By Rusell Cloon
After a frustrating five-game losing streak, the Bentley football team’s hard work was finally represented on the scoreboard with wins over Southern Connecticut State and most recently Pace.
“The Pace game was exactly what we hoped it would be,” graduate quarterback Danny Guadagnoli said. “We came out to a special group of fans and got a W against an inferior opponent. We made plays and had fun out there. Great team-win on senior day.”
The Falcons (3-5) jumped on the Setters early and took a 24-point lead going into halftime. Guadagnoli, who threw three touchdowns in the game and tallied 357 passing yards to surpass 8,000 in his career, set the tone early with a 47-yard strike to junior Chris Walsh to put the Falcons ahead just halfway through the first quarter.
In the second quarter, a six-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Sean Myers was followed by a three-yard touchdown run up the gut by sophomore Martin Bannerman to give the Falcons an insurmountable 21-0 lead. A field goal just before half-time only added insult to injury, putting Bentley up 24-0 and closing the door on any realistic second-half comeback chances for Pace.
Although the Falcon offense flourished, first-year head coach Bill Kavanaugh credited the team’s defense for setting the tone.
“We were able to play sound in all three phases of the game,” Kavanaugh said. “The defense shut down their offense, providing a spark.”
The Bentley defense was led by senior linebacker Blaine Hopwood, who notched eight tackles and recovered a fumble that resulted in the Falcons’ third touchdown. As a result of his performance, Hopwood was named Northeast-10 Defensive Player of the Week.
Along with his performance against Pace, Hopwood said that the atmosphere of Senior Day was a factor in the Falcons’ victory.
“I have to say I was very pleased with Saturday’s atmosphere,” Hopwood said. “When the crowd is large and everyone is into the game, we feed off that and want to win, not only for ourselves, but for everyone who took the time our of their busy Bentley schedules to show their support.”
The game marked the last regular-season home game for the Class of 2015, who Kavanaugh said has set the tone in the program for years to come.
“The senior leadership has been what has kept our team together through the tough times,” Kavanaugh said. “And they are why we have rebounded recently.”
Along with honoring seniors, the game paid tribute to graduate students Guadagnoli and Alex Farkes, who transferred to Bentley after a four-year baseball career at Penn State. The 2014 season is Guadagnoli’s second-season as a team captain, which encompasses much responsibility from the seasoned Falcon veteran.
“Being a two-time captain is an honor and a privilege,” Guadagnoli said. “I’m truly lucky to be leading such a great group of friends and football players. I cherish this responsibility and work hard every second in an effort to demonstrate with actions what it means to act the right way.”
Guadagnoli, along with sophomore Bryan Hardy, joined Hopwood in the Northeast-10 Conference honor roll. The quarterback also holds the second spot in program history for passing yards. After five years, Guadagnoli has mixed emotions about reaching the end of his Bentley career.
“It’s so bittersweet having this wonderful experience of Bentley football come to a close,” Guadagnoli said. “It’s been a wild ride that’s helped shape me into a better person. I can’t express with words my gratitude for these years. They’ve prepared me to pursue my dreams after college with confidence and conviction.”
Hopwood, also a fifth-year senior, had similar feelings as Guadagnoli.
“It’s definitely bittersweet for me. I have put in countless hours of work on and off the field for this team and after five years of college football, your body starts to feel the physical toll that has been racked up. I do, however, love this game and being able to call myself a Bentley Falcon, and saying goodbye will be one of the hardest things I will ever do.”
Although disappointed with the team’s results this season, Guadagnoli was impressed with the attitude the Falcons brought to the field every day.
“The season has been so promising yet extremely frustrating,” Guadagnoli said. “Losing five games by a combined 20 points is devastating, and still every day our guys came to work. We stayed hungry and motivated, and most importantly we stayed together. It’s a special group, and we are hoping to make a run to finish off the year right with a string of W’s.”
“Our team plays extremely hard. They come to practice ready to work every day. This group has been a joy to coach.”
While Guadagnoli has many memories over his career, none sticks out more than Bentley’s electric come-from-behind victory at Assumption in 2012 of his junior year.
“Favorite memory is beating Assumption my junior year on the final drive in my first come from behind win,” Guadagnoli said. “Crazy finish.”
Kavanaugh commended both Guadagnoli and Hopwood for their leadership in his first season at Bentley.
“Both guys are high effort guys and the leader of their unit,” Kavanaugh said. “They have both played a lot of football and are driven to succeed. They are mentally tough and fun to work with.”
Hopwood said that the seniors and graduate students have set the tone for the program in seasons to come.
“Having a solid group of seniors is key to being a successful football team,” Hopwood said. “With the new program this year, led by Coach Kav, we were responsible for setting the tone and making sure everyone had bought in to the new direction of the program.
That’s where I believe this year separates itself from previous seasons. This group of seniors is setting the tone for the program for years to come. However, just like with most senior groups, we are basically the heart beat of the team. We make sure everyone is focused and giving everything in terms of effort on a daily basis.”
Guadagnoli, Hopwood and the rest of the Bentley football team will have a chance to make some more memories at Assumption, as they finish the regular season with two road games against the Greyhounds on Nov. 1 and at LIU Post on Nov. 8. The Falcons hope to improve their record before the Northeast-10 Championship Weekend on Nov. 15.