An air of tension hung over the Rec Field Saturday, as the first game of the 2016 club football season began. The bleachers were filled with excited Spartans and their families, all eager to see their team take on the visiting Tar Heels. As the kick-off (in this case, to both the game and the Spartan’s season) drew closer more and more people came onto the field, taking seats in the bleachers, on the grass, and in the shade.
In fact, the turnout was good enough that, when he was asked about what he thought of it, Coach Michael Vadini (head of the UNCG Football Club Team) said:
“The turnout was outstanding, and really, we’re very appreciative of it… It was surprisingly great. To see everybody come out, and see everyone having fun, little kids running around playing catch, people lying out in the sun on blankets, it’s- it’s awesome.”
He later remarked that the team has some “great home games” lined up, and that he and the rest of the team all hope for a similar turnout in the future.
Then with the kick-off came the start of an exciting game and era at UNCG. Despite the excitement, the final score was 12-7 in the Tar Heels’ favor, ending the 125 year non-losing streak for UNCG football. That’s not to say that the game was without incident or excitement. In fact, quite the opposite was true, with exciting moments throughout the game.
The first of these moments came in the first quarter, when the Spartans blocked a field goal attempt by the Tar Heels. The favor was returned at the end of the first half when the Tar Heels intercepted a pass in the Spartan’s red zone (the Spartans a potential Chapel Hill touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, but I get ahead of myself).
When asked about this play (the turnover caused by Chapel Hill, that is), and how it affected the morale of his team, Coach Michael Vadini said:
“I thought [the football team] handled it very well… by the time we came back on the field for the second half they had already forgot about it and were focused on scoring and winning.”
Keep in mind that this fighting through until the very end isn’t unusual for the Spartans, and today’s game was similar to the first game of last season, which was against Longwood University’s team, the Lancers. In fact, according to Coach Vadini, the only real difference is the outcome, as he said that:
“In the game against Longwood we went into triple overtime, but we fought all the way through and we came out on top. This one we fought right down through the last fifty-six seconds, we were only losing twelve-seven. All we needed to do was score in the second half one time and we would’ve won the game…but still, a very similar experience.”
And this loss was most certainly not from a lack of practice. According to Coach Vadini, this team has been practicing since last November, and that, coupled with their excitement (noted by Coach Vadini) lead to them giving it their all this game.
Finally, when asked about what he took away from this game (what should be carried over and what should be changed), Coach Vadini answered:
“We [that is, the other coaches, their staffs, and Coach Vadini] have to make each individual player – each unit – just play better. We didn’t get beat today – we beat ourselves. We dropped balls, missed blocks… what we have to work on is execution.”
Hopefully Coach Vadini enacts these changes to the team so that the Spartans can look forward to a long, successful season for the UNCG Football Club Team because, as coach Vadini said, it’s all about “competing…and making this a great thing for UNCG.”
Next Saturday will see the Spartans play their final home game until November when they host Kennesaw State.