After losing two of its last three games, the football team has hit a crucial point in its season.
The Bombers, coming off their bye-week, sit at 4–2 overall on the season and 1–1 in Empire 8 conference play heading into this week’s game against 5–1 Springfield College on Saturday. In order to achieve their goal of reaching the postseason, the Bombers must win eight games, which means the squad has to win the final four games of the season.
“There’s definitely a sense of urgency,” senior quarterback Rob Zappia said. “It was good to have the bye-week to rest up, but at the same time you want to get back on the field coming off a loss.”
The team dropped its last game before the bye, falling to St. John Fisher 31–10 Oct. 9. Zappia said the players are aware of what is on the line moving forward.
“We know we’re probably going to have to go undefeated the rest of the season to reach our goal,” Zappia said. “You could really see in practice last week that guys know this is crunch time.”
Head Coach Mike Welch said it’s important to take the season one game at a time, but the next game carries a little more weight for the squad.
“We’d like to approach each week the same, but we know what’s in front of us,” Welch said. “If we want to win our league we’ve got to win this game.”
In the loss to Fisher, the Bombers gave up 473 yards of offense while having struggled all season to shut down rushing attacks, allowing 84.5 rushing yards per game.
Welch said the team will have to remain focused going into its game against Springfield, a team that is likely to run the football close to 60 times a game out of the triple option attack.
The triple option is an offensive approach that relies on three players that can potentially run the ball instead of the usual two.
“We have to change our mind-set,” Welch said. “When you face a team that is going to run as much as they do, we have to stay disciplined and stay on our assignments.”
Junior cornerback Mike Conti said the Bombers are familiar with the strategy and approach the game with the same mentality they’ve had all season.
“We know that we have to stop the run to beat them,” Conti said. “Our plan going into every game is to make teams one-dimensional, either shutting down the pass and forcing them to run or vice versa.”
Welch said the defense must play better and not allow the big play like they have the past few games.
“The triple option is hard to defend because of the play-action pass,” Welch said. “Our secondary knows that they can’t be too aggressive in coming up to try and stop the run, but at the same time we don’t want our players to lose that edge.”
Knowing the defense must be aggressive while trying to limit mistakes has been vital in the Bombers’ approach all season, Welch said.
“The big play has been a killer for us this year,” he said. “Our mind-set is to contain offenses and not let them stretch the field, and it’s been a bit of a struggle for us this year.”
Welch said though the triple option is a ground-based attack, it doesn’t mean the defense can completely commit to it.
“If we’re too aggressive they can beat us over the top, and we know we can’t allow that to happen,” Welch said.
Zappia said the Blue and Gold are prepared to defend their home turf, where they are 3–0 and have outscored opponents 90–40 this season.
“We’re definitely happy to be back at home,” Zappia said. “The rest of our games are must-win, and it’ll be nice to start this string of games at home.”