By Tim Farrell
A battle of the conference undefeated took place on the gridiron of Arute Field here at CCSU this past Saturday. The Blue Devils came from behind in the 2nd half to upend the Great Danes of Albany, 31-29.
This was hailed as the “game of the year” by many Blue Devil fans and followers alike. This match-up featured the top two teams in the Northeast Conference, Albany (5-0 in conference play) and CCSU (4-0 in conference play). It definitely lived up to its expectations.
“You’ve got to go at them, you’ve got to play hard,” said senior defensive lineman Ray Saunders. “You have to go as hard as you can, this was a big game, probably our biggest of the season.”
The first 6 minutes of the first quarter really set the tone for the rest of the game. Albany drove down 56 yards on 12 plays and scored on a 1 yard QB keeper from Vinny Esposito, but missed the extra point, striking first with a 6-0 lead. However, on their first play from scrimmage, the Blue Devils answered back with a 79 yard touchdown run from none other than James Mallory.
“We felt good about this game all week,” said Mallory. “We didn’t treat it like any special game, we saw it as another stepping stone towards an NEC championship.”
Despite the quick scoring from both teams, the remainder of the first quarter was relatively quiet. Albany eventually re-took the lead with a 23 yard field goal from kicker Herb Glass, which was then relinquished to CCSU when Richie Martin took a reverse handoff from Mallory 10 yards into the end zone, giving the Blue Devils a 14-9 lead with 6:36 left in the first half.
The remaining time in the first half belonged to the Great Danes. Albany was able to put up 14 points in 3 minutes, giving themselves the lead heading in to halftime, 23-14. The first of the scores was a 7-yard touchdown pass from Esposito to Jason Poore, and the second was a 10 yard run from David McCarty capping off a drive which began with a fumble by CCSU’s Josue Paul on a kickoff return.
The deficit at halftime did very little to sway the hopes of the Blue Devil faithful, seeing as CCSU had been trailing at halftime in 5 of their previous 6 games.
When the second half rolls around during CCSU football this year, a come-from-behind win is expected and they delivered against Albany. Trailing 23-14 at the half, the Blue Devils came out firing on all cylinders.
Two huge drives by the Blue Devils and senior quarterback Aubrey Norris resulted in two touchdown runs by running back James Mallory, a 14 yard scamper and a 1 yard bull-rush. Joe Izzo then added 3 more points on a 28 yard field goal in the 4th quarter making the CCSU lead 31-23.
Albany had charged back and scored on an 8 yard touchdown pass from Vinny Esposito to Tim Bush. The 31-29 score forced the Great Danes into a situation that teams hate, but the fans love, a 2-point conversion attempt.
Déjà vu strikes again between these two ball clubs, as CCSU was forced to go for a 2-point conversion, and failed, which gave Albany the victory 24-22. Coincidentally, both situations were with under a minute to go in the game. One year later, the outcome remains the same. Esposito was sacked, and Albany’s attempt to tie the game had failed.
The game was still far from over. The Great Danes lined up and recovered an onside kick at Central’s 40 yard line, but yet again, Esposito was sacked and the game came to a conclusion. The Blue Devils defeated the Great Danes 31-29.
“Aww man, the tables turn fast,” said Norris. “You’ve got to keep fighting to get the win, and this one felt good.”
Yet another second half comeback was needed by the Blue Devils to win this important game, but by no means was this the most important game of the season, just ask head coach Jeff McInerney.
“I think it’s [the victory over Albany]huge for the team and I’m proud of our guys, but I told the guys [the captains] if you win this one, you have three tough ones left, and if you lose this one you still have three tough ones left,” said coach McInerney.
“I can’t guarantee we win these next three games. We’re going to rally it up. Each game left is just as important.”
Central moves to 7-1(5-0) on the season while Albany falls to 6-3(5-1). The Blue Devils will travel to Wagner 5-3(4-1) to face the Seahawks who are coming in on a 3 game conference winning streak this Saturday at 1 p.m.