Union football back to work, seeking redemption from a rocky end to the 2021 season – The Daily Gazette


SCHENECTADY — Ask most returning Union football players, and one man, they’ll admit the heartbreaking way the Dutchman’s 2021 season ended still sticks in their throats.

“It’s awesome,” senior offensive lineman Stan Koss said Friday after the team wrapped up its second preseason practice at Frank Bailey Field. “We weren’t happy with the way things ended last season. It really touches us deeply.

“We’ve been thinking about it for a while,” added senior defensive lineman Jack Flanagan. “Throughout the lifts and the off-season stuff that we’ve been through, we think about it and push ourselves even harder.”

This is not a particularly surprising answer.

After all, Union was 30 seconds away from a share of the Liberty League title, a likely berth in the NCAA Division III playoffs and a third straight win over rival RPI to retain the Dutchman Shoes Trophy.

Then came the wild finishing streak as RPI scored a late touchdown, was stopped on a two-point conversion attempt to take the lead, then collected an onside kick and moved the ball into position for kicker Trevor Bisson – a converted football player who had only joined the RPI football team the week of the game – to hit a 36-yard field goal through a rainstorm as time expired to give the Engineers a 19-17 win and the conference title.

So yes, there is a lot to overcome.

But, ask Union head coach Jeff Behrman about it, though, and the answer is quite different.

“When you talk about a previous season, that’s all there is to talk about,” Behrman said. “I’m more of a person who thinks well done is better than well said. I was over last season when last season ended. You have to move on in life, and it’s no different in football.

Last year’s Union team went 8-2 on aggregate and 4-2 in the Liberty League, winning their first eight games before a sour end to the season with losses to Ithaca and RPI.

The Dutch open their 2022 season on September 3 in Allegheny, with the home opener at Frank Bailey Field a week later against Worcester State.

Behrman is excited to see what this year’s group has to offer as Union prepares for a fifth straight season, something the program hasn’t done since its streak of 13 straight winning campaigns from 1989-2001.

“We’re good at some places, we have issues at others,” Behrman said. “But, that’s why you train, that’s why you have pre-season – to see who is going to step in and fill those roles. I’m very confident with the group of guys we have on campus right now that we’ll find those starters, those backups, and those guys who are going to produce on the field and play reps.

The Dutch, an experienced team in 2021, have lost a number of key graduation contributors this offseason, but are bolstered by five players who opted to use the extra year of eligibility afforded by the cancellation of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. .

Four of those players — running back Ike Irabor, wide receiver Andre Ross, offensive tackle Tim Driscoll and safety Austin St. Pierre — have been selected to the 2021 All-Liberty League First Team.

Running back Joseph Ferreira is the fifth member of this “super senior” group and should give the Dutch a deep group in the backfield this season. Irabor rushed for 832 yards last season, while Jonathan Anderson and Michael Fiore had strong freshman seasons, combining for 684 yards and nine touchdowns.

“We’re all hungry for what’s to come this season,” Anderson said.

Perhaps the biggest question for the Dutch entering the season comes at quarterback following the graduation of three-year-old starter William Bellamy.

Behrman said it was an open competition to start under center, with a pair of former Section II standouts — Cobleskill-Richmondville High School product Donovan Pacatte and Schuylerville High School graduate Stratton Sherman — as the most experienced flaggers on the roster after the two saw spot duty behind Bellamy in 2021.

“It’s a battle right now,” Behrman said. “No one will be named a starter until the scrum is over, and maybe the first week of the season. It’s like that in quite a few positions, to be honest. The quarterback always gets a lot of attention, but there are quite a few guys struggling to start jobs right now.

The energy was high in the early days of camp, even before the pads were put on for the first time on Saturday.

And, while the Nov. 12 rematch with RPI is certainly circled on many players’ calendars, they’re also aware that it’s a long journey to get there.

“We take it one day at a time,” Koss said. “It’s only day 2 of camp right now. . . . If we get it right, by the end of the season we should be where we think we should be.

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