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VVS grad Palmer reaches milestone, Utica earns comeback win

Ben Birnell
Sports writer
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Posted 10/31/22

The Utica University football team has reached the seven-win mark this season.

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VVS grad Palmer reaches milestone, Utica earns comeback win

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The Utica University football team has reached the seven-win mark this season.

The mark ties a program-record for the Pioneers and longtime coach Blaise Faggiano. Vernon-Verona-Sherrill grad Nate Palmer also continued an impressive season.

The team reached the mark Saturday in dramatic fashion in rallying for a victory over Empire 8 Conference rival Morrisville State.

On the final play of the game, the Pioneers appeared to barely beat the running clock on the snap as quarterback Braeden Zenelovic connected with an uncovered Joey Nare in the end zone to lift Utica to a 20-17 win at Morrisville’s Drake Field.

The win gives Utica a 7-1 overall record, the program’s best mark through eight games. It ties the program’s single-season record for wins, along with tying the mark for regular season wins set by the 2014 and 2016 teams.

Utica is 3-1 in the conference, which is second to Cortland (5-0). Morrisville is 6-2 overall and 2-2 in the Empire 8. Both teams are receiving one vote in the d3football.com top 25 poll.

Palmer, a grad student, had his sixth game with 100 or more yards receiving. He made six catches for 102 yards and a touchdown in the win. The effort gave him 1,007 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Palmer leads the Empire 8 in receiving yards with the next player more than 300 yards behind him.

He’s the first Utica player to go over 1,000 yards receiving since Rome Free Academy graduate Jeremy Meier was the first in 2012. Palmer is within reach of the single-season record of 1,212 yards set by Meier.

Palmer also has 2,439 yards receiving in his Utica career with two regular-season game remaining. He trails Meier (2,477 yards) for second place on the career list. Former New Hartford standout Anthony Acevedo tops the Utica list with 3,360 yards.

On Saturday, Utica trailed 17-7 with 5:10 remaining in regulation. Utica used a five-play, 78-yard drive and got help from a pair of Morrisville penalties to pull within 17-14 on Zenelovic’s touchdown pass to Vernon-Verona-Sherrill grad Travis Decker with less than four minutes left. Decker finished with a career game totaling 99 yards and a touchdown in a second consecutive game. He made three catches on the winning drive.

Utica forced Morrisville to go three-and-out on the ensuing drive and got the ball with 1:59 to play.

Utica appeared to turn the ball over on downs, but that was negated after a Morrisville offsides penalty.

Four plays later, Morrisville was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct to push the ball to the team’s 17-yard-line. Two plays later, Zenelovic passed to Doug Elsesser, who got to the eight-yard-line but stayed in bounds.

The game-winning touchdown came on the next play.  Zenelovic finished 25-of-40 for 295 yards and three touchdowns.

Utica is set to play its final regular-season home game against visiting E8 foe Alfred University (2-6 overall) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Gaetano Stadium.

Hamilton falls

Hamilton’s quest for its first winning season since 1996 will have to wait another year.

That became official Saturday with a 49-13 New England Small College Athletic Conference setback to Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.

Hamilton is 2-5 with two NESCAC games remaining on the 2022 schedule. Hamilton plays Saturday at Middlebury in Vermont. The team closes the season Nov. 12 against visiting Bates in Clinton.

Michael Berluti connected with eight receivers for 349 yards and a score on 20 of 26 passing for Tufts (4-3). Tyler Johnson had two rushing scores and 148 yards on 22 carries.

Tufts cruised past Hamilton by scoring two touchdowns in each of the first three quarters and added a seventh score in the fourth. Seven of the Jumbos’ 10 drives ended with touchdowns.

Quarterback Matt Banbury got Hamilton College on the board with 5:01 left in the second quarter, running for a four-yard touchdown that got the Continentals within 21-7.

Leo Gerst had a short touchdown run in the fourth quarter for Hamilton.

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