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St. Vincent football loses homecoming game to No. 18 Case Western

| Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, 7:51 p.m.
St. Vincent fans gather to watch Saturday's homecoming game between the Bearcats and visiting Case Western.
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St. Vincent fans gather to watch Saturday's homecoming game between the Bearcats and visiting Case Western.

They congregated in packs at tailgates, on hillsides and in passageways all around Chuck Noll Field on a strikingly beautiful fall day at St. Vincent.

Many were here for homecoming Saturday to get a glimpse of the present-day St. Vincent football team, hoping to stir memories of the Bearcats' national championship victory over Emory & Henry nearly 67 years ago in the 1950 Tangerine Bowl.

What they witnessed was a 35-14 defeat to No. 18 Case Western Reserve, a decidedly stronger Division III opponent.

“Schools like Case Western Reserve and Carnegie Mellon offer a different perspective in academics,” St. Vincent coach Ron Dolciato said. “They can more easily draw players from all over the country because of it.

“We get players from a lot of places, but it's a process.”

Case and CMU entered the day tied for first place in the Presidents' Athletic Conference and kept pace with victories Saturday.

While some schools have established success as a way of life in football, homecoming at St. Vincent, as predictable as it may sound, was a celebration of the past and hope for the future on the gridiron.

“We sold more tickets today (2,476) than for any other game in our (recent) history,” said Jeff Zidek, an athletics department spokesman, who said the figure did not take into account attendance for games before the discontinuation of the school's varsity program in 1963.

Zidek also noted there have been larger crowds since the program was revived in 2007 to include fans in areas away from the main grandstand, where admission is free.

Though St. Vincent (2-3, 1-2) lost its second game in a row, Dolciato remained hopeful that the Bearcats' drive to rebuild a football tradition will accelerate.

“We've been successful in changing the culture here, but the kids have to believe,” said Dolciato, a former associate head coach and offensive coordinator at John Carroll. “Football has to be important, and it is to a certain extent. But I thought by now, we'd be competing for a PAC championship.”

Dolciato's record midway through his fourth season as coach at St. Vincent is 15-20.

Rob Cuda completed 19 of 30 passes for 357 yards and four touchdowns to lead Case Western Reserve (4-0, 3-0), which led 21-0 at halftime on the strength of Cuda's first three TD passes: 13 yards to Jacob Burke, 6 yards to Aaron Aguilar and 32 yards to Luke DiFrancesco.

The Spartans made it 28-0 during the first minute of the fourth quarter when Cuda scored on a 4-yard run.

When St. Vincent finally scored with 10 minutes, 23 seconds remaining on a 1-yard run by Jhanard Dorsett, the crowd stirred. But Cuda's fourth TD pass of 38 yards to Joey Spitalli about 2 minutes later gave Case Western Reserve a 35-7 advantage.

Michael Navarro, who started at quarterback for St. Vincent in the team's first four games before Dolciato replaced him this week with Zavion Thompson, threw a 22-yard scoring pass to Damon Black Jr. to account for the Bearcats' other touchdown.

Navarro, who suffered an upper body injury against Grove City last week, relieved Thompson to start the second half and completed 17 of 20 passes for 202 yards, and Black finished with nine receptions for 131 yards.

Dave Mackall is a freelance writer.

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