A lot can change in two years. Just ask Joe Licata.
Flip the calendar back to Nov. 4, 2010, Licata’s last game as the star quarterback for Williamsville South High School. When it comes to high-school athletes, there’s no name bigger than his. And although it was on this date that he was on the wrong end of a 48-15 loss, his career – which includes a Western New York-best 87 touchdown passes – is among the most decorated in the region’s history.
Ranked among ESPN’s top 80 high-school quarterbacks in 2010, Licata was heavily recruited. He opted to stay in his hometown, committing to the University at Buffalo. Like many kids, he dreamed of the day he could play at the next level in front of his friends and family.
Saturday, he finally got that opportunity, making his first collegiate start against the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks.
Emotions certainly played a big factor. After a pair of early drops and an interception, on which he misfired, he seemed a bit tentative. But as the game progressed, so did Licata. He finished a rather pedestrian 13 of 24 for 127 yards, but also threw a pair of touchdowns – including a 21-yard lob to Fred Lee, giving Buffalo a 24-17 lead with less than 4 minutes to play.
“I was just trying to stay calm, honestly,” Licata said. “I think my emotions got the better of me in the first half, but I settled down in the second half and played my game.”
Miami tied the game with just 23 second remaining. However, a 47-yard return on the ensuing kickoff setup Bulls kicker Patrick Clarke, who drilled a 47-yard field goal to give Buffalo a 27-24 victory. In other words, Licata’s debut as a collegiate starter was a success. And as he had hoped when he agreed to attend the university practically in his backyard, his friends and family were there for every snap.
“There was a pretty big Licata clan there,” Licata said with a smile. “I don’t know, numbers wise, but a lot of my friends from high school were there and my entire family was there, so it was great to have their support.”
“I couldn’t be more proud of Joe,” said Bulls head coach Jeff Quinn. “. …I know our kids were excited about having Joe in there. That’s the one thing that we keep talking about; these kids care deeply for each other. Joe went in there and played extremely well. We had a couple guys drop early passes, but Joe just kept doing his thing.”
Whether or not Licata remains the Bulls’ starter is still up in the air. Incumbent starter Alex Zordich missed the game due to an injury and Quinn didn’t go into details regarding future plans. Regardless, Licata was all smiles on Saturday.
“It was awesome; it was a great feeling,” Licata said. “That’s why I came here, to play in front of Buffalo fans. I mean, when we won the game and I got to run off the sideline and see my family there – that was just the best feeling.”
CharlesHRoberts@yahoo.com | twitter.com/cHartleyRoberts
(This article by BSD contributing writer Charles Roberts originally appeared in the MetroWNY Community News)