When the Red defeated Yale 45-6 in historic fashion in front of an excited homecoming crowd, freshmen running back Luke Hagy was at the center of attention. When the squad squeaked out a 41-38 win over Monmouth two weekends ago, it was his teammate and classmate Silas Nacita who stole the show. In the past few weeks, the Red’s freshmen running back tandem has emerged as an integral part of the team’s success.
For Hagy, the game against Yale was his first shot at extended playing time. In the season opener against Fordham, he had zero carries and watched his team fall, 34-27. Things would turn out differently for the freshman the following weekend. Hagy carried 21 times for 88 yards, scoring two touchdowns in the process. His impressive offensive outburst earned him the Ivy League Rookie of the Week Award as well.
“It was awesome to have the fan support, seeing everyone out there in red,” Hagy said. “To score my first two college touchdowns in that atmosphere, it was a great experience.”
Nacita’s four-touchdown performance against the Hawks on Oct. 13 was more than just a breakout game for the young running back — it was also the first time a Cornell player scored that many touchdowns in a single game since 1983. Almost 30 years later, Nacita remained modest about his accomplishment, lauding his teammates on offense for doing the hardest part of the job.
“I didn’t feel like it was that great of a feat because the rest of the offense did the hard work, I just put the ball in the endzone,” Nacita said.
The freshman recorded 20 total yards, scoring from one, one, three and six yards outside of the endzone. Senior quarterback Chris Amrhein and senior wide receiver Luke Tasker helped to set Nacita up, connecting on 11 passes for 280 yards — a single game school record.
As two freshmen sharing the same position, Hagy and Nacita have inevitably experienced some amount of rivalry.
“Whenever you’re playing the same position as someone, there’s always going to be some competition,” Hagy said. “But we’ve gotten past that.”
However, the duo has built off that competitive nature and learned how to feed off each other’s successes and failures.
“Luke is a great kid, he’s going to do a lot of great things,” Nacita said. “We always talk on the sidelines about what is going on with the defense, and when one of us makes a great play we’re there to encourage each other, or if one of us makes a mistake we pick each other up. It’s great to have him beside me.”
“We’re always rooting for each other,” Hagy said. “He’s the first one to congratulate me when I come off the field if I make a good play.”
Though Hagy and Nacita will have each other to learn from for the next three years, they will suffer the loss of the senior leaders who have shown them the ropes in a game that is entirely different at the collegiate level. Both freshmen noted that senior running backs Nick Mlady and Max Martinez have been extremely helpful in helping them transition to a more physical, complex team environment.
“Nick and Max have been a huge help. We have a complex offense and it’s a lot thrown out at you, but they are always there to clear things up,” Hagy said. “They really take care of us, even if it’s just to ask how our day is going or how we’re doing in our classes.”
With four important Ivy games left in the season, Hagy and Nacita will need to continue to make their presence known in order to help the team climb back to the top of the Ancient Eight.
“I came in expecting to make a difference, that was my goal — to help us try to win an Ivy Championship,” Nacita said.
Even if they cannot come away with a conference title in their first year with the team, Hagy and Nacita luckily have a long career ahead of them for the Red, with three more years to work towards accomplishing that feat.
“I want to do whatever will help the team the most,” Hagy said. “Whether it’s more carries or less, it doesn’t matter. I’m not really looking at my own stats after the game, it’s more about did I do my job to help the team win.”