Coming off a 49-42 win over Mount Ida this past weekend, coach Mike DeLong and his charges are preparing to open up a new era in football on Alden Street.
When the Pride kick off Saturday’s contest against Rochester it will be their first game as a member of the Liberty League. After years of playing in the Empire 8, Springfield begins a whole new era in a new conference.
“It will be fun to play a brand-new opponent in our first game in the new league,” said DeLong.
The last time Rochester and Springfield faced each other on the football field was in 1929 with the teams scraping out a 7-7 tie. Needless to say, the all-time series is up for grabs.
While they will be facing a new opponent, they certainly won’t be going in as unknowns. Senior running back Mike Davis earned league honors earlier this week when he was named the Liberty League Co-Offensive Player of the Week.
Davis is one of the key parts of the Pride’s option running attack, leading the team in both rushing yards (327) and touchdowns (6) this year. With Joel Altavesta and Andy Bean joining Davis behind quarterback Rob Merckling, the Pride are equipped to go into this exciting new era.
Merckling has been the quarterback since junior Austin Bateman picked up what DeLong calls “a long-term injury” early in the Husson game. Merckling has been effective in leading the offense as evidenced by the 49-point output against Mount Ida.
“As [Merckling] gets more game time he will see what those reads look like at [game] speed,” said DeLong. “The 49 points is reflection of his distributing the ball well. We weren’t trying to get Mike Davis the ball but we were trying to run the option and once Davis had the ball he did a great job with it.”
The injury bug has not been limited to just the quarterback position. The Pride have also had to deal with injuries to several other players that have resulted in missed playing time.
Senior fullback Brodie Quinn picked up an injury against Husson as well and was inactive against Mount Ida. Also sitting out was co-captain Mike MacDonald and a few other members of the offensive line. Starting defensive back Jason Woods picked up an injury during the game and is doubtful for this weekend’s game.
“Brodie we are waiting to see how he develops with medical treatments and seeing the doctors,” said DeLong. “We will get Mike MacDonald back, however, as well as a few other guys coming off of short-term injuries.”
Rochester enters this weekend with a 1-1 record and are coming off a 20-16 loss against one of Springfield’s familiar opponents in St. John Fisher. Having that comparison will serve as something of a measuring stick for the Pride in gauging their upcoming opponent.
Much like Mount Ida, Rochester will look to move the ball primarily through the air. Quarterback Dean Kennedy has been efficient this year, completing 65 percent of his passes for 424 yards and four touchdowns against just one interception.
“[Their] quarterback is a playmaker, tailback runs and then on defense they have a very strong, very athletic linebacking corps and an experienced secondary,” said DeLong. “On film it looks like they have a good player at every position.”
Rochester’s passing attack featured five wide receivers who have caught at least four passes, with two – Thomas Hayes and Ken Apostolakos – catching nine balls a piece for 112 and 94 yards respesctively. Chris Lebano handles most of the running duties, carrying 45 times for 136 yards through two games.
Springfield and Rochester will kick off the Liberty League era of football here on Alden Street on Saturday at 1 p.m. The game will be broadcast on campus cable channel 4.2 and the replay will be on ESPN 1450 The Hall on Sunday morning.
Liberty League Schedule
Sept. 22 vs. Rochester
Sept. 29 at Union
Oct. 6 at Hobart
Oct. 13 vs. Merchant Marine
Oct. 20 at St. Lawerance
Nov. 3 vs. RPI
Nov.10 at WPI