Section: Football

Miracle on McBride: Football takes its first win

Miracle on McBride: Football takes its first win

Anna Dunlavey

By Noah Gurzenski

Lords football (1-7, 1-6 North Coast Athletic Conference) shocked the stadium last Saturday when it captured its first win of the 2014 season in exciting fashion, coming back from behind twice to beat Allegheny College (1-7, 1-6 NCAC) by a score of 35-24.

Leading up to Saturday, the past 11 games had not been kind to the Lords. It all started with a 48-7 blowout loss at the hands of Wabash College in October of last year, after which the Lords proceeded to drop their final three games of the 2013 season. Following the graduation of 19 seniors and a new batch of injuries at the beginning of this year, the young 2014 Lords football team looked ill-equipped to break the four-game losing streak they had inherited.

While the offseason did give starting quarterback and Co-Captain Jake Bates ’16 enough time to heal the dislocated thumb on his throwing hand, the ability of the offense to produce in 2014 was called into question early on due to the offensive line only returning one starter. Despite the promising talent of 23 first years suiting up for the 2014 season, the collective game experience and college football know-how of the seniors who graduated at the end of last season simply could not be replicated.

Failing to execute on both sides of the ball, the dismal performance of Kenyon’s offense in the red zone and missed assignments on defense gave opposing offenses ample opportunity to punish the young team for its mistakes early in the season. Despite falling to 0-7 overall and 0-6 in conference play, the Lords always picked themselves up after each loss, resolved to eliminate the little mistakes that had kept them from picking up their elusive first win in prior weeks.

The losses continued to pile up but the list of mistakes grew shorter and shorter, until the Gators of Allegheny  came to take on the Lords this past Saturday at McBride Field. A struggling team in their own right, at 1-6 overall and 1-5 in conference play, Allegheny looked like a perfect target for a Lords football team that was hungry for its first victory of the season.

Allegheny showed early on that its players didn’t intend to leave Gambier with another loss, however, scoring on their first drive from one yard out, following a 70-yard inside draw play from the shotgun. It looked like Kenyon had been caught cold and would drop its 12th consecutive game. But though the Lords were used to getting knocked down, they were unfamiliar with throwing in the towel. Kenyon stormed back on the very next drive with an eight-yard pass from Bates to Brandon January ’15 to tie things up at 7-7.

Allegheny looked poised to retake the lead with the ball at Kenyon’s 32-yard line, but Brandon Byrd ’18 managed to strip an opposing wide receiver of the ball and Co-Captain Alexander McQuiston ’16 recovered possession for the Lords, keeping the Gators out of the end zone.

Following an Allegheny punt to start the 2nd quarter, January busted ahead for a 38-yard gain on second down to put the ball at the Allegheny 14-yard line. Bates capped off the drive with a four-yard touchdown run of his own to give the Lords a 14-7 lead.

Facing fourth down and three in Kenyon territory, Allegheny’s quarterback tied the game up again at 14 apiece, threading the needle over the middle of the field for the 32-yard touchdown pass.

Once again, Kenyon responded on their very next possession to retake the lead. In a drive that included another big play from January, a 35-yard rush, Bates found the end zone for the third time on the afternoon on an eight-yard run. An Allegheny field goal brought the Gators within four at 21-17, but the Lords were able to go into halftime with the lead for the first time all season.

On their first possession of the second half, the Gators retook the lead on a four-yard rushing touchdown, set up by a 44-yard pass. Facing 4th down and 17 from the Allegheny 25-yard line, the Lords opted to go for the first down rather than attempt a field goal in such windy conditions. The gamble paid off, as Bates hit Blake Calcei ’16 over the middle for a 24-yard gain. January ran it in three plays later to retake the lead for good at 28-24. Kenyon’s defense held the rest of the game, and Calcei added another touchdown for the Lords to make the final score 35-23, giving the team its first win in 12 games.

“I feel like we had a lot more passion to play the game than we usually do,” Mike Cullen ’17 said. “We really got after it [against Allegheny]; it was really impressive.”

In a season where big plays have been hard to come by, highlight-reel plays on both sides of the ball helped Kenyon come out on top against Allegheny.

“There were some great individual performances on Saturday, and that was what led to our collective victory” Head Coach Chris Monfiletto said. “There was [Brandon January], Blake [Calcei], Jake [Bates], Brandon Byrd on defense, Alec McQuiston, Nick LaPoint [’16] with the blocked punt; you could really point out a lot of guys that really led to us sealing the deal.”

This win is especially rewarding for this year’s seniors. “I’ve gone to football games every year since I’ve been at Kenyon,” Lucia Priselac ’15 said. “Even though we might not have a winning season every season, I know they work so hard and put their hearts into the game.”

The Lords hope to make winning less of an anomaly when they take on the College of Wooser this coming Saturday.

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