Herd of Orange: UC Football wins thrilling home opener

Utica College celebrates touchdown in 37-28 victory vs. Western New England.

Chris Bernardine

Utica College celebrates touchdown in 37-28 victory vs. Western New England.

Robert Stevens, Sports Contributor

Sonny Badyna snapped the ball at the 23-yard line with Jamarious Morgan to his side. Just over five minutes remained in this back and forth battle between two heavyweight offenses. Badyna scanned the field quickly and delivered a dart straight into the hands of Matt Brantley, who polished the 75-yard drive with a touchdown, giving the Pioneers the 30-28 lead. 

Suddenly, a herd of orange overwhelmed Charles A. Gaetano Stadium.

Less than three minutes and an impressive defensive stand later, Brantley and Badyna connected once again on a dagger as Brantley found his way into the endzone and solidified the Pioneers 3-0 start, for the first time since 2016.

“Absolutely a classic,” said Blaise Faggiano, Utica head football coach. “Gaetano Stadium was rocking and it was a lot of fun. It was great to see some normalcy. We’ve been through a lot through our area and in our country and it was great to get together and enjoy a game of college football.”

On a humid Saturday night under the lights during an “orange out” home opener, the Pioneers were able to defeat the Western New England Golden Bears 37-28.

Badyna, who was awarded his second Empire 8 Player of the Week, finished with a career-high 368 passing yards and five total touchdowns while completing 50% of his passes.

Badyna was not the only Pioneer who helped shape the victory as junior running back Jamarious Morgan became the newest member of the 100-yard club with help from an offensive line that has only allowed two sacks in their first three games.

“I know Jamarious Morgan ran hard and our offensive line moved them,” Faggiano said. “Definitely played better than a week ago having made some moves up there and those guys just played great.”

The Pioneers ended the first half giving up a safety and a field goal, which gave the Golden Bears the lead 19-17.

Outscoring opponents 49-14 in the second half in their first two games, the Pioneers are beginning to be known as a second half team with the adjustments they make during halftime in the locker room. 

This game was no different.

Less than a minute and a half into the third quarter, senior offensive captain and wide receiver Nate Palmer snagged a 51-yard touchdown reception to add to his team-high 154 receiving yards to put the Pioneers back up 24-19.

“I think our coaches made good adjustments and you could see our talent,” Faggiano said. “I think the talent showed for sure in the second half. Our kids played very well tonight and made plays when they had to.”

The Sept. 18 win puts the Pioneers at 3-0 going into their upcoming game against #12 ranked Union College on Sept. 25. Before that game, there will still be some fundamentals to clean up in order to continue the undefeated season, according to Faggiano.

“Honestly, you know we made a lot of mistakes,” Faggiano said. “The first thing that comes to mind is that I can’t remember a time where we made that many mistakes and beat a very good team. We had a lot of mental errors and things we gotta clean so we can get better but a lot of props on getting the win.”