Football focused on not ‘beating themselves’


Dave DeLuca/The Record

Junior running back Dale Stewart ran for 154 yard and the team’s lone touchdown in Saturday’s 34-10 loss to the Alfred Saxons.

“Don’t let your teammate down.”

That’s the message that head coach Jerry Boyes and his coaching staff has been trying to get across to the Buffalo State football team as it gets ready for the 2017 campaign.

It’s something the Bengals need to take to heart after last season when they got in their own way too often. Buffalo State committed 74 penalties, costing them 685 yards in 2016.

According to Boyes, the lost yardage was very costly.

“Buffalo State beat Buffalo State,” Boyes said. “We were our own worst enemy because of mental errors more than anything else.”

The Bengals went 5-5 (3-5 Empire 8) last season, ending with a disappointing 48-28 loss against rival Brockport.

Boyes saw last season as a step back for Buffalo State after going to back-to-back bowl games.

Youth was one of Buffalo State’s biggest issues last season. The Bengals graduated 31 players the year before, most of them were starters. The new players were abundant on the offensive line; Buff State had a fresh five on the line last year, however, they all return for 2017.

The Bengals are excited about bringing back senior quarterback Kyle Hoppy. Hoppy was the starter coming into both the 2015 and 2016 seasons, but his career has been plagued by injuries. The quarterback tore his ACL early in 2015 and was out for the year. Last season, he broke his jaw in the opener and missed two games.

Hoppy threw for 1,846 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2016.

Hoppy is key for the offense, the coach believes.

“He’s our trigger man,” Boyes said. “Our offense relies a lot on our quarterback because we call a lot of plays from the line of scrimmage. He has the skill set and the knowledge.”

Returning to the gridiron puts aspirations on Hoppy for the season.

“It’s unfortunate that two injuries that I couldn’t really avoid happened, but I can’t look at like it the last two years were marred by injury,” Hoppy said. “I have to prepare the same way I have been for the past two years. I have high expectations for myself and my teammates.”

Leading the defense this year is linebacker Bart Mazzara. The senior led the defense with 111 total tackles in 2016.

“The energy and leadership that he brings is key,” Boyes said. “He commands respect because of the way he plays.”

It’s the defense that Bengals will lean on this year, especially early on.

“(Besides Mazzara,) I have 10 other guys out there that played very fast last year,” Boyes added. “Our strength will come from the defense. They say, ‘Defense wins championships.’ I’m looking forward to that.”

The Bengals will count on running back Dale Stewart to take most of the carries in this season, after last year’s leading rusher Tre Mason graduated. Stewart ran for 419 yards in the backup role.

Buffalo State will have to replace a reliable kicker in Marc Montana, who graduated. Montana made 12 of 17 field goals for the Bengals last year and was named to the Empire 8 First Team in both his sophomore and senior seasons.

Senior wide out Stephen Johnson had 27 catches for 564 yards and five touchdowns. He is a part of an experienced receiving core this season with six seniors.

Buffalo State will host Bridgewater State, from Massachusetts, on Saturday, Sept. 2 to open up the season. The Bengals will strive for consistency to improve in 2017.

“We want to keep our effort level the same every day and we can achieve great things,” Hoppy said.

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Twitter: @FrancisBoeck