ALBANY – Joe Casale’s memories of playing in the career Dome are nothing but victories.
Twice during his days at Troy High School, the UAlbany redshirt sophomore linebacker took the field inside the Dome. Both times, he and Flying Horse went on to be the NYSPHSAA Class AA football state champions.
“A lot of it was just seeing the hard work pay off,” Casale said Thursday. “It’s something any team can achieve, it’s just coming every day to practice and work.”
That’s the formula Casale is hoping will pay off for his current team on Saturday when Ulbani makes his first trip to the Carrier Dome for an afternoon kickoff against Syracuse.
At Troy, Casale was an integral part of back-to-back state title teams in 2016 and 2017, compiling a team-high 12 tackles as a defensive back in Flying Horse’s 2016 championship game win over Victor, then his A year later, after becoming the team’s starting quarterback as a senior, he finished his high school career for 239 yards and a pair of touchdowns to defeat Lancaster.
Casale is one of the Great Danes (0-1 CAA, 0-2 overall) who are familiar with playing in the Career Dome since their high school days. In fact, UAlbany’s linebacker corps is filled with players who have previously taken the field at Ernie Davis Legends Field.
Like Casale, redshirt junior Damon Burton won a pair of Class AA state titles at the Dome in 2013 and 2015 while playing for Rochester’s Aquinas Institute. Redshirt junior Danny DeMico never made it to the state finals while playing for Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse. , but he has had the most career Dome experience of any Great Dane with six prior games at the facility – three season kickoff games and three Section III championship appearances.
“It’s awesome. It’s been a while since I played at the Dome,” said Demico, a native of Manlius in the Syracuse suburbs. “Whenever I’m at home, I workout at some of the facilities. I went to high school, like, four minutes away. “
To all the Great Danes who have had experience playing at the Dome — including head coach Greg Gattuso, who visited the stadium in his early years as a defensive lineman at Penn State in the early 1980s — welcomed him Will go A little unfamiliar
The Carrier Dome underwent massive renovations ahead of the 2020 football season, with the facility receiving a new roof. The renovation also put an end to one of the great running jokes in college sports, with air conditioning eventually installed in a building it had gone without it in its first 40 years – by an air-conditioning company. Despite naming rights.
“You always thought in high school, ‘How is it so hot? They’re an air-conditioning company,'” Burton said.
A Ulbani athletic department official confirmed Friday that the Great Dane is receiving a guaranteed $360,000 for a trip to Syracuse. UAlbany also received a $250,000 guarantee for its season-opening game at the Fargodome in North Dakota state two weeks ago.
Having already played inside a dome – despite being less than half its size – Gattuso doesn’t expect his team to be intimidated by its surroundings.
“I have never felt the impact of a far field as a coach or a player,” he said. “How this affects individual kids, I don’t know. It’s not just a game.” [like baseball] Where the wall of the right field is different and a ball from it looks strange, or basketball where the background is different and the shooting is different. This [field] never changes.”
“At the end of the day,” Casale said, “it’s football, no matter where you’re playing it.”
But, for Casale and his teammates, who have been in that area before, it’s hard not to cherish some memories.
For Burton, it’s the 2015 Class AA state title game against Saratoga Springs, where he made nine tackles and forced a fumble that teammate Ernest Edwards returned for a touchdown.
“It was crazy,” Burton said. “My whole family came. It’s close to home, so there’s a lot of people coming to play for me.”
Saturday’s game is also likely to give Casale the most important game time of the season. Described by Gattuso as the “next man” from UAlbany’s deep linebacker group, Casale is likely to see more significant action as UAlbany rotates his front seven to stay fresh against a Syracuse (1-1 overall) team Who likes to conduct his crime. Warp speed, running 80 or more plays in one game.
“Obviously they play at a fast pace,” Casale said. “We’ve been practicing all week to keep up with it. It’s going to come down to being able to stay focused when they’re moving fast.”
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