The Stony Brook Football team will conclude its season on Saturday afternoon when it welcomes Albany to Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.
The two teams have faced each other 16 times since 1995, with Albany holding a 10-6 all-time series lead. This year’s installment of the matchup will include an added twist—the two schools have introduced a new trophy.
“The Golden Apple” will be awarded to the winner of the game. Seawolves head coach Chuck Priore welcomed the trophy in a conference call on Monday, expressing hope that it will add fuel to the Stony Brook-Albany rivalry.
“I think that when you look across any college sport, there’s always those [rivalry] games,” Priore said. “I’m real excited that this will develop and continue develop into a rivalry game across the sport of football. We’re going to attach a trophy to it and start making more of a deal of it. New York State has two FCS teams that are both represented directly, so I think it’s going to be good.”
Several other schools also award trophies for rivalry games, such as “Paul Bunyan’s Axe” to the winner of matches between Minnesota-Wisconsin and the “The Victory Bell” for the victor when UCLA and USC play.
But outside of this largely symbolic trophy, there is not a lot at stake for either team in this game. Stony Brook and Albany both currently hold 2-5 Colonial Athletic Association records. That leaves the teams tied for the second-worst mark in the conference.
The Seawolves head into the game as winners of two straight. In order to extend that streak to three, they will need to do what they have traditionally done best—run the football and play great defense. Stony Brook has done this exceptionally well in each of the last two weeks and has reaped benefits as a result.
Sophomore running back Donald Liotine has rushed for 318 yards and two touchdowns over the last two games, carrying the Seawolves on offense.
Stony Brook’s defense has stifled opposition, allowing only 16 points total over the past two weeks.
“Defensively we dominated the line of scrimmage and controlled the run game,” Priore said of Stony Brook’s win last week against Rhode Island. “Offensively we were able to play more consistently, get first downs, move the ball a couple of times and hold the ball.”
Stony Brook will be facing an Albany team that is ranked ninth in the twelve-team CAA in total offense and last in total defense. However, the Great Danes do have some talented players on their squad. Redshirt freshman running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks has rushed for 509 yards on 82 carries in seven conference games, good for 6.2 yards per carry. He is a major piece of the program’s future.
On defense, Albany’s strength lines up the middle with a pair of freshman linebackers. Julian Cox is third in the CAA in tackles this season with 54 in 10 games, and DaSharnte Thompson has compiled 32 in nine games this season.
“I think it’s two teams that want to run the football and play a physical brand of defense,” Priore said of Saturday’s matchup. “They impress with their defensive front linebackers and physicality that they play with, and I’m impressed with their run game. They’ve got some good backs that go hard.”
While the Seawolves did not capitalize on a strong 2-0 start to their season, the team has a chance to close things out on a winning note.
“They’ve really hung together this year in some difficult times,” Priore said. “Anytime you lose it’s difficult, but these guys have stuck together.”