Castleton head football coach, Rich Alercio, was looking for a better outcome against a Utica team that trounced his Spartans 62-10 a season ago at Gaetano Stadium in Utica, N.Y. “Our goal is to be able to play with Utica,” said Alercio, a few days before Saturday’s week two matchup. “If we can be in the game with them late with a chance to win this weekend, we’d be thrilled.”
Unfortunately, the Spartans fell hard to the Pioneers 59-22 on Sept. 11, at a sunny Spartan Stadium. But many positives can be taken from the game according to sophomore wide receiver, Evan Cassidy.
“We look where we were at a year ago and we didn’t score an offensive touchdown,” said Cassidy. “It’s a tremendous improvement, we were putting together offensive drives and everything.”
Utica came out passing the ball and continued the aerial attack throughout the game. Pioneer quarterback Andrew Benkwitt was sensational going 26-for-40 on pass attempts for 378 yards and four touchdowns.
Utica struck first with a 64-yard drive capped by a two-yard TD by running back, Jake Scott. The Pioneers scored on their next drive and quickly jumped to a 14-0 lead. Utica added another score before half, bringing the deficit to 20.
Castleton’s first score late in the first half followed an impressive drive led by sophomore quarterback, Shane Brozowski. The Spartans drove 90 yards down the field using a no-huddle offense. With Utica backed up to their one-yard line, running back Tyler Carpenter punched the ball in for the touchdown. Brozowski passed for 71 yards and rushed for 27 yards on the drive.
Alercio is impressed with the way his young quarterback handles the offense.
“He gives us a chance,” said Alercio. “He’s going to get even better. To have the maturity to make good decisions on where to throw or who to give the ball to is great.”
Utica scored twice more before the end of the half and the Spartans returned to the locker room down 33-7.
The Spartans had a good third quarter stopping Utica multiple times and putting together some noteworthy drives including one early that arrived at the Utica 17-yard-line, but Spartan placekicker Luis Robitaille missed a 34-yard field goal attempt.
Utica’s Barrington Wallace blocked a Castleton punt attempt, picked up the ball, and strode into the CSC endzone for a timely Pioneer score putting them up 39-7.
The Spartans responded with a touchdown from running back and former Major League Baseball pitcher, Chad Bentz, which was followed by a Brozowski two-point conversion making it a 39-15 game.
The Utica offense was too much for the Spartans who fell to 0-2 on the season with the loss despite big performances by Cassidy, 10 catches for 66 yards, and Brozowski who completed 22 of 32 for 178 yards. Running back, Mick Wong galloped for a 50-yard touchdown late in the game and finished with a team-high 73 rushing yards on six carries.
The Spartans begin conference-play on Sept. 25 when they travel to Washington, D.C. to play Gallaudet with two tough non-conference games already behind them.
“Those two teams we played are the best we’ll play all year,” Cassidy said. “We’re in conference-play and now it counts. We have two weeks to prepare [for Gallaudet].”
The Spartans fell last Saturday in the opener to Plymouth State 16-14.
In what looked to be a mismatch on paper in favor of the Plymouth State Panthers turned out to be a great defensive showdown. Plymouth won in heart-break fashion with a go-ahead field goal late in the contest.
Castleton had a dilemma early in the game to either try a 50-yard field goal into the wind, short punt the ball, or go for it on fourth down in enemy territory. Castleton decided to go for it and was stopped just short of a first down and turned the ball over.
“We thought we had the right play and they lined up in the perfect defense to stop it,” said Alercio of the play. “Because it was into the wind, we didn’t think we could make a field goal.the risk/reward was much more favorable for going.”
Brozowski didn’t like what he saw in the Panther defense when they aligned.
“[Brozowski] said, ‘I wanted to call a timeout’, ‘well then call a timeout!’ I told him,” said Alercio laughing. “He didn’t like the play, he knew it wasn’t going to work. Those are things that happen now for a sophomore QB in his first game. Fourth down, we have 3 timeouts to burn, its a big play, call timeout lets talk about it, and lets get into a better play.”
The Spartans are off this Saturday and return home from the capital on Oct. 2, to play host to conference rival, Mount Ida.