September 6, 2014

Misericordia Football - Utica Rolls in Season Opener at Misericordia

Sophomore Jerred Beniquez caught seven passes for 165 yards and a touchdown
(Photo Courtesy of Utica Sports Information)
Dallas, Pa. – The Utica College football team opened its 2014 campaign with a convincing 55-0 victory over host Misericordia on Saturday afternoon. The Pioneers are now 10-4 all-time in season-opening contests and they have started the year with a victory in six consecutive seasons. Utica freshman J'Von Evans (Utica, NY/Proctor) returned six punts for a school-record 226 yards, including a 74-yard return for a touchdown, and he also added eight carries for 38 yards and a touchdown to pace the Pioneers with 264 all-purpose yards and two scores.

"Offensively we played well in spurts ... they will make plays for us." said Utica Head Coach Blaise Faggiano

"Offensively we played well in spurts. We have some great skill players and if we can get those guys the ball they will certainly make some plays for us," said Head Coach Blaise Faggiano, who is now 6-1 all-time in season-opening games since joining the Pioneers in 2008. "One of the nice things about our team offensively is that you can't hone in on one particular player. We have multiple running backs and multiple receivers in the mix and that's our strength on offense."

Sophomore transfer (Sacred Heart University) quarterback Will Kassar (Lattingtown, NY/Glen Cove) got the nod under center for the Pioneers and did not disappoint as he took his first collegiate carry 56 yards for a touchdown to put the Pioneers on the board, 7-0, early in the first quarter. Kassar finished the day with five carries for 63 yards and two touchdowns and he also completed 6-of-13 passes for 51 yards.

Sophomore speedster Jerred Beniquez (Port Ewen, NY/Kingston) caught seven balls for a career-high 165 yards for the Pioneers. He had an 80-yard touchdown reception with 7:11 to go in the first half of play after Kassar threw a backwards pass to senior Anthony Acevedo (New Hartford, NY/New Hartford) and Acevedo delivered a strike to Beniquez to put the Pioneers on top, 27-0.

Senior safety James Lenahan (Mahopac, NY/Mahopac) got the second half scoring started when he picked off a pass and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown to put the Pioneers on top 34-0 early in the third quarter. Lenahan now has 11 career interceptions, which ranks second all-time at UC behind 2006 graduate Jon Klosner, who recorded 17 over the course of four seasons.

"The defense focused on stopping the run game today and I thought we were very effective," said Faggiano of holding the run-first Cougar attack to just 126 yards on 48 rushing attempts. "When we got them in passing situations our defensive line was able to get pressure on the quarterback, and the secondary also made a bunch of great plays."

The UC defense held the third-year Misericordia squad to just 175 yards of total offense on the afternoon (49 passing yards). UC linebacker Jonathan Cappotelli (Caledonia, NY/Caledonia) led the Pioneers with a career-high seven tackles (six solo), while junior defensive end Nick Woodman (Utica, NY/Proctor) added six tackles, including one sack and one fumble recovery. Brandon Burnham (Fulton, NY/Mexico) and Mike Kata (West Babylon, NY/West Babylon) each recorded six tackles for the Pioneers.

Utica's diverse running game was on display as six different players earned touches out of the backfield. Sophomore starter Ryan Burnett (Mount Vernon, NY/Arch Bishop Stepinac) carried the ball 11 times for 25 yards and a fourth quarter touchdown (1-yard run). Sophomore running back Nicodemus Gambill (Rochester, NY/East High) tallied seven carries for 45 yards in his varsity debut.

"It was good that we were able to get some young guys in the game today," said Faggiano. "This was a good trip for us. Misericordia and Head Coach Mark Ross run a class program and they are only going to get better as an organization."

Senior quarterback Connor Butkiewicz (Southington, CT/Southington) came on in relief of Kassar and completed 4-of-6 passes for 140 yards, including a 57-yard touchdown pass to Gregory Palmer (Richland, NY/APW) in the fourth quarter to wrap up the scoring on the afternoon.

The Pioneers remain on the road next Saturday when they travel to Union College for a non-conference contest at 1 p.m. All Utica College football games will be broadcast on the radio locally at WTLB 99.1 FM/1310 AM (ESPN Radio) by play-by-play man Dave Peroni and color analyst Fred Miller. Live streaming audio can also be accessed on WTLB's website, www.espnur.com.