The Castleton College Spartans kicked off the 2014 season in style with a huge 20-17 overtime win against Plymouth State in front of a packed Spartan Stadium, on a wet and rainy afternoon.
The win was the first for new head coach Tony Volpone, who took over a program mired in controversy after several players were suspended in a scandal involving thefts from Dick’s Sporting Goods.
“It was a great win for the program. I felt like it helped mature us, both as players and coaches, being that it was an OT game. The defense played well at stopping the run and we showed great balance on offense between the run and the pass,” Volpone said.
Castleton’s attack was lead by junior tailback Matt Rafus, who ran for 134 yards on 30 carries on the day, while recording two touchdowns, which included the touchdown in OT to give the Spartans the win.
Sophomore quarterback Tyler Higley also had an impressive first game, throwing for 179 yards on 19 completions. Higley started over quarterback George Busharis, who was suspended for a game for an off-campus issue.
The Spartans finished last season with a 1-9 record, worst in program history, in the wake of the Dick’s scandal. And the question is still there; has the team moved out from under that dark cloud? Volpone said he hopes so.
“I think it’s too early to make a comment on that. Time will tell. That is my intent, that is my hope. We have stressed that as such, but we’re just one game in,” he said.
Along with Volpone as a new face, the team sports more than 20 freshmen and has adopted the slogan “New Team Same Dream.”
“It just felt great to get a win after a long year last year. We really came together as a team and never got down no matter the circumstances, which is what coach Volpone has been preaching all year,” said defensive lineman Brett Denning. “Everyone really has the same goals as we are all working hard. It just felt amazing as a team to get the win.”
Before the game, fans filled the parking lot, the smell of burgers, hot dogs and sausage fill the air, signaling the start of the long-awaited football season.
“We are very excited to have football back. I just met up with the coaches and some new recruits and it’s great to see everyone’s families here,” said President David Wolk.
The Spartans will retake the field on homecoming weekend against RPI on Sept. 20 at 12 p.m.