At 1:09 p.m.on Sept. 5, the Spartans of the gridiron and the Anna Maria Cats both began their historic inaugural football seasons. Both teams were pumped up as the ball was placed at the 40-yard line for the kick off.Winning the toss and electing to receive, the Spartans were poised for a big start.
The ball was kicked deep to Evan Cassidy. Without hesitation he sprinted up the left sideline for a thunderous return of 67 yards, leaving the ball at the Anna Maria 12-yard line. The crowd erupted, and the season was under way. Victory was on the minds of all 5,200 people in attendance at the brand new Spartan Stadium, and they were not disappointed when they departed almost three hours later, seeing a final score of 42-28 in favor of the home team.
The Spartan offense, led by freshman quarterback Shane Brozowski, didn’t waste any time putting the team’s first points on the board. They scored early and often with three touchdowns in the first quarter.
“Getting 21 points in the first quarter was huge today!” said coach Rich Alercio, who became Castleton Football’s all-time wins leader with the victory.
The first drive was short and sweet as the Spartans needed only five plays and 12 yards for the score. A key fourth down conversion led to a first and goal situation in which Tyler Carpenter punched in a 1-yard run for the first touchdown in school history.
Castleton’s defense, which came up huge several times in the game, helped propel the Spartan offense early. Just after Castleton had turned the ball over on their second offensive drive, the Spartan defense stepped in and wasted no time in getting the ball back in their quarterback’s hands as Cody Tancreti picked off the first pass from Anna Maria’s quarterback. Tancreti, a Sparten defensive back, was waiting for the overthrown pass on his own 10 yard line.
The Spartan offense simply said “thank you” to the defense, and marched downfield to put another seven spot on the scoreboard. This time, the points came by way of a 13-yard pass to tight end Justin Leombruno, who tiptoed his way inside the pylon in the front corner of the end zone.
Tyler Carpenter added two more touchdowns, bringing his first-half total to three, and the Spartans took 28-14 lead into the locker room.
Tom Cole, who led the Spartans in receiving yards with 115 yards on four receptions, acknowledged the fast start.
“It felt great to get out there and score early,” he said. “It made things a bit easier on us. This feels great man.”
The defense really stepped their game up in the third quarter, stopping the AMCats from getting much of anything going while the Spartan’s special teams were on fire.
“Special teams was enormous for us today,” said coach Rich Alercio. “They really were outstanding. When the special teams plays to that level, you know it was an all around outstanding victory.”
The fourth quarter began with a bang when a broken play that almost resulted in a sack for a big loss turned into a very improbable 30-yard touchdown pass from Brozowski to Cassidy.
Anna Maria seemed to gain some life back in the middle of the fourth quarter as they returned a fumble for a touchdown, bringing the deficit down to 14 points, but the momentum was short lived.
Cassidy received the kick off following the Cats’ TD at his own 22-yard line. He simply turned on the afterburners and made a beeline up the middle directly for the opposing end zone. Cassidy split two defenders as he crossed the Spartan emblem on the 50-yard line, and then flew past the kicker. This truly was the nail in the coffin, and it sent the players, coaches and crowd alike into frenzy.
As time expired, the team gathered to give Alercio a Gatorade bath, celebrating the win and also giving a little pay back to the man who put them through two-a-day practices for the past month.
“I wasn’t expecting a bath, but when it hit me, wow, just outstanding!” Alercio said, still dripping. “This feels great, more relief than anything. I was feeling a lot of pressure to deliver a great performance to the school, the community and everyone here today.”
One of the happiest men on the field after the game was President Dave Wolk, who was given the game ball for all of his dedication in getting this program on the field. When asked about what he thought about the day Wolk smiled and said, “This exceeded expectations.” He then stopped, looked around and chuckled. “It’s a dream come true.”
The Spartans are back in action Sept.12 at Utica College looking to improve on their 1-0 record.