By Richard Pera
The Lords’ season came to a somber end on Saturday in Granville, when Kenyon’s archrival Denison University amassed 475 offensive yards and six touchdowns en route to a 42-7 win. After dropping four consecutive games, the Lords posted a final record of 4-6, 4-5 in the North Coast Athletic Conference and a fifth-place finish in the league.
The Big Red got on the scoreboard early in the first quarter with a 48-yard touchdown run, and the hosts never relinquished the lead. Kenyon was on the wrong end of two poor calls by the officials, which kept the momentum squarely with Denison. The Lords had recovered Big Red fumbles twice in the first half, including one on the Kenyon one-yard line, only to have the referees wave them off. Those calls led to 14 Denison points, amounting to the Kenyon deficit at halftime.
The game’s final 30 minutes represented Kenyon’s worst half of the season. Quarterback Jake Bates ’15 fumbled on the second play from scrimmage, leading to a Denison touchdown. Minutes later, Bates threw an interception, and shortly after, the junior signal-caller was knocked out of the game with a head injury. Second-string quarterback Max Boyd ’16 threw a pick in the third quarter as well. In total, Denison held Kenyon to just 69 passing yards and 112 rushing yards.
“Unfortunately, there were some moments that broke morale,” Co-Captain Reed Franklin ’14 said. “We were well prepared and the coaches had us ready to play. It’s just unfortunate to see how we responded to some things. We had been preaching to get off to a fast start, and we didn’t. Once we hit some rough patches, it kind of snowballed from there.”
Kenyon engineered its lone touchdown drive in the first half, going 16 plays and 69 yards in 6:22, culminating in a one-yard run by fullback Blake Calcei ’16 for his 10th touchdown of the year. There were some encouraging signs for the Lords, particularly from offensive players set to return next season: running back Brandon January ’15 rushed for 77 yards, while January and wide receiver Brian Hunca ’17 topped 100 all-purpose yards for the Lords. On the opposite end of the ball, defensive back Zach Morrow ’14 led the team with 11 tackles and Franklin tallied 10.
But the season was, by all accounts, a disappointment for the Lords. Kenyon sought to best its 6-4 record from 2012, but instead fell below .500 for the 11th time since the turn of the century. But the widespread frustration of six losses is indicative of the profound change in the culture of the team. In his postgame address in the locker room on Saturday, Head Coach Chris Monfiletto noted that two seasons ago, players would have been thrilled by the prospect of four wins; now, they are upset by six losses. He attributed that change in psyche to the team’s 19 members of the senior class.
“The seniors have done a lot to change the state of the program,” Monfiletto said. “If you told us that we were going to have four wins last year, you’d have been pretty happy. Now, it’s a little bit of a disappointment. There’s a sour taste in the mouth, especially after [losing] those last four games of the season. They raised the expectation of the program to the point where four wins is no longer acceptable.”
The coaching staff will be on the road for the coming weeks for recruiting trips and the players will get some time off. Spring practices begin next semester, and the coaches are eager to correct mistakes made throughout the 2013 season.
Franklin is confident in the team’s ability to make progress.
“Under this coaching staff, Kenyon is going to become a program that doesn’t just rebuild, it reloads,” he said. “We have a lot of young athletes coming back, and the upperclassmen set the foundation. They’ve seen what it takes to be successful. I have a lot of faith in where the program will continue to go.”