Competition has been high as the Alfred State football team prepares for the 2019 season. 2019 marks the Pioneers third season competing in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) and the second year the team will be led by Scott Linn.
Over 100 players reported to preseason camp as the blue & gold look to continue to build a more competitive culture. 31 players on the preseason roster have some collegiate playing experience at Alfred State while the nearly 70 newcomers come from four different states (New York, Connecticut, Maryland, and Florida).
Coach Linn is excited in what he has seen on the practice field. "We have had a great preseason camp so far. The competition level has been raised significantly from last year. Many of our newcomers have really impressed us, and we expect a number of them to see action early on in the season."
The offensive line features the most experience as three starters return from last year. Seniors Devon Clark (Perrysburg/Gowanda) and Sam Van Valkenburg (Sherman) have been constants on the line during their career while Zac Clendenin (Belmont/Genesee Valley) starts his second season with the blue & gold after transferring from Erie CC. Other returning linemen include sophomore Paul Dellerose (Highland Mille/Monroe Woodbury), senior Bryce Chapman (Geneseo), Rob Rozicki (N. Tonawanda), and Colin Kraeger (Oriskany).
Senior quarterback Dashown Wilson (Bronx/DeWitt Clinton) and sophomore running back Ronnie Clark (Philadelphia/Indian River) will be counted on to key contributors behind the experienced line. Wilson passed for 1,217 yards and nine touchdowns last season in eight games while Clark led the team with 711 yards and six scores. Trevor Carson (Bronx/Harry Truman) returns at fullback as well. Returners account for over 75% of the rushing yardage from last year.
Wide receivers Darrius Nichols (Brooklyn/South Shore) and Bladimir Vargas (Manhattan/George Washington) along with tight end Cade Marks (Wellsburg/Elmira) return from last year as many of Wilson's passing targets will be new faces. Nichols caught nine passes for 183 yards and a score, Vargas had five catches for 57 yards and a score, and Marks caught three passes for 41 yards and a score. Only 15% of the Pioneers receiving offense returns from last year.
Michael Zimmerman (Canandaigua), the leading tackler last year, will be counted on to lead a young defensive unit. Zimmerman, a senior safety, recorded 76 tackles and intercepted three passes. Brockton Weist (Harpursville), Kahmani McLeod(Bronx/St. Raymond's), and Adam Bellaus (Cheektowaga) also return. Weist recorded 39 tackles and two sacks, McLeod had 38 tackles and two sacks, and Bellaus finished with 38 stops and three sacks. Other returners on the defensive side looking to make an impact are Justin Chalas (Manhatttan/George Washington), Robert Augustin (Brooklyn/Midwood), Jamel Guzman (Bronx/Herbert Lehman), and Chris Plummer (Lake Ronkonkoma/Sachem East).
The 2019 schedule features five non-conference games to start the season. They open the season with a road trip to UMass Dartmouth (9/7). The next weekend the Pioneers open up at home with an early evening battle with Hartwick. A pair of roadtrips to the Rochester area are next up as the blue & gold take on Rochester (9/21) and Brockport (9/28). Their final non-conference game is a home game vs. 2020 ECFC member Keystone College. Conference play begins on October 12th when they host Anna Maria. ECFC games at Gallaudet, vs. Castleton, at Dean, and vs. Maritime wrap up the slate.
Competition at all positions mixed with continued solid play by returners will continue to build on the foundation of the NCAA DIII/ECFC era of Alfred State football.