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Utica Begins Empire 8 Play at #19 Alfred Saturday

More news about: Utica

UTICA, NY – The Utica College football team returns to the gridiron on Saturday when the Pioneers travel to nationally-ranked No. 19 Alfred University to take on the Saxons in the Empire 8 Conference opener for both teams at 1 p.m.

Getting Back on Track:
The Pioneers (1-1) look to rebound from last week's 16-10 road loss at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. … UC rallied with 10 second half points last week but the comeback bid fell just short as the Cardinals hung on for a six point victory … Trailing 16-10, UC earned one final chance in the fourth quarter after Derrick Sekuterski (Depew, NY/Depew) recovered a Cardinal fumble on the Utica 49 yard line with 1:13 left on the game clock … Unfortunately the Pioneers went four and out on their ensuing possession and Catholic took over with just 52 seconds left in the game to earn the victory.

Broadcast Information: Alfred University Sports Information will produce live video and live statistics for Saturday's contest at: https://portal.stretchinternet.com/alfred/

Defensive Notes
Defense Wins Championships: The Utica defensive unit ranks second in the conference and 25th nationally allowing an average of just 11.5 points per contest through two games this season.

Lock Down Corners: The Utica secondary has held its opponents to 147.5 yards passing per game, which ranks second in the Empire 8 … The Pioneers have held opposing quarterbacks to a passing efficiency of  78.99 which ranks second in the Empire 8 and 25th nationally. 

Turnovers Gained: The Utica defense leads the Empire 8 and is ranked 19th nationally with six turnovers gained this season.

Tough on Third Down: The Pioneers have one of the stingiest defenses in the nation on third down, leading the conference, and they also rank seventh nationally holding opponents to a 16.1% (5-of-31) success rate on third downs.

Nose for the Ball: The UC defense has a knack for jumping on loose balls as the Pioneers currently rank 12th nationally and first in the Empire 8 with three fumble recoveries this season … One of those recoveries was for a touchdown as Antonio Scala (Coram, NY/Longwood) jumped on a loose ball in the end zone against St. Lawrence in week one to notch the first points of the season for Utica.

Leading the Way: Senior linebacker Derrick Sekuterski (Depew, NY/Depew) broke out last week with a team-high 11 tackles and he currently ranks first on the team with 17 tackles this season … Senior safety Anthony Bierria-Anderson (Freeport, NY/Freeport) has produced as expected in the first two weeks of the season, ranking second on the team with 15 tackles to go along with one interception and one pass break up … Antonio Scala (Coram, NY/Longwood) had a huge week one game as he posted a team-high 12 tackles and also added one sack and a fumble recovered for a touchdown against St. Lawrence.

Don't Throw His Way: Mark Taylor (Buffalo, NY/Kenmore West) has stepped up and provided quality time on the field in the absence of senior corner back Chancellor Harris (West Henrietta, NY/Rush Henrietta) … Taylor ranks third in the league with four passes defended this season. 

Playmaker: Transfer Sean McKean (Bohemia, NY/Connetquot) has made the most of his short time in the blue and orange as he has posted one sack and one interception in his first two games at Utica. 

Strong Up Front: The Utica defensive line has impressed so far this season … The unit of Robbie Schempp (Webster, NY/Webster Thomas), Nick Pizzarelli (Rockville Centre, NY/Oceanside), Keanu Heedram (Rochester, NY/Rush-Henrietta), Jack Derby (Fonda, NY/Fultonville Fonda), Xyier Woodard (Albany, NY/LaSalle), Nick Yelich (Lancaster, NY/Depew) and Alfonso Whitehurst have combined for 6.0 tackles for a loss and two sacks.

Offensive Notes
Big Boys Up Front:
The Utica offensive line is one of just 18 teams left in the country to have not allowed a sack this season … The Pioneers have outgained their opponents 626-486 through two games.

Big Gainer: Utica senior running back Nicodemus Gambill (Rochester, NY/East High) has caught the eye of opposing defensive coordinators and he currently leads the conference and ranks 12th in the country with an average of 8.2 yards per carry this season … Gambill leads the team with 164 yard rushing and two touchdowns this season … Gambill, a two-sport athlete, is a four-time NCAA Division III All-American and an eight-time national qualifier over the course of his sprinting career for the track & field program … He also recently qualified for the USA Bobsled & Skeleton rookie camp which took place August 21-27 in Lake Placid, NY.

Ground and Pound: The Utica offense is averaging 197.0 yards rushing per game … In addition to the production of Gambill, junior captain Malcolm Stowe (Coram, NY/Longwood) ranks second on the team with 140 yards on 25 carries and one touchdown this season … Stowe piled up 130 yards and a touchdown in week two against Catholic. 

Receiving Game: Wide receiver Darrell Jones II (Coram, NY/Longwood) and tight end Alex Damiani (Lancaster, NY/Lancaster) currently lead the team in receiving … Jones has a team-high five catches for 77 yards, while Damiani ranks second on the squad with four catches for 44 yards … Damiani came up just one yard shy of a touchdown in week two against Catholic. 

Need to Improve in the Red Zone: Utica is just 1-for-5 in red zone chances this season, a mark they will have to improve moving forward into Empire 8 play. 

Special Teams Notes:
Shifty Steele: Zach Steele (Herkimer, NY/Herkimer) currently leads the Empire 8 and ranks 20th nationally with an average of 14.17 yards per punt return … He has returned six punts for 85 yards with his longest return coming in at 22 yards. 

Kicking Game: Freshman kicker Maki Medici (Watervliet, NY/Shaker) knocked down his first collegiate field goal last week at Catholic … His lone field goal of the season came from 34 yards out to mark the first points of the game for Utica in week two.

Meet the Opponent
Alfred Saxons:
The Saxons are currently 1-0 and ranked 19th nationally in the latest D3football.com National Poll … Alfred won the Empire 8 Conference crown last season and earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Div. III Tournament … The Saxons were ranked 21st to begin the season, a position they held after their season-opening 20-17 win at Ithaca Sept. 2 … AU was idle last weekend, but still moved up in this week's rankings … Alfred tallied 347 yards of offense in week one, with junior quarterback Bryce Morrison providing 239 on 17-of-29 passing with two touchdowns in his first collegiate start … Junior Jayden Gavidia caught five passes for 90 yards and a TD and senior wide out Rodney Etienne had six receptions for 53 yards … AU ran for 108 yards, with Maleke Fuentes gaining 66 on 25 carries … Junior linebacker Cole Reed posted 10 tackles and senior linebacker A.J. LiCata had eight (1 ½ for loss) to lead the Saxon defense.

Against Alfred: In the last seven years UC has gone 2-5 against Alfred, including winning two of the last five matchups … UC's most recent win over Alfred was in 2014, a 35-14 week nine victory, at home that helped the Pioneers earn the program's first ECAC Bowl bid.

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D3football.com Top 25, preseason

The D3football.com Top 25, entering the 2019 season. This is the 17th season of the D3football.com Top 25.

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1 Mary Hardin-Baylor (24) 15-0 624
2 Mount Union (1) 14-1 599
3 St. John's 12-1 566
4 UW-Whitewater 12-1 555
5 North Central (Ill.) 10-2 482
6 Johns Hopkins 12-2 457
7 St. Thomas 8-2 414
8 Muhlenberg 11-2 405
9 Hardin-Simmons 9-2 397
10 Bethel 11-2 396  
11 Whitworth 10-1 336  
12 Linfield 7-2 291  
13 Brockport 11-1 230  
14 Delaware Valley 9-2 223  
15 Illinois Wesleyan 8-2 197  
16 Berry 10-2 190  
17 John Carroll 9-2 168  
18 Wittenberg 9-1 162  
19 RPI 10-2 152  
20 Centre 10-2 137  
21 Washington and Jefferson 9-2 132  
22 Wheaton (Ill.) 8-2 109  
23 Wabash 9-1 105  
24 Randolph-Macon 9-3 91  
25 St. Norbert 10-2 83

Others receiving votes: Trine 73; UW-La Crosse 71; Wartburg 61; Wesley 59; Washington U. 58; Montclair State 49; Alfred 48; Ithaca 42; UW-Oshkosh 40; Central 29; Case Western Reserve 25; Baldwin Wallace 20; Salisbury 15; Trinity (Texas) 10; Hope 10; Redlands 6; Marietta 3; Trinity (Conn.) 3, MIT 2.

The D3football.com Top 25 is voted on by a panel of 25 coaches, Sports Information Directors and media members from across the country, and is published weekly. Points are awarded on a 25-24-23-22-etc. basis.