By Joe Arruda
The smiling faces of students have returned to the Springfield College campus, uncovered (outdoors) for the first time since the College was shut down at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There has been a clear shift in the mood of the campus now that the light of a return to “normal” shines brighter at the end of the tunnel. Student-athletes are competing again with the high energy that comes with preparing for real competition, where spectators will be welcomed.
It was draining for fall and winter athletes as they practiced and trained in the spring with no real competition on the schedule. Now, the seemingly never-ending offseason is over.
Mike Cerasuolo, Springfield’s head football coach, said, “It’s been unbelievable for the kids. I mean it’s been so long for them to be able to get back out here and do it, we had a little in the fall and the spring of last year, but it definitely wasn’t the same. The stakes are obviously a lot higher when there’s an opponent each week.”
For the first time since Nov. 16, 2019, after 668 days without playing a game, the Springfield football team traveled across town for the annual Pynchon SAW game against Western New England University.
The final score was a 24-13 loss, but the simple acts of suiting up in the road whites, running the classic triple option, tackling opponents on defense and having the opportunity to play was a victory in itself.
The triple option was back in business, highlighted by quarterbacks David Wells and Armando Torres, and running backs Ryan DeGuire and Isaiah Cashwell-Doe. Graduate student Tim Callahan and senior Patrick Ladas also provide a strong push at the fullback position.
In game one, Torres led the team in rushing with 109 yards on 19 attempts. The junior also completed two of his four passes – to DeGuire and Cashwell-Doe – for 51 yards. Ladas powered through for the only Pride touchdown of the game and compiled 37 yards on the ground.
Most of Springfield’s points, however, came from the leg of junior Christian Hutra who split the uprights three times, one being an extra point. With time expiring in the second quarter, Hutra knocked a field goal through at 40 yards and set a new career long.
“Obviously the first week didn’t go as planned but we get up, get another. It’s a new game this weekend,” senior captain and offensive lineman, Lou Cocozza, said.
The small things that COVID taught the world to appreciate are blessings, regardless of the scoreboard.
“I think they’re excited to be out here, obviously never taking anything for granted anymore. We always used to say, ‘you are guaranteed 10 (games)’ and that’s not true all the time either,’ Cerasuolo said. “Each week that we get an opportunity to line up, practice and play has been tremendous so hopefully we continue to do that each week.”
The game at Western New England was the closest the Pride will come to a home game for a while as the first football contest on Stagg Field won’t take place until Oct. 9, when the Pride will host NEWMAC foe, Coast Guard, in its fifth game of the season.
While the team looks forward to playing in front of the home fans, they relish in the opportunity to compete on the road.
“You always like to go on to play teams on the road and have an opportunity to see what you’re really made of,” Cerasuolo said.
The next three Saturday’s will be a test for the Pride as they’ll take on non-conference opponents in three different states: Rowan University (New Jersey), Union (New York) and Husson University (Maine).
“The beginning of our schedule is always tough but it gets us ready for the NEWMAC,” Cocozza said. “We’re excited.”
Springfield entered the season as the No. 1 seed in the preseason NEWMAC Coaches Poll. In 2019 the Pride tied for third in the conference with a 5-2 record.
With just three home games on the schedule, Springfield fans are eagerly awaiting the team’s return to Stagg Field. In the meantime, however, they will have to settle for the live stream to support and celebrate from Alden Street, taking nothing for granted.
Springfield College is back – and so is “The Brotherhood.”