By Noah Gurzenski
Having shut out Marietta College of Marietta, Ohio 11-0 in the first half in front of a lively crowd of over 1,450 fans, Lords football had considerable momentum when they lined up to kick off at the start of the second half. Unfortunately, while the Lords’ play reflected their wealth of young talent, the Marietta Pioneers capitalized on Kenyon’s lack of game experience — especially on the offensive line — in the second half.
“The contrast between how we played in the first half and how we played in the second made the game more frustrating,” offensive lineman Josh Walmer ’18 said, “because we knew we could beat them.” By consistently holding Kenyon’s offense to three-and-outs in the second half, Marietta’s defense allowed their attack to chip away at Kenyon’s defense, to the tune of 29 second-half points and a 29-11 victory over the home team.
Sophomore kicker Szabi Simo ’17 gave Kenyon the early lead in the first quarter with a 32-yard boot, the first field goal of his collegiate career. On Marietta’s next possession, Jamal Perkins ’17 stripped a Pioneers player of the ball, and Co-Captain Alec McQuiston ‘16 recovered possession for the Lords.
Kenyon’s offense took full advantage of the turnover, as Co-Captain quarterback Jake Bates ’16 capped off a 56-yard drive with a 32-yard strike to Brian Hunca ’17 for the touchdown. Cody Keenan ’17 proceeded to carry the ball across the goal line for the two-point conversion, giving Kenyon an 11-0 lead.
On the defensive side of the ball, Kenyon was strong for the rest of the half, forcing Marietta’s offense to go three-and-out on five of their seven possessions. With 2:31 left in the second quarter, McQuiston recovered another fumble for Kenyon, giving the Lords a great field position at Marietta’s 35-yard line. Unfortunately, Kenyon’s offense was unable to take advantage of the impending possession. The Lords’ offensive woes continued in the second half as the offensive line struggled to fend off the Pioneers’ defense.
“They had a lot of returning guys on the defense, especially the linebackers,” Head Coach Chris Monfiletto said. “They were big and they were physical and they were a lot faster than we were.”
Kenyon’s offensive line had only one returning starter, Alex Oles ’16, to combat the imposing size and superior quickness of Marietta’s defense.
“For four out of the five of [Kenyon’s offensive line], it was their first time playing college football,” Monfiletto said. “I think the speed of the game kind of caught up with them towards the second half. … From a physical standpoint, we didn’t get beaten up, it was just not being able to handle the speed of the game at the end of the game.”
By racking up seven sacks and pressuring Bates, Marietta’s aggressive defense prevented Kenyon from getting a first down in the second half until less than four minutes remained in the final quarter of play. Even more deleterious was the ability of Marietta’s defense to keep Kenyon’s defense on the field and leave it to Marietta’s offense to wear down the opponent and put points on the board.
The fatigue in Kenyon’s defense began to show as early as two minutes into the third quarter, when a Marietta wide receiver breezed past the Kenyon secondary for a 46-yard score through the air, adding a two-point conversion to make it a one-possession game at 11-8. After a Kenyon three-and-out, Marietta drove deep into Kenyon territory to the 13-yard line, hoping to tie or take the lead. After defensive backs Brandon Byrd ’18 and Curt Williams ’18 succeeded in breaking up consecutive Marietta passes on second and third down, Marietta’s field goal attempt sailed wide left.
Despite this successful defensive point, the Lords continued to struggle on offense, and the Pioneers continued to grind away at Kenyon’s defense, punching it in from two yards out to take the 15-11 lead at the end of the third. Marietta added two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter and one two point conversion to make the score 29-11, which stood for the remainder of the game.
Kenyon returns to action at McBride Field next Saturday at 2 p.m. as the Lords take on Oberlin College for their homecoming game.