One of the most resilient groups in Union College football history plays its final home game today on Frank Bailey Field.
The 22 Dutchmen seniors were part of a last-place team as sophomores, but they also earned at least a share of two Liberty League championships and captured an ECAC Upstate playoff title during their time in Garnet uniforms. Although last week’s loss at Hobart probably prevented them from making the playoffs this season, they still have plenty of work to do, beginning with the Senior Day matchup against the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Game time is noon.
“The thing I will remember most about this group is the leadership they provided,” said Union head coach John Audino. “Their freshman year, they won the league. Their sophomore year was very disappointing, when they finished last, but they bounced back to win a piece of the league title last year as juniors. This year, although they didn’t put their best foot forward at Hobart last week, they have been an extremely steady group of us.
“These guys just never gave up. Remember, they lost their first three games last year, but still bounced back to win six in a row to finish 6-4. This year, they started out 0-3, but again rallied back. These guys are a very tight-knit group. They are one of the most enjoyable groups of guys I’ve ever been around. They are very determined. They seem to bounce back from adversity extremely well.”
This year’s senior class, which will be honored before today’s game, includes linebacker Connor Beerworth, wide receiver Jimmer Bennett, defensive back Kevin Calello, linebacker Brian Daley, offensive lineman Elias Doumini, linebacker Jeff DeVico, tight end Jeff Fairbrothers, wide receiver Kevin Fodor, safety Sam Goldman, tight end Nick Hayes, fullback Tim Hersey, defensive back Cam Johnson, defensive back Jafar Johnson, linebacker Noah Joseph, defensive back Alex Macchio, linebacker Pat Manning, offensive lineman John Masini, wide receiver Chris Paolini, defensive back Brian Reigle, offensive lineman Greg Skjold, defensive lineman Brian Wilson and tight end Eric Zavadsky.
Union (4-1 Liberty League, 4-4 overall) needs to win at least one of its final two games to secure its 31st non-losing season out of the last 32 years.
“It’s kind of exciting to think that this group still has plenty to play for,” said Audino. “We want to keep our momentum going and keep looking forward. We had a very exciting game last week at Hobart, but now we have our senior day this week, and we play for the Dutchman Shoes Trophy next week. We are really looking forward to having something to play for right up to the very end.”
The Dutchmen have been one of the most opportunistic teams in the conference this year with a league-best plus-10 turnover ratio. Sophomore quarterback Connor Eck is third in the league in total offense at 208.1 yards per game, while junior tailback T.J. Franzese is third in all-purpose yardage at 95.8 yards per game. Sophomore running back Darnell Thomas ran for a career-high 141 yards against the Statesmen last week.
Defensively, Joseph is second in total tackles (83).
Merchant Marine Academy (2-3, 4-4) is led by running back John-Leon Gosselin (531 yards, eight touchdowns) and quarterback Alex Coviello (519 yards, eight touchdowns on the ground, 19-for-35, 334 yards through the air).
Matthew McDaniels is the league’s top kick return man at 24.4 yards per return.
KEY GAME FOR DANES
Leading rusher and scorer Drew Smith (Guilderlalnd High School) has been suspended for violating team rules and won’t be playing for the University at Albany when it hosts Wagner in a pivotal Northeast Conference game at University Field.
UAlbany is ranked 18th in the Football Championship Subdivision Coaches Poll and 20th in The Sports Network Top 25.
The Great Danes are 5-0 in the NEC and 7-1 overall, but they are only a half-game ahead of the Seahawks (5-1, 5-3) in the league standings. They are trying to wrap up another league title in their final season in the NEC before moving to the Colonial Athletic Association next year.
Without Smith in the lineup, the Great Danes will rely more on their passing attack, spearheaded by sophomore quarterback Will Fiacchi and split end Ryan Kirchner, who is the program’s all-time leading receiver.
The Great Danes are 14-1 in the all-time series with Wagner. UAlbany has intercepted 11 passes so far.
RPI ON THE ROAD
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (3-2, 5-2) travels to Amos Alonzo Stagg Field in Springfield, Mass., to take on the 3-2, 5-3 Pride at noon.
Both teams are coming off byes. Senior quarterback Mike Hermann has produced 77.7 percent of his team’s offense this year with 2,968 total yards. He also has 19 touchdown passes and six rushing scores.
Springfield’s heavy-duty ground attack is paced by Joel Altavesta (528 yards, seven touchdowns), Mike Davis (475 yards, seven touchdowns) and quarterback Jonathan Marrero (482 yards, six touchdowns). The Pride has gone through several different quarterbacks because of injury.