The stands were packed, and the emotions ran high as the Springfield College Football team dropped a dramatic season opener to cross-city rival Western New England University (WNEU), 38-34 Friday night at Amos Alonzo Stagg Field.
It was the second edition of the new rivalry, which began last year with the Pride beating the Golden Bears 49-40 in a seesaw battle.
This year’s version of the rivalry was special for a few more reasons, other than in the school’s 124-year football history, this was the first time Springfield hosted WNEU.
Friday night was the unveiling of the Pride’s new Under Armour uniforms, and was also the first night football game hosted by Springfield since the 2012 season opener against Bridgewater State.
The game lived up to the hype.
With 6:21 remaining in the fourth quarter, senior, Max Nacewicz, grabbed a tipped pass out of midair and raced 40 yards untouched into the end zone to put Springfield up 32-23.
Nacewicz, and a few of his teammates on the defensive side of the ball, celebrated with some former Springfield College football players in the crowd, giving high fives and reflecting the excitement in the packed stands.
It seemed the Pride had seized all of the momentum. After quarterback Jonathan Marrero ran in the two point conversion. Less than a minute prior, the Pride were trailing the Golden Bears by five points.
As Western New England fans started to file out of Stagg field, the players dressed in blue and white were anything but ready to pack up for the night.
Led by junior quarterback Tyler Ward, the Golden Bears marched the ball right back down the field in 44 seconds, capped off by a 26 yard touchdown pass from Ward to senior wingback Tucker Schumitz. The scoreboard read 34-31 after a successful two point conversion, and it was the remaining Western New England fans turn to cheer.
In a similar comeback bid from the Golden Bears in 2012, Western New England recovered an onside kick, giving them a chance to mount a late comeback drive.
Last year, it was an interception returned for a touchdown that put an end to the come-from-behind attempt by the Pride’s cross city rival.
Springfield, much like last year, had their chance to ruin the night for the Golden Bears.
However, two fourth down conversions later, senior running back Kevin Cook, broke three backfield tackles before bringing the football to the Pride 7-yard line. Two plays later, Cook would run the ball in from the 2 yard line, putting Western New England up for good.
The Golden Bears were excellent in converting fourth downs all night (5 for 5) including four conversions which would directly or later lead to scores.
In the disappointing loss, the Pride were not left without a few positives to take from the contest.
Returning only three offensive starts from a year ago, Springfield was able to rack up 327 yards on the ground, and outgained Western New England 428-425 for the game.
The ground attack was led by junior, Luis Fenaroli, 149 yards, and Marrero, 74 yards. Marrero also threw for 101 yards and one touchdown.
The newly named Pynchon Saw rivalry, after the city’s founder, William Pynchon, will be a game circled on the calendar for years to come.
Springfield is back under the lights Friday night, September 12, as they travel east to take on UMASS Dartmouth.
Billy Peterson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org