JOHNSTOWN - The Glove Cities Colonials outscored the Troy Fighting Irish 12-3 in the second half Saturday night, but couldn't overcome a 28-12 1st half deficit en route to a 31-24 loss in their season opener.
The crowd was buzzing as the Colonials lined up to return the opening kickoff at Knox Field in Johnstown. The buzz would not soon wear off, as Alex Heath returned the first kickoff of the season 93 yards for a touchdown. After missing the extra point, the Colonials found themselves up 6-0 on the defending Northeastern Football Alliance champion Fighting Irish.
In a game characterized by long drives and pounding the ball on the ground, Troy marched down the field to take a 7-6 lead on an eventual 1-yard touchdown run. The Fighting Irish ran the ball 12 times during the drive, attempting only one pass that fell incomplete.
Glove Cities’ Kirieme Pitts (22) looks for running room during Saturday’s Northeastern Football Alliance game against Troy at Knox Field in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan)
The Colonials first offensive possession of the season faltered right away. A rush up the middle turned into a fumble and recovery for a touchdown, putting Troy up 14-6. As the first quarter wound down, the Colonials ran the ball steadily. Salih Banks and Kirieme Pitts both broke off multiple long runs before Pitts found his way into the end zone. After a failed two-point conversion attempt, the Colonials found themselves back within striking distance.
On the first play from scrimmage to begin Troy's next drive, the Irish running back scampered 65 yards for a touchdown. After another long drive by the Colonials that featured a steady diet of rushing the ball on the ground, Glove Cities turned the ball over on downs. After a 48-yard rush put Troy within striking distance, they finished off the half with a 25-yard touchdown pass, stretching their lead to 28-12 entering the break.
Troy rushed the ball for 177 yards in the first half, while the Colonials rushed for 89. Each team attempted only three passes for 29 yards. According to Colonials offensive coach and GM Matt Capano, attempting only three passes was not the game plan.
"We planned to pass the ball," Colonials offensive coach and GM Matt Capano said. "We had a couple injuries on the front line, so we had to fill in some of the holes."
Troy put together a drive that took up the majority of the third quarter before it fumbled near the goal line. Doug Lopez scooped up the ball in the end zone, eliminating the chance for Troy to further extend their lead. The Colonials ensuing drive took the game into the fourth quarter, where Banks was able to pass the ball with success. He hit Gloversville High School alumni Ace Barnhill for a 17-yard reception on the first play of the quarter. A few plays later, a botched snap took a favorable bounce into the arms of Pitts who ran 11 yards for his second touchdown of the game, cutting the lead to 10 after another failed extra point.
The Colonials' defense, however, couldn't stop the Fighting Irish from putting together another long drive that took a great deal of time off the clock. They moved the ball at will before settling for a field goal as time began to run out on the Colonials.
Trailing 31-18 and with just enough time for one more solid drive, Banks shined for the Colonials.
Banks went 4-for-4 for 68 yards in the final drive of the game, including a 3-yard touchdown pass to Barnhill that brought the Colonials within a touchdown. With just 32 seconds remaining, Troy kneeled the ball, securing a 31-24 opening day victory.
"Troy's a good team," Capano said. "They run the Wing T. We're just going to have to plug those holes up and come out better next time."
The Colonials finished with 120 rushing yards, while Banks was an efficient 8-for-9 for 114 yards in his first contest with Glove Cities.
The Fighting Irish rushed for 282 yards, throwing for only 50 in the victory.
"It's going to take us time to gel together," Capano cautioned. "It was our first game. We'll do better."
The Colonials next game will be June 8 in Oneonta versus the Stallions.