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The Yale football team (0–0, 0–0 Ivy) will kick off its 2022 season at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Fitton Field in Worcester, Massachusetts when it takes on the Holy Cross Crusaders (2–0, 0–0 Patriot).

The game marks the beginning of the Bulldogs’ season. Because the Crusaders have already played twice and are ranked No. 12 in the FCS Coaches Poll, the game may prove to be a good first test for the Bulldogs and allow them to work out early season issues that may arise.

“We’ve got some good film on them and I think like coach said, we’ve had three preseason games so far,” captain Nick Gargiulo ’22 said. “That’s our big advantage. We’ve gone through the game week three times so at this point [so] it’s almost like we’re on game four.”

In their last matchup on Sept. 18, 2021, the Crusaders edged out the Blue and White by three points, winning 20–17. With 48 seconds left in the game, Crusader kicker Derek Ng kicked a 47-yard field goal to give Holy Cross the advantage.

Since 2003, the Bulldogs have a 5–3 record against Holy Cross. In 2019, Yale conquered the Crusaders 23–10 and lost 28–31 in overtime in 2018.

Holy Cross has run undefeated so far this season. On Sept. 2, the Crusaders beat Merrimack 31–17, and they won last Saturday, 37–31, against Buffalo in a FBS/FCS showdown.

“We’re a big family… That was our mission coming into this game,” Holy Cross quarterback Matthew Sluka said following their win over Buffalo. They’re going to have a lot of talented players. They’re a good team. Our job is to stay together and fight hard, and that’s what we did.”

This Saturday, the Bulldogs will look to their veteran core to help them start the season strong in what may prove to be the most difficult game of the year.

Returning under center for the Elis will be Nolan Grooms ’24, who started the team’s final five games last season. Grooms has the ability to change a game through the air or with his legs, as he demonstrated his dual-threat abilities last season.

“Nolan has really progressed, he’s really grown. The game has really slowed down for him. In any sport, or doing anything, things are moving fast,” Reno said. “Things have really slowed for him which is really a lot of work that he’s put in.”

Grooms will be supported by a deep group of skill position players, as the ball will surely get spread out amongst a host of talented running backs and wide receivers. The headliner on offense will be Mason Tipton ’24, who led the team with 570 receiving yards last season.

The defense will be led by Clay Patterson ’24, who ended last season with 11.5 sacks to lead the Ivy League. He will be joined by experienced players all over the field, with the front seven and secondary all boasting players capable of changing a game in a single play.

Saturday’s game is also Holy Cross’ home opener, and the Blue and White will have to overcome the home crowd to end the Crusaders’ winning streak.

With two straight road games on the horizon, the Elis are fired up and ready to bring the heat with Team 149.

“The same preparation that we do at home is what we do at away,” Gargiulo said. “Coach [Tony Reno] has done a really nice job; our schedule remains the same, whether we play at home or away. You just got a little bus ride to think about what we gotta get done.”

The Blue and White will begin Ivy League play next Saturday against Cornell in Ithaca, New York on Sept. 24.

SPENCER KING
AMELIA LOWER
Amelia Lower covers women's soccer, men's lacrosse and men's ice hockey. She is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College and is from Rye, New York.