Coach Mike Delong and players recap season-opening victory. (Jessica Battreall/SCTV3)
It is hard to imagine a four-year starter at quarterback having to make a statement in his team’s season opener. Yet, that is exactly where senior Josh Carter found himself Saturday in the Pride’s season-opening 48-24 victory over Frostburg State at Amos Alonzo Stagg Field.
And what a statement he made.
Carter led the Pride (1-0) by rushing for 189 yards and three touchdowns on the ground while completing two-of-four passes through the air for 82 yards and two touchdowns in the Empire 8 season opener for both teams.
“It absolutely was a statement game,” Carter said. “Austin [Bateman] was there pushing me all throughout preseason, and I wouldn’t have it any other way coming into my senior year.”
“You’re only a starter for one day,” he added. “And I am still one day as a starter. I have to keep pushing.”
Carter was coming off a season in which the quarterback lost his starting position to current sophomore Bateman due to a series of injuries. Bateman thrived in his first year under center, going 5-0.
Yet Carter showed senior leadership in the huddle, leading an explosive Pride offense to 602 total yards and helped provide Springfield with the big plays needed to pull away from the Bobcats in the second half.
The quarterback showed great resilience in the first quarter by leading Springfield down the field and capping the 11-play drive with a one-yard touchdown for a 14-7 lead after he fumbled the ball for a 16-yard touchdown return on the previous possession.
The Pride led Frostburg State 28-24 at halftime in the first ever meeting between the two teams.
Carter, who was named this week’s Empire 8 Offensive Player of the Week, helped Springfield seal the victory in the fourth quarter with two touchdowns of over 60 yards. First, the senior burst through the line of scrimmage for a 71-yard touchdown scamper to give the Pride a 41-24 lead with 10:30 to go. Then, Carter found Phil Baier, who made a fantastic lunging grab at midfield, for a 65-yard touchdown for the team’s final score with 8:30 remaining.
“Josh played well,” said coach Mike Delong, now in his 28th season leading the Pride. “He read well, ran well, played with enthusiasm and toughness. He’s the number one quarterback.”
“We’re fortunate to have Austin available, but Josh worked hard in the offense and played well,” Delong added.
The Springfield offense was a well-oiled machine despite not playing against anyone in the preseason due to Tropical Storm Irene. The Pride had to cancel their preseason scrimmage against RPI and instead had an intersquad scrimmage.
The Pride used five touchdown plays of over 30 yards to take advantage of the FSU defense making their Empire 8 conference debut. Brodie Quinn had the longest play with a 93-yard touchdown run on Springfield’s second-play from scrimmage after receiving a great block at midfield from junior Duke Ekblom.
“When a big play presents itself, you have to make it, and we made those two big plays,” Delong said.
The first long distance score of the second half set the tone for the Pride when Carter made a great read and pitched the ball to Andy Bean, who burst down the field for a 76-yard touchdown early in the third.
Yet, the solidifying moment of the game came on the defensive side when linebackers Kevin Shields and Scott Christy teamed up on the ensuing Frostburg possession by making consecutive plays at the goal line for a game-changing stand inside the red zone with the Pride leading 35-24.
Shields (16 tackles) laid an absolute stick on third-and-goal when Bobcat quarterback Josh Volpe (22-of-44, 250 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) made a dash for the end zone from seven yards out. Christy was the hero on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line when he stood up Frostburg’s 6-foot-3-inch running back, Patrick Pinchinat (101 yards, 1 TD).
Christy finished with a game-high 22 tackles and was named the Empire 8 Defensive Player of the Week.
“I don’t really count tackles,” said the middle linebacker. “I just play and see the ball. Our defense played well. Were very young on [defense], but we have a solid [group of] seniors that will step up.”
“We have kids that will follow us and we have those freshmen brainwashed in Springfield football so they’ll follow us,” Christy added.
Scott obviously runs hard and plays hard all the time,” Delong said. “He is an experienced kid now. We expect Scott to do that. Not [22 tackles], that’s a great game, but we expect him to be a real good player for us.”
4 Downs: 1) Brodie Quinn’s 93-yard touchdown scamper to open the scoring in the first quarter was six yards shy of the Springfield College school record. Fred Deutch holds the record with a 99-yard run in 1977 against Wagner. (2) Husson is coming off a bye week after being crushed 77-7 by Adrian College…(3) Captains Mark Safer (ankle/knee) and Matt Ramos (shoulder) are out on Saturday. (4) This is Springfield’s last year in the Empire 8 Conference before moving to the Liberty League.
Justin Felisko may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org