by Sean Begin
Heavy lightning flashed Saturday night at Arute Field but it didn’t come from the offense of the Blue Devil football team.
“We did a poor job preparing our players this week,” said head coach Pete Rossomando, after his team was shut out by the University of Albany 19-0 in a game delayed nearly two hours due to lightning.
“We didn’t do a good job helping them overcome a big victory and get focused and grounded. I knew it would be a problem,” he added.
Central came into the game having upset #7 Towson on the road last week, thanks in large part to a highly efficient performance from junior quarterback Nick SanGiacomo and a huge offensive game from senior running back Rob Hollomon.
Neither they nor the rest of the Blue Devil offense found any rhythm on Saturday night.
“The way we went out there and started the game and how we finished in it, that’s not Blue Devil football right there,” said SanGiacomo after the game. “We just weren’t clicking as a unit. We just couldn’t get it going. Can’t tell you why right now.”
Central (1-1) managed to keep the Great Danes (2-0) close for most of the first half, allowing only a field goal half way through the first quarter. But with 3:29 remaining in the second quarter, Albany broke through with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Will Fiacchi to Cole King.
The two connected again just over three minutes later on a 27-yard score with seven seconds left to play in the half giving Albany a 17-0 lead going into halftime: a halftime that almost never saw a restart.
As both teams were heading onto the field to start the second half, Arute Field’s lightning detection system tripped, prompting school officials to clear the stadium and delay the game indefinitely until the storm had passed.
“[The system] detects the potential for lightning in the area,” said athletic director Paul Schlickmann. “So even though you can’t really see it, it won’t give the all clear until it’s a safe distance away.
“It’s frustrating because you don’t necessarily see anything,” he added. “But you have to trust the integrity of this system and that’s why you have it.”
Officials gave themselves two hours to see if things would clear before making a decision whether to resume play or not. Doctors from both teams had warned of the danger to the athletes to resume playing after such a lengthy delay.
But at 9:23 officials were given the all clear from the system to resume play, an hour and 50 minutes after the delay started and right at the edge of their self-imposed deadline.
“We were about five minute away from [calling it off],” said Rossomando. “It was good to go out and finish it because our players need that.”
Neither offense managed any second half points with the only score coming on a safety after a high snap on a punt forced Central punter Ed Groth to boot the ball out of bounds in the end zone, avoiding a Great Dane defensive touchdown.
“I think it’s good the rain didn’t let us off the hook because you have to learn from something like this,” said Rossomando.
“You’re either going to go one of two ways. You’re either going to learn from it and go in a positive direction or you’re going to say, ‘It wasn’t my fault, it was somebody else’s fault,’ and you’re going to go in the other direction. So we’ll find out very quickly what our team is all about.”
“This is adversity at its finest right now,” said SanGiacomo. “We gotta see how we’re going to come back tomorrow. Hopefully it’s positive. It’s a tough one after today, especially not performing the way we did.”
“You’re going to have these types of games but you’ve got to be able to overcome them,” added Rossomando. “Just like coming back from a great victory you’ve got to come back from a crushing defeat. Hopefully, we can right the ship.”
Central will have that opportunity next Saturday on the road when they face Holy Cross.