Dispatch Staff Photo by JOHN HAEGER Morrisville State senior quarterback Joe Shue passes during a drill on Tuesday, in Morrisville.
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MORRISVILLE — The 2010 SUNY Morrisville Mustangs football team played just three home games last year, leading to a last place finish in the New Jersey Athletic Conference. This year, the team is looking to take the program to another level thanks to seven home games at a brand-new Drake Field.
“It wasn’t really a negative because you’re supposed to be able to play no matter what situation you’re in,” said junior linebacker Anthony Brown of the 2009 schedule. “But traveling to seven different games, averaging four hours per bus trip was tiring.”
This year the return of players in key positions like senior quarterback Joe Shue and leading receiver Kyle Gordon, another senior, will make a difference on the field for Morrisville.
“We’ve been playing with the same guys for a few years now so everything is getting more routine,” said Shue. “We just make plays almost without thinking because we know other people are doing their jobs.”
Head coach Terry Dow, entering his 14th season in charge of the Mustangs, has watched the quality of play improve after the school switched from a junior college to a four-year school four years ago.
“We’re older, more mature than we have been in the past,” said Dow. “We’ve been predicted to finish last or second to last in our conference the last couple of years. We want to get out of that mold. We’d like to take another step with the program and win more games.”
The NJAC includes five teams from New Jersey, including 2009 champion Montclair State. New York teams Brockport State, Buffalo State, and Cortland are also in the conference along with Western Connecticut.
This year Dow also has the advantage of a reliable assistant coaching staff that is returning. That was not always the case in the past. Senior offensive tackle Nick Omilanowicz was glad to hear defensive coordinator Justin Higgins had returned after spending two years at Utica College.
“We didn’t have the best defense when (Higgins) was here,” Omilanowicz said, “but it had a certain intensity that we lacked the last couple of years.”
One thing the Morrisville need to improve on is depth said Dow.
“The starters on both sides of the ball are good,” said Dow. “If we start getting injuries we could be in trouble. When you play a ten game schedule in a conference as good as ours that’s certainly a factor.”
According to Omilanowicz, some receivers have already stepped up to make it the highlight of the offense. Freshman Josh Powell is one receiver who has already impressed with his size and speed.
“It’s always been our strength in the past so I don’t know why this year would be any different,” Omilanowicz said. “The freshman (Dow) brought in are really good.”
The Mustangs will line up on defense in a 4-3 formation looking to pressure the quarterback according to Brown.
“I think we’re going to be good at getting pressure on the quarterback,” Brown said. “We’ve got a lot of big guys that switched positions, but from what I’ve seen the changes that are being made are going to help us.”
When Morrisville steps onto the field this Saturday for it’s preseason friendly against St. John Fisher, at will be the first time playing an opponent on Drake Field. The facility is a night and day improvement over the previous home field according to Omilanowicz who called the old field “a swamp.” With the more user-friendly facility and the favorable home schedule, Brown thinks 2010 could be a good year for Morrisville football.
“We have seven home games so if we win every home game we got a chance at being a good team in the conference,” Brown said. “That’s my goal, to win every home game; new season, new start, new year.”