The Ithaca College football team is currently 5–4 on the year and 5–0 at home. The Bombers will play in their final game of the season Nov. 12 in the 58th annual Cortaca Jug game against SUNY Cortland. The South Hill squad has lost its last six matchups to the Red Dragons, its longest losing streak since 1959.
Senior Wolfgang Shafer has been the Bombers’ starting quarterback for the past two seasons and has spent his senior season as the team’s offensive captain. So far this season, he has started in all nine games and has completed 120 of 206 passes for 1,637 yards and 15 touchdowns. This will be the last game of his career.
This game will also mark the final game of head coach Mike Welch’s career, and the team is looking to send him into retirement with a win. The Blue and Gold won Welch’s last career home game Nov. 5 in a 7–0 shutout against Buffalo State at Butterfield Stadium.
Staff Writer Matt Hornick spoke with Shafer about his career as a Bomber, some of the biggest moments of the season and his final game in the Bomber uniform.
Matt Hornick: You have been on the team for four years now and spent the last two seasons as the starting quarterback. How have you changed or grown from the beginning of last season, when you became the starting quarterback?
Wolfgang Shafer: Since I got the starting job, I think my knowledge of the game grew in regard to just the confidence I have in myself and being able to simplify what we’re doing on offense to make it easier for me to get the ball in guys’ hands so that they can make plays.
MH: Going off of that, what do you think have been your biggest takeaways from your career here, and specifically your senior season?
WS: The thing that I’m most proud of would be finishing the season undefeated at home. We didn’t accomplish some of the goals we set at the beginning of the season, but being able to go out not losing a home game my senior year is a pretty cool thing.
MH: How does it feel knowing you’re at the end of your final season playing Ithaca football?
WS: It’s emotional. When you put so much time and effort into something you care about and have passion for, when it comes to an end, it hurts a little bit. I’m just trying to soak up every moment I have left, every lift, every practice and this last game.
MH: With four losses this year, it looks like you won’t be making a run in the playoffs. With your only remaining game being Cortaca, how has the team’s mindset changed?
WS: The senior class has been preaching that it doesn’t matter what our record is — we’re just trying to go 1–0 every Saturday. There’s a lot of hype around Cortaca, but we’re just trying to treat it like any other Saturday and get a win and be able to celebrate with the rest of the Ithaca community.
MH: What has been the biggest surprise of the season for you?
WS: The way we’ve been producing on offense. Going into the summer, I wasn’t exactly sure what the receiving corps was going to look like, and I had no idea I was going to have a Division I transfer and a true freshman come in and tear it up the way they have for us.
MH: Which of your teammates has impressed you the most this season?
WS: I’m going to have to say Brian Balsamo. That kid had a great start to his career as a receiver and then went down with the knee injury and worked his butt off to get back. This offseason, he wasn’t able to progress as quickly as he wanted to, and that hurt him mentally, which led to him not getting as many reps as he wanted. Recently, he’s been seeing more time on the field and playing really well, but what I’ve loved the most is the leader he’s become. His role this year has ended up being different from what he expected it to be, and it didn’t faze him. I’ve been really impressed with the impact he’s made this season.
MH: How would you like your Ithaca football career to be remembered?
WS: I want to be remembered as someone who loved football and played the game the right way. If people can look back and say, “Hey, that Wolf kid, he played hard week in and week out and loved this game and loved the Ithaca College Bombers.” That would mean the world to me.
MH: What is the one final thing you would like to say to Welch once the season is over?
WS: I would have to say thank you. I just want to thank him for giving me a shot to live my dream because growing up, all I ever wanted to do was play college football. Getting the opportunity to be able to be a leader and start for two years under a guy like him, I don’t think he’ll ever understand what it means to me. It’s something that has become part of my identity, and he gave me the opportunity, and I can’t thank him enough.