August 15, 2011
Last Cortland camp for Pitcher brothers
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Quarterback Dan Pitcher takes snaps with the first string offensive line Saturday during SUNY Cortland’s first practice at the Stadium Complex. The Red Dragons are prepping for a Sept. 3 opener at home against Buffalo State.
These brothers never expected to be finishing up their collegiate football careers together, never imagined being able to spend three seasons as SUNY Cortland teammates.
But that is where starting quarterback Dan Pitcher and his ‘little’ brother Matt Pitcher — the starting right tackle who at 6-foot-5 and 280 pounds can cast an imposing shadow over his older sibling — find themselves as members of a Red Dragon squad that opened up pre-season camp this past Saturday.
The two former Cortland High athletes, who graduated from high school three years apart, expect to play key roles for a Red Dragons squad that has high hopes for the upcoming season. Last fall, the Red Dragons shared first place in the New Jersey Athletic Conference with Montclair State and Rowan, going on to capture a first-round victory in the NCAA Division III playoffs before a successful 10-2 season came to an end with a loss to Alfred.
“It’s exciting. Coming in here I thought I’d only have one year with him,” said senior Matt Pitcher of playing one final season alongside his brother, now a graduate student who started his collegiate career at Colgate before coming back home. “Every single season has been like, we thought this was going to be the last one. It’s been kind of neat that it has built up to this.”
Quarterback and team captain Pitcher red-shirted one season at Colgate, where injuries were troublesome, and then tore his Achilles tendon early in his first campaign as Cortland’s starting signal-caller two years ago. Being sidelined by those injuries and sitting out an entire season enabled his younger brother to catch up in terms of eligibility.
“It’s one of those things where if I had looked at my college career seven years ago and you told me I’d be here right now, I’d say what the hell happened. But you go forward and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, and with Matt here that’s icing on the cake,” said Dan Pitcher of the path taken to his current situation.
Last season at Cortland, quarterback Pitcher threw for 1,757 yards and 18 touchdowns while earning first team all-star honors in the New Jersey Athletic Conference.
Offensive tackle Pitcher is one of four returning offensive linemen — along with senior center Corey Hymes, offensive left tackle Billy Castro and junior guard Randy Bloom — who helped running back Justin Autera rush for 1,380 yards a year ago.
That is why the offensive line figures to be a strength for head coach Dan MacNeill’s squad this season, Cortland preparing for a Sept. 3 season opener at home against conference cohort Buffalo State.
“We’ve got three seniors and two juniors starting, and a couple of experienced guys behind them. Hopefully, some of the younger guys can step up and push all of these guys,” said Dan Pitcher of the experienced offensive line that should offer ample protection while opening holes for junior Autera. “We think that will be one, if not the strongest, part of the team, those guys up front and our guys carrying the ball behind them.”
Matt Pitcher started the first six games as a junior in 2010 before being injured. He was on crutches for 13 weeks and had knee surgery this past May, but felt encouraged after Sunday afternoon’s workout at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex.
“I’m feeling good, better than I have in a while,” said the senior tackle. “I’m finally starting to feel healthy, feeling good. It’s camp. Everyone’s really sore, especially with the tests we’re doing. But I feel good, better than I thought I would.”
Coach MacNeill liked the way his team practiced following some a rigorous pre-practice session on Sunday.
“We just put them through a heck of a conditioning test before practice and we still had a great, enthusiastic practice,” he noted. “We’ll find out more tomorrow, when it’s Day Three.”
Cortland is gearing up for the annual Red-White team scrimmage this coming Sunday afternoon at the Stadium Complex. A Saturday night scrimmage at the University of Rochester on Aug. 27 is the final dress rehearsal prior to the Buffalo State opener.
“The problem this year is we have less days to prepare. We have just as many practices, but they’re forced into double sessions,” noted MacNeill. “As soon as you have double sessions, you can’t go full out right before scrimmages. You have to back off and manage your scrimmages, so you kind of lose the intensity in some of the practices before our first game. But everyone opening up has the same issues.”
Making that task easier is the fact the Red Dragons have 15 starters returning, which certainly helps in pre-season preparation.
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