14-6 lead into the fourth quarter, the Seahawks rallied with 11 points in the final period and rode Christian Clark’s 35-yard field goal with 10:01 remaining to a 17-14 victory at Frank Bailey Field.
The bad news was that the Dutchmen, using a pair of young quarterbacks with no varsity experience, made some careless mistakes and committed eight penalties for 66 yards in losses. Nick Becker, who got the start at quarterback, threw a pick-six to Phil Terio on his very first pass of the season.
But Union’s defense played
solidly overall, and the offense had its share of bright spots. Connor Eck, who is battling with Becker for the starting job, took over on the fourth possession of the game and completed 10 of 22 passes for 172 yards and a score. He also ran for a team-best 41 yards on 13 carries.
Wideout Jimmer Bennett, from Albany Academy, caught seven passes for 172 yards and a touchdown.
“I think we found out a lot about this football team,” said Union head coach John Audino. “We lost to a good team. We played very well defensively almost the entire game, but we didn’t play that well on
“Still, our kids played tough and strong. We found out what we can do, and what we can’t do. I’m disappointed in the loss, but I’m encouraged. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel with this team. I think it was a learning experience on our end. I can see our potential.”
Salve Regina took advantage of Becker’s errant pass on Union’s first possession to take a 6-0 lead when Terio stepped in front of a Union receiver, snatched the ball in stride at the 31-yard line and waltzed into the end zone with just 2:36 gone in the opening period.
Union’s offense continued to sputter until Eck came on and finally found his timing in the third period to lead the Dutchmen to a pair of scores.
He connected with Bennett for a 67-yard bomb down the near sidelines after Bennett juggled the ball and nearly stepped out of bounds twice before regaining his balance and outracing his defender into the end zone to give Union a 7-6 lead.
Tailback Darnel Thomas then capped a 12-play, 68-yard drive with a six-yard sweep with 27 seconds left in the period to give the Dutchmen a 14-6 advantage.
But Union’s defense couldn’t hold the momentum and allowed the Seahawks to score in just four plays. Steve Wilken hit Matthew Traynor with a 37-yard pass to set up a 15-yard TD strike to Patrick Keenan that tied the score at
14-14 just 51 seconds into the final period.
After Union’s offense stalled, Salve Regina scored the game-winner on Clark’s field goal.
“When push came to shove, we needed to move the football, and we did by distributing it better,” said Salve Regina head coach Bob Chesney. “Union did a good job of stopping our interior run, but we finally stepped up when we had to.”
Despite a solid performance in his first game, Eck was upset with his mistakes.
“Poise is something I’ve got to work on,” he said. “When you lose, there isn’t much reason to be happy, but at least we know now what we have to work on. I think we established an identity today.”
Noah Joseph led a strong Union defensive effort with 17 tackles.
Bennett was the most optimistic Dutchman.
“We showed that we’re a team that can compete for a Liberty League title if we improve on some things,” he said. “Connor played a heck of a game today. We played hard, and there is a lot of promise in that locker room.”
Salve Regina 6 0 0 11 — 17
Union 0 0 14 0 — 14
SR — Terio 31 interception return (kick failed).
U — Bennett 67 pass from Eck (Kazeem kick).
U — Thomas 6 run (Kazeem kick).
SR — Keenan 15 pass from Wilken (Scales run).
SR — Clark 35 FG.
SR Union First downs 15 15
Rushes-yards 38-92 43-126
Passing yards 154 214
Comp-Att-Int. 13-22-0 12-28-1
Return yards 56 22
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Punts-avg. 7-38.6 6-39.0
Penalties-yards 5-45 8-66