Op-Ed: A Return to Normalcy for Utica Football


Chris Bernardine

Utica College placekicker Corey Lichtman kicks off to start the game.

Corey Lichtman, Contributing Writer

After a battle-plagued 2020, the Utica College Football team is now back to a regular season this fall. Coach Blaise Faggiano and the Pioneers are off to a 2-0 start, after beating opponents Alfred State and Kean University handily in the first two weeks of the season. The Pioneers have solid expectations for this 2021 Fall season in the Empire 8

While most Division 3 football teams were not doing anything during the 2020 season, that was not the case for Utica College. The motto “Uncommon” is used frequently throughout the football program, and that was exactly what we were. The Pioneers played two exhibition games versus Alfred University, as well as two intrasquad scrimmages in the spring. Members of the team were required to get tested three times per week, as well as wear masks at practice underneath their helmets. 

As a kicker and team member, it certainly was frustrating. Whether the team was going through a COVID-19 pause or stricter guidelines were made, nobody complained. Faggiano would set up weekly team meetings to keep us informed on what was going on. It was definitely a tough 2020, but the team got through it with better days ahead in sight. With this season getting back to a more normal setting, it was great to be back to a normal training camp and being around the team. It was not like that in 2020 due to the circumstances. 

This Utica College Football team is truly like a family. The players and coaches have created bonds that go beyond the game of football, especially during this camp. Personally, I felt more comfortable and felt like everybody on this team had my back. Getting back to a normal training camp and being around the team all day from breakfast, to practice, to team meetings and beyond.

“This program is special because of the people that make it up,” Offensive Coordinator Joe Gerbino said. “Don’t be a butterknife, be a dagger.” 

 After it was seen how easily a season can be taken away, nobody on the team has taken a moment for granted so far. The coaching staff has done a terrific job preparing and motivating the team and creating a family type of atmosphere. They have also been able to get the team’s confidence up, as the Pioneers look to win an Empire 8 Championship for the first time in school history. 

Top teams in the region, such as SUNY Cortland and SUNY Brockport, will be tough tests in conference play, as Utica plays them in back to back games next month. The one thing that cannot be doubted about this squad is preparation. Since Aug. 11, the football team has been at it everyday. As a member of this team, I feel the energy this season is different and the team is eager to prove the doubters wrong this year after not being able to do that in 2020. Utica looks to make it 3-0 on the season, as they host Western New England University this Saturday at 6 p.m. under the lights.