|Freshman cornerback Raylens Boutin, left, punctuated a Week 2 win with two interception returns for a touchdown, while Ben Marshall, right, has six pass breakups last year as a freshman.
Brockport athletics photo by Sam Cherubin
By Joe Sager
Brockport might not look like the Golden Eagles of the past two seasons.
The squad hope it repeats the success, though, with another long playoff run. However, graduation had a major impact on the Golden Eagles’ roster this fall. It’s forced the team to make some big changes on the fly, especially after opening the year with a stunning 33-7 loss at Hobart.
“We’ve had no less than 11 senior starters the last three seasons. Now, we have nine seniors combined in our two-deep on offense and defense,” Brockport coach Jason Mangone said. “We’re young. We knew we’d be inexperienced. We’re talented, but the guys we were leaning on the last couple years are gone. Now, we’re coaching kids that are in Year 1 (as starters). We made a plethora of mistakes in that first game. Every day we get a chance to practice is a chance to have many guys be a part of a play that, maybe, it’s the first time they’ve ever been in. So, we’re working on things.”
Brockport committed six turnovers in the loss to Hobart, which snapped the Golden Eagles’ 22-game winning streak in regular season games.
“That first week was a big slap in the face,” Brockport senior running back Justin Morrison said. “We have a lot of new faces on the offensive line and everywhere on the field. We’re just trying to find who we are and what we are.”
Brockport probably won’t be a team that slings the ball all over the field like the past two years. Quarterback Joe Germinerio finished his degree, but transferred to Ithaca to play out his final year of eligibility. After trying two other quarterbacks, the Golden Eagles unleashed freshman Freddy June. He played a majority of the team’s 14-0 win over Framingham State in Week 2. He got the start in a 55-22 win over Buffalo State last week and didn’t disappoint. He passed for 191 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 100 yards and two scores.
“A year ago today, he’s playing high school football. Now, he’s playing college football. He has made unbelievable strides in the last two weeks, let alone from the start of practice,” Mangone said. “We’ve reduced what we do. And, we’ve simplified within the reduction what we do. We’re playing within the ability he has. We can expand a little bit every day. Being simple is what our goal is and we can let his ability be the showcase, that’s what we want. He’s done a great job of taking what we’ve given him and executing at a higher level.”
Fortunately for June, he has experienced players like receivers DaQuan Hubbard, Joseph Ortiz and Alex Benson, as well as running backs Jala Coad, Zach Samborski and Morrison around him.
“We have some weapons that have proven themselves over the years. They are making some plays. He hasn’t had to do it all himself. He knows he doesn’t have to win any games alone, just execute the offense and do his part. He can do a lot of things with his feet and arm,” Mangone said. “The likeability, work ethic and buy-in are three of his biggest strengths. He is the kind of kid our guys want to be around. He wants to be great and that’s probably the best part about him. He’s bought in 100 percent. Every day he gets out there to take reps, we’ll be a little better as a football team.”
The offense was happy to break out last week after managing just one touchdown in the first two games. The squad’s scores in Week 2 both came on Raylens Boutin interception returns.
“We’ve shown we can do what we’re supposed to do. Now, we have to find out who we are and keep that tone for the rest of the season,” Morrison said. “Everything is starting to mesh better for us. I think the sky is the limit for all of us. We have unlimited potential. If we can just be on the same page and fire on all cylinders, we’ll be fine.”
|Justin Morrison has just one touchdown on the season for Brockport, but that number can only go up.
Brockport athletics photo by Alex Henderson
Brockport’s vaunted defense is looking to fill some holes, too. It didn’t catch much of a break in Week 1 when the squad’s turnovers kept the group on the field and gave Hobart prime field position. The unit bounced back for a shutout and produced the two touchdowns in Week 2.
“From a defensive standpoint, we can only control what we can control,” Brockport senior linebacker Alex West said. “The offense will have tough days, but we’re ready to step up and help them out. We were just doing our jobs.”
The unit produced two takeaways and limited Buffalo State to 66 yards rushing in Week 3. Last year, Brockport’s defense held 11 of its 12 opponents to negative rushing yardage and led all divisions in rushing defense at 6.8 yards per game. Overall, it finished as the No. 2 defense at 209.0 yards per game. Could it be that good again?
“We have nine new starters on defense. From Day 1 they’ve been unbelievable, flying around in practice. There are a lot of young guys out there eager to put their stamp on this program. Last year is last year. It’ll be a whole new identity this year,” Mangone said. “So far, the defense has taken over and is giving our offense a chance to jell a little bit and put some points on the board.”
West knew it’d be a process to rebuild the defense, but is happy with what he’s seen.
“We lost a lot of guys from last year. It was just a matter of finding who belongs where. It definitely doesn’t happen overnight. There were a lot of big shoes to fill. A lot of the guys got an opportunity to play last year, which I felt was huge for them. They are stepping up for sure,” he said. “I really believe we found our stride. We’re just ready to get after it the rest of the season.”
Brockport turned its Week 1 defeat into a positive.
“We lose one and in a bad fashion and I think a lot of people outside the program wrote us off – that’s the motivating thing,” Mangone said. “Every year possesses different challenges. Seeing how our guys responded to that loss and how determined they are to prove that we’re not a flash in the pan the past two years is great. We’re just trying to show a level of consistency. We don’t want guys too high one day and too low the next. It’s been fun to see the youth grow up as fast as it has and continue to excel at a very high level as we continue on this season.”
Brockport wants to get back to the postseason, after making deep runs the last two falls. However, the Golden Eagles know they must defend their back-to-back Empire 8 conference titles before thinking about playing deep into November or December.
“That’s always our goal. That’s the first step to get into the playoffs. We always strive to dominate our conference,” West said. “I am very happy and excited with how far we’ve come. The sky is the limit for us. If we keep improving weekly, I have no doubts for this team.”