UTICA — The Utica Redskins host the Centerburg Trojans on Friday in the season’s first game, with both teams looking to jump-start their seasons after subpar campaigns in 2017.
A year ago, these two teams met in the first week of the season, with Centerburg squeaking out the 19-14 win. The Trojans also took the win in the 2016 matchup, beating the Redskins 31-19 in Utica in Week 1. Because of the recent outcomes, especially with the close contest last year, first-year Utica coach Charlie Rowley knows it will take 48 minutes to take away the win.
“We’ve got to put together a full four quarters,” Rowley said. “We’ve been harping four quarters. The game is going to come down to the fourth quarter.”
“There’s excitement. These last two days of practice have been some of our best days of practice,” he said. “They’re tired of beating up on each other and they are ready to beat up on other people.”
Because Friday is the first regular season action, perfect football is not expected between the lines. Although he isn’t looking for a perfect game, Rowley is looking for Utica to commit, regardless of if it’s perfect or not.
“Mistakes are going to happen,” Rowley said. “The bottom line is mistakes have to happen at full speed and at maximum effort. Then we have to move on to the next play. It’s how do you respond, in a positive way or a negative way.”
One of the major differences of this year’s matchup compared to the 2017 contest, is there is a new, yet familiar face on the Utica sideline. Rowley is in his first year at the helm of the Redskin program, a team he played for during his high school career before he graduated in 2005. Friday is the first time Rowley will put on a Utica shirt and lead the Redskins on a Friday night since his playing days.
“I’m excited, but I can’t let any of that affect me,” Rowley said. “I have to be locked in and ready to go.”
When it comes to the play on the gridiron, both Rowley and Colella said they expect the game to be won or lost in the trenches.
“I think on offense, we have to establish the run and control the clock. The more we control the ball, the less opportunities they have,” Colella said. “Every week is won in the trenches on either side of the ball. Our offensive and defensive lines have been gelling and I’m excited to see what they can do.”
Rowley agreed in saying, “I think it’s going to be the up front battles on both sides of the ball. Controlling the line of scrimmage is key, both for them and for us.”
Despite the proximity between the schools, this game is not a conference contest. Both teams are familiar with each other because they are close to each other, but Colella said Friday is more about kicking off the season for Centerburg, and not who lines up on the other side of the ball.
“I think it’s more the build up and the excitement,” he said. “The players have been working for months and they’re ready to go at it, it just happens to be against our neighbors.”
A win for either side could jump-start the season. Utica posted a 1-9 record a year ago, while Centerburg went 2-8, so a win for either program could steer the season in an upward direction.
Both teams have been preparing for Friday for months, and both Rowley and Colella, as well as their teams, are ready for the first whistle.
“One thing I love is it’s small town football,” Rowley said. “Both communities care about the teams and are excited for Friday.”