Section: Football

Period of reckoning awaits football after losing season

Period of reckoning awaits football after losing season

By Noah Gurzenski

 

Following their 33-19 loss to Denison University on Nov. 15, Kenyon football’s 2014 season ended with a record of 1-9 (1-8 North Coast Athletic Conference). While the Lords struggled to pick up wins in 2014, the progress the team made throughout the season showed that not all hope for the future is lost.

At this time two years ago, it seemed as though Kenyon’s football program had left behind its perennial losing ways. In Head Coach Chris Monfiletto’s first season at the helm, the team mustered a 6-4 record and was tied for first place in the conference standings heading into the final game of the season. The following season also began with promise; the team won four of its first six games. However, a late-season skid of four straight losses left the team with a sub-.500 record and some unanswered questions heading into the offseason. 

When players arrived for training camp this past August, the Lords had their work cut out for them. In the wake of graduating 19 players, the Lords returned just three starters on the defensive side of the ball and two starters on the offensive line. Although those seniors were replaced with 23 talented first years, the newcomers to the program had to deal with the growing pains that accompany moving up to the collegiate level.

“Everything’s a lot faster, people are bigger, the schemes are a lot more complex,” Curt Williams ’18 said of his first impressions of college football. “Everything’s just like a more advanced version of what I had before.”

In the home opener against Marietta College (Marietta, Ohio), the Lords’ defense stifled their opponents, recovering two fumbles and forcing the Pioneers to go three-and-out on five possessions. Leading 11-0 lead at halftime, Kenyon’s offense sputtered and failed to pick up another first down until four minutes into the fourth quarter. The Lords’ lack of offensive success undermined their defense, which was gradually worn down by fatigue in the second half, and Marietta exploded with 29 second-half points for a 29-11 victory.

Having conceded seven sacks and mustered under 200 yards, Kenyon’s offensive woes against Marietta were disconcerting, to say the least. The inauspicious season opener also cast doubt upon the capacity of the team’s young offensive line to create holes for Lords ball carriers and provide the necessary pocket protection to enable an effective passing game.

Picking themselves up after dropping the season opener to Marietta, the Lords showed noticeable improvements in the following week, collecting 28 points and nearly 400 yards of offense in a 47-28 loss to Oberlin College. The Yeomen ran all over the Lords’ defense, picking up over seven yards per carry. In addition, Kenyon’s youth and lack of experience showed in the team’s failure to execute in critical situations. In one such instance, facing a fourth and three from Oberlin’s four-yard line, the Kenyon ball carrier was stood up at the line of scrimmage for no gain, leaving points off the scoreboard.

The losses continued to pile up, but members of the team hope to use this season’s record as motivation at they prepare for the 2015 season.

“For me and everybody else, we hate to lose,” Williams said. “Now we can use that to drive us to win.”

“I think we just need to use this season as a way to motivate ourselves to work even harder in the offseason, whether that [means work] in the weight room, in spring ball [or] when we’re away on break just keeping up with our lifts and keep working hard,” Alec McQuiston ’16 said.

With three games remaining in the season, the Lords made noticeable improvements in their first and only win against Allegheny College. The Lords’ offensive line came together as a unit, plowing ahead to open up running lanes for Kenyon ball carriers, who collectively picked up 265 rush yards in the 35-24 victory.

While the Lords’ record left much to be desired, the team will return many starting players next season, many of whom acquired invaluable game experience this year, while only seven seniors will graduate in May. Each of the projected returners matured considerably during the season, and prudent offseason training can heighten their value to next year’s team.

“I got to learn the system, learn what college football is like,” Williams said. “We’ve got a lot of guys coming back, so hopefully we can take that into next year and start to win. We learned how to play together. I know a lot of the guys hadn’t played before, especially with each other. Now that we’ve learned how to play together, learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses, we can learn how to win.”

McQuiston added that he thought it would be important to “use [this past season] as a learning experience.” “But at the same time, it’s the past, and we need to move on,” he said. “We’ll have a lot of guys returning next year and we’ll have a lot more experience on the field. Although we can use this season as a way to motivate ourselves, we also need to look to the future, because I think it’s bright.”

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