While the football team couldn’t cap its season with a victory in the Cortaca Jug game, falling 20–17 in a heartbreaker at SUNY-Cortland on Saturday, this year’s squad accomplished plenty on the field this season.
Whether it was having a catch highlighted as a play of the week candidate on D3football.com, finishing undefeated at home or watching a young defense come into its own, there was a lot to cheer on the Bombers for this season.
During the Bombers’ victory over Springfield College on Oct. 23 came the play of the year for the South Hill squad. On second down and 8 yards early in the third quarter, senior quarterback Rob Zappia found senior tight end Matt Crandall for a 33-yard reception. The stats don’t tell the whole story. Crandall made the catch despite being double covered and having his face mask ripped off as he was thrown to the ground.
“It was definitely one of the best catches I’ve ever seen,” Zappia said. “I kind of just put it up there to see if he could make a play, and he came down with it. I almost didn’t believe that he caught it.”
The Bombers scored on the next play and cruised to a 23–14 win.
The Blue and Gold finished the season undefeated at home, going 5–0, and capped off their season in an emphatic home win against Utica College on senior day, defeating the Pioneers 30–6. The class of 2011 finished their careers with a combined 18–3 record on South Hill.
“We were really able to play well at home this year,” graduate student safety David Ahonen said after his final home game. “We’ve always been comfortable playing here. The crowd really gets behind us and takes us to that next level.”
Senior wide receiver Tom Vossler finished his career Saturday, posting a game-high eight catches for 83 yards in his final game for the Blue and Gold. Vossler finished his career with a school record 144 receptions, 1,798 receiving yards, the fourth highest the program’s history, and 13 touchdowns.
The Blue and Gold’s defense finished second in the Empire 8 Conference in scoring, giving up just 17.8 points per game, and will return seven starters next season.
The South Hill squad was third in both rushing yards allowed per game and pass defense, giving up 124.8 on the ground and holding opponents to 175.9 yards through the air. The Bombers also forced the second most turnovers (25) and allowed the fewest first downs (154) in the conference.
Junior cornerback Mike Conti, who led the team and finished second in the Empire 8 with six interceptions, said the defense will be a strong point for the squad next season.
“We’re returning a lot of starters, and experience plays a key role on defense,” Conti said. “But at the same time Coach Welch is going to put the best eleven players out there. That keeps us motivated to keep getting better throughout the off season.”
Despite finishing this season with a 6–4 record, this year’s senior class made two trips to the NCAA playoffs, won the Cortaca Jug three times and had a chance to win the conference in their final conference game — not bad for a team that was picked to finish third in the conference.
“We didn’t accomplish all of our goals this season,” Head Coach Mike Welch said. “But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be proud of what they’ve done over their careers.”