UTICA, N.Y. - The Utica College football team had its first taste of live action this fall season with the annual Blue vs. Orange intra-squad scrimmage at Gaetano Stadium, Friday.
The team split players and coaches up into two and played a full four quarter contest in real time, as if it were a regular season game.
It was a tight defensive battle, with Orange coming from behind to top Blue 13-7.
The game allowed the Pioneers to work things out in game speed with the regular season set to begin in two weeks time.
It marked the first time the program has had a chance to see game action since playing four games this past spring -- two against Alfred and two intra-squad games -- at the end of March, beginning of April.
"We've been doing this for a while to have as live a situation as we can," said Pioneers head coach Blaise Faggiano, entering his 14th season at the helm. "We split up the players, coaches, have officials here, have an announcer, have the lights on. We really learned a lot today."
UC hasn't played true regular season contests since going 5-5 - 3-3 in conference - in 2019, as the fall 2020 season was canceled amid the pandemic.
In their first training camp since August 2019, the team is in high spirits as they get set to enter a new full season.
"It's hard to put into words," said Faggiano. "[The players] put so much work into it and everything they went through last year, all the adversity, to finally be here in camp -- it seems like forever ago that we had a training camp. 75% of our team have never gone through training camp, but they're doing great."
The same sentiment has been echoed by the players, who are optimistic about the roster they have here in 2021.
"Words can't put it into perspective, everyone is so fired up to be out here," said senior WR Nate Palmer, a VVS grad. "This is the best camp I've been a part of as an offense. We're clicking on every level. The offensive line is doing great, giving the QB time in the pocket. The QB is putting it on the receivers, and the receivers - especially the rookies coming in - they know their stuff and they're on top of it."
Faggiano said that team speed is going to be a major factor for the Pioneers this year on both sides of the ball.
He also said that on offense, they are comfortable with their ability to run and pass the ball equally, allowing for a variety of options each play.
The Pioneers also have a lot of depth at the tight end position, which can help them spread the field.
Utica College gets its 2021 regular season underway on Saturday, Sept. 4 at Alfred State.
Their home opener is on Saturday, Sept. 18 against Western New England.