Seven-hundred miles sure is a long time to process a 65-23 loss to an Empire 8 conference foe. Over the course of the long trek home from Salisbury, Md., the reality certainly had to have settled into members of the Springfield College football team.
After finishing its three-game road trip 1-2, both losses at the hands of Empire 8 conference leaders Salisbury and Alfred, the Pride are now faced with a character test for the remainder of the season.
Mathematically, Springfield College is still alive in hopes of making the postseason, but it would certainly need a huge setback by the Sea Gulls (5-0, 3-0) or Saxons (4-1, 2-1) to have a realistic chance at the Empire 8 crown. St. John Fisher is also currently 4-1 and 2-0 in the conference. Losing out on the head-to-head tiebreaker now leaves SC with the tough task of finishing the season undefeated and needing Salisbury to suffer three conference losses.
Regardless of wins or losses, this team still has the chance to define its legacy and strive toward an ECAC Bowl game.
“The team has to compete for what kind of team it wants to be remembered as. That is important,” coach Mike Delong said. “What kind of a team do you want to be remembered as? A good team, an average team, a tough team? There are a lot of different words that you tie into a team legacy.”
The team’s character will be showcased on Saturday when the Pride return home to face rival Ithaca College at 2 p.m.
The Pride have only defeated Ithaca once since 2004, and the Bombers hold a 28-9 all-time advantage. Last year, Springfield lost 23-14 at Ithaca.
Yet ironically that 47-26 victory against Ithaca in 2009 was one of the most character-defining victories of recent memory for Springfield College football.
After the game, co-captain Greg Webster (’09) was nearly in tears as he spoke about defeating Ithaca for the first time in his five-year career as a member of the Pride.
True character at its finest.
Even though the ’09 team finished 8-2 and fell short of a NCAA Division III postseason bid, the Pride went on to win the ECAC Northeast Bowl 42-13 over Plymouth State.
The 2011 version of the Pride have shown glimpses of what kind of character this year’s squad represents, a “lunch pail workman attitude” said Delong.
Co-captain Matt Ramos has played through various injuries while still performing at a high-energy style of play that he has been come to known for. Fellow captains Mark Safer, James Kikel and Sean Meagher have also overcome a series of injuries to try and lead this team during their senior seasons.
“At this point with no open week you have to play hurt,” Delong said. “They say there is a difference between being hurt and being injured. If your injured you can’t go, but if you’re hurting you can.”
The Pride were unfortunate to have their bye week during the first week of the season and are now faced with the hardening task of playing 10 consecutive games.
Quarterback Josh Carter has also been banged up a bit, but the four-year starter has played with a determination greater than any witnessed during his first three years under center.
Carter is close to setting new career-highs in both rushing and passing. His 13 rushing touchdowns are two shy of his career-high of 15 set in ’09. He also has already thrown for 415 yards and seven touchdowns compared to 719 yards and 10 touchdowns in ’09. Carter is 335 yards away from breaking his season-high of 966 rushing yards set during ’09 as well.
While a postseason legacy may be out of reach, a genuine character can still be defined ,and it starts this weekend against the Bombers.
Justin Felisko may be reached at email@example.com