Dave Wolk Stadium was once again alive with the sounds of whistles and colliding shoulder pads as the Castleton University Spartans shutout the Plymouth State Panthers 13-0 on Saturday, September 4th. Behind a touchdown rush from Devin Wollner and a pair of field goals from Noah Crossman, Castleton had a great start after nearly two years away from the game due to COVID.
“I felt like the weight was lifted off my shoulders once I scored. All I knew was if we got a touchdown the game was going to be over because our defense was playing a hell of a game,” Wollner said.
Wollner, a junior hailing from Keyport, New Jersey, was right. The Spartan defense did not allow a single score all day from Plymouth State, who tried and failed both in the air and on the ground, gaining just 111 yards of total offense in the contest.
The Spartan defense was undoubtedly pleased by the 7:30 advantage the Spartans held in time of possession.
“Clock control is more important to us this year than it has been in the past. But we have high expectations of our defense in every game we play,” Head Coach Tony Volpone said.
The only blemishes on the opening day win were in the penalties column, with the Spartans racking up six for 44 yards.
“Some of those penalties were intentional given the clock and game situation,” Volpone said. “The others were ones that you could expect to see after not having played for almost two years.”
Junior defensive lineman Jacob Gonzalez made no excuses for the flags on defense.
“They were definitely avoidable,” he said. “As a group, we just have to be smarter in general to avoid those. In future games, [penalties] could be a deciding factor on whether we win or lose.”
Following a 2020 season that was not played on the gridiron due to COVID-19, and a spring sports season flecked with COVID drama and pauses, Coach Volpone and the Spartans remain ever vigilant about the pandemic’s risks and potential to derail a season.
“The anxiety is always there when you’re fighting against something you can’t see,” Volpone said. “I think our kids have done a great job following the protocols and positioning themselves to be able to compete.”
Gonzalez echoes his statement about the team’s close adhesion to the COVID protocols.
“I think the team does a great job in following the protocols on and off the field. As a collective, we want to be role models for others,” he said.
The team traveled down to Fitchburg, Ma and earned their second shutout in a row with a 35-0 win this past Saturday.
The Spartans are 2-0 to start the year for the first time in program history.
The showdown for the Maple Sap Bucket trophy aganist Norwich is up next for the Spartans this coming Saturday, September 18, at Dave Wolk Stadium for homecoming and parents weekend.