SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — 2023 marks a new chapter in the Union College football program: new season, new head coach and a new nickname.

First-year head coach Jon Poppe and the now-Union Garnet Chargers are closing in on Saturday’s season opener; hoping to build on a 6-4 2022 campaign.

That record doesn’t tell the whole story of last year, however. Union finished top-three in the Liberty League in both offensive and defensive scoring average during conference play. And three of their four losses were by one score, including a three-point home defeat to league champion Ithaca.

This season will be far from a rebuild year for Poppe, the former secondary and special teams coach for Harvard University. The Garnet Chargers return fifth-year signal caller Donovan Pacatte, and their top five tacklers on defense.

With all that veteran leadership, Poppe believes the team is prepared to bring a new “F.I.G.H.T” to the season.

Family inspires growth, habits, team,” said Poppe. “It’s about winning little battles every day with your own mind, and with each other; fighting to be better as a teammate, fighting to be better as a person and that should lead to a fight as a better team – all four quarters. So, they’ve done a great job in terms of that energy and effort into that word, and it’s been great so far. No complaints on my end.”

Pacatte said Poppe’s intensity that he brings to each practice has permeated throughout the team during preseason.

“Energy has been through the roof. I was just talking to my parents, and I just told them, like, it’s crazy how much fun that we’re having. I forgot how much fun football is. Competing with the guys, playing music during practice, doing the team bonding things off the field; it’s been a whole new preseason camp, and I’ve enjoyed every second of it.”

Union hits the road Saturday to take on Hilbert College in its’ season opener. Kickoff is set for noon.