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September 8, 2009

 

Dress rehearsal for Dragons

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

With so many new football faces in the starting line-up, especially on offense, SUNY Cortland was doing more than fine-tuning things.
The Red Dragons were still in the process of putting pieces into place when the University of Rochester paid a football visit to the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex for a scrimmage session this past Saturday.
With high expectations despite the graduation losses off last year’s 11-2 team that won the New Jersey Athletic Conference and advanced to the NCAA Division III playoff quarterfinals, this outing offered the coaching staff an early glimpse of how things are progressing prior to this Saturday’s 1 p.m. home opener when Morrisville State comes to town in a conference contest.
“Without question I wasn’t happy with the first drive. Other than that, things went pretty well,” said the initial observation of Cortland head coach Dan MacNeill of the workout on a warm, sun drenched afternoon.
In the opening series, Rochester put together a touchdown drive that featured three pass completions including a scoring strike in the back of the end zone. After that initial success, the Red Dragon defense pretty much bottled up the visitors from the Liberty League.
The defense had also excelled during the team’s Red-White scrimmage the previous weekend, so their stingy nature was nothing new. Seeing the offense run by new starting quarterback Dan Pitcher, the Cortland High graduate who started his collegiate career at Colgate University before coming back home, get some things done was also encouraging.
“Our defense dominated our offense (in the Red-White scrimmage), so I thought the offense played a little better today. They moved the ball,” said Coach MacNeill.
With Cortland and Rochester playing one half of football as if it were a regular game, the Red Dragons managed a field goal after giving up that early TD. Wide receiver Anthony Giuliano hauled in a long Pitcher sideline pass and skipped out of bounds at the 3-yard line to set up that field goal.
A botched Rochester punt led to a short Red Dragon touchdown drive in the second quarter.
Moments later, Giuliano was in the backfield to take a direct snap in the ‘wildcat formation‘ now the latest rage in football, faked a hand-off and was able to get to the sideline for a 70-yard touchdown run.
“That looked pretty good, didn’t it,” said Coach MacNeill of the Giuliano run, the junior receiver the younger brother of last year’s team rushing leader Andrew Giuliano. “There’s no question that’s something we’re doing. He’s a talented guy and if we put him there in that kind of situation, we’re going to use it. With Dan Pitcher, it takes a little pressure off him. If we don’t have to use it, Dan will never come off the field.”
Coach MacNeill was a little disappointed in the running game, especially around the goal line. Blocking fullback Dom Sair, one of the few returning starters on offense, was among a group of Red Dragons sitting out the scrimmage.
“We didn’t do some things because of the yellow shirts,” said MacNeill of the offense, referring to players who did not dress for the scrimmage. “You’ll see a little bit different dimension to us this week, which will be fun. I was a little bit disappointed with the goal line. We got pushed around a little bit on the goal like I think… the tape will tell.”
Still a work in progress, Cortland hopes to learn from the scrimmage and get ready to face Morrisville, the Mustangs getting a start to their season with a 49-25 loss to Hartwick College this past Saturday.
“It was a test and we won the test,” said MacNeill of the scrimmage.
“They say you improve the most from the first week to the next,” he added, hoping that’s the case when the Red Dragons play for real against Morrisville.