Football to host Senior Night against Albany

Nick Fattori

Every year a coach puts together a recruiting class in hopes that it will be the one to take the team to the next level. It is safe to say that this year’s class of seniors on the football team has accomplished this goal.

Seventeen seniors will play their final home game—excluding potential playoff games—Saturday night at 7 p.m. against the University of Albany.

Some of the featured seniors who will be honored before the game are running back Kevin Monangai, linebacker Joey Harmon, offensive linemen Vince Kowalski and Ross Hall and the captains of the team, wide receiver Poppy Livers and safety Joe Sarnese.

For many of these players it will be an emotional day four years in the making. Some of these players were highly recruited coming out of high school, but for others like Livers it was a much different story. He went from walk-on to a scholarship player and finally senior captain.

“[My experience] has meant a lot, because I really didn’t have anywhere else to go and Villanova gave me a chance,” Livers said. “My mom is also flying [in] for the game and she has never seen me play in person in college. I’m really excited and I know she will be too.” 

The players previously named have been the heart and soul of this team for the last two plus years and have been part of the reason ’Nova is having one of its best overall seasons in program history.

“[Villanova football] has been a great experience,” Harmon said. “It gave me an opportunity to continue my football career after high school. I met the best man at my wedding, best friends for life and I hope it continues long into the playoffs.”

This group of seniors has played a combined 44 games together to this point, but one game stands out the most to all of them—that was last year’s finale against Delaware. Villanova overcame a 23-point deficit in the final eight minutes of the game. To this day, players look back at this game as one that has defined their careers.

“People counted us down and out,” Monangai said. “We came back and pulled it out and it has changed how the team has played day in and out since then.”

Standing in their way though are the Great Danes. Albany is having a surprising season and looks to pose quite a challenge. It jumped out to a 4-0 start but has taken a step back in conference play by going 2-4 to this point.

One thing that has been consistent all season though is the Great Danes’ offense. Albany has scored at least 24 points in seven of the last eight games and will look to try and keep up with the ’Cats’ high-powered attack.

To do this, the Great Danes will lean heavily on redshirt senior running back Omar Osbourne. He is a wily veteran who has run for nearly 1,000 yards and four touchdowns so far this season. He was even more prolific last season, when he ran for 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns on his way to first team CAA Honors. 

’Nova’s sometimes porous secondary will also need to watch out for Albany’s senior quarterback Will Fiacchi. Last week against Delaware, he threw for 335 yards, four scores and no picks in a 31-28 loss. On the season, Fiacchi has thrown for nearly 2,200 yards, while having an impressive 21 to 7 touchdown to interception ratio.

While Albany’s offense is good, its defense has been even better. It allows only 340 yards per game and is led by redshirt sophomore linebacker Michael Nicastro. 

He has been a ball hawk all season, leading the team with 100 total tackles, 6.5 of them for a loss.

Villanova will look to break down this defense with its high-octane offense. After putting 42 on Towson last week the Wildcats now average 38.5 points per game, which is good for 11th best in the nation.

The offense received a big boost now that junior quarterback John Robertson has had his cast taken off his left hand. 

The Nova Nation finally saw the Robertson of old against Towson, and he did it not only through the air, but on the ground as well. 

It was nice to see him throw for 182, three scores and no interceptions, but even better to see him run for 107 yards and a touchdown. Now that it is clear he is 100 percent healthy, this team’s already phenomenal offense will only continue to get better heading into the FCS playoffs.

“Stay behind us,” Monangai said. “We play for our team, but it’s nice to know there are people out there who are supportive of us and want us to succeed, so thank you.”