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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

July 25, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Sports

Bombers aim to stay perfect at home

Saturday’s game against Utica College will be a special one for the football team. For the seniors, it’s the last time they will suit up to play at Butterfield Stadium.

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From left, senior wide receiver Tom Vossler dodges a tackle from Springfield College sophomore DeAndre Lawrence in the South Hill squad’s 23–15 victory Saturday at Butterfield Stadium. ANDREW BURACZENSKI/THE ITHACAN

The Bombers have won 26 of their last 30 games on South Hill, including the last six games dating back to last season. The Blue and Gold made it seven in a row Saturday, defeating Springfield College 23–14 to improve to 4–0 at home on the season.
“We just play well here,” Head Coach Mike Welch said. “There’s a comfort level playing here that you don’t get on the road.”
The Blue and Gold have notoriously been a better home team than road team. Since 2005, the South Hill squad has won almost 90 percent of its home games while winning 60 percent of its games on the road.
“It’s always something we’re looking to improve on,” Welch said. “We haven’t played bad on the road, but we’re always looking to win more football games and improve as a team.”
Senior quarterback Rob Zappia said the Blue and Gold knew how key the Springfield game would be in determining their chances to win the conference. The Bombers, with Alfred University defeating St. John Fisher College on Saturday, are currently third in the Empire 8 conference but only one game out of a tie for first place.
Zappia said the team is confident in its final three matchups of the regular season.
“We’ve got a huge stretch coming up,” he said. “Utica, Alfred and Cortland are all good teams, but they’re all games we feel we can win.”
While the offense has stepped it up on the road this season, the defense has played much better at home, giving up 13.5 points per game as opposed to 22 points per game on the road.
A major difference between Butterfield Stadium and many of their opponents’ stadiums is the natural grass on Butterfield as opposed to a synthetic grass surface many stadiums now feature.
Three of the four opponents the Bombers have faced at home this season play on turf. The Bombers were able to hold Springfield, who plays home games on turf, to just 230 yards rushing, well below their season average of 383 yards per game.
Welch said playing on grass gives the game more of a natural feel.
“Speed is certainly more of a factor on turf,” Welch said. “When you play on grass it’s harder to accelerate, and tackling well becomes more of a key.”
Graduate student strong safety Dave Ahonen said the team benefits from the support of the fans who come out to every home game.
“As a group we just respond to the crowd,” he said. “They create such an intense atmosphere; they’re so dedicated and just push us to play our best.”
Senior defensive end Matt Dibble said the Bombers have a different level of confidence when they play on South Hill.
“There’s a pride we take in defending our home field,” Dibble said. “Those are games at the beginning of the year that you circle on the schedule as must-win.”
Ahonen said a win Saturday will not only help the team build momentum but also achieve a goal it set earlier in the year.
“This game carries a little more weight,” Ahonen said. “One of our goals at the beginning of every season is to go undefeated at home, and we’ve got one more game to go.”