Kenyon football (2-8, 2-7 NCAC) fell to Denison University’s Big Red (7-3, 6-3) 30-17 on Saturday in the final game of the 2015 season for both teams. The Lords hung tough against their bitter conference rival, but ultimately put themselves out of the game by failing to come away with points on two critical trips to the red zone.
On Denison’s first offensive play from scrimmage, Tommy Pridemore ’19 brought the Lords’ sideline to life when he intercepted a pass from Denison quarterback Canaan Gebele, returning the ball all the way to the Denison seven-yard line. Much to the Lords’ chagrin, officials waved off the interception and gave the ball back to Denison, ruling that Kenyon was offsides on the play. On the very next snap, Gebele dealt a debilitating blow to the Lords, unleashing a 58-yard pass to wide receiver Dushawn Brown for the touchdown.
Denison’s offense continued to press on their next two possessions, driving into the red zone each time. Kenyon’s defense stood up to the challenge and held Denison to just a field goal on both occasions such that the Big Red led the Lords 13-0 after one quarter.
Starting their first drive of the second quarter at midfield, the Lords worked their way down to the red zone. Facing a second-and-nine from the 12-yard line, Brian Hunca ’17 appeared to catch a touchdown pass from Jake Bates ’16 to get Kenyon on the scoreboard. However, the officials claimed Hunca bobbled the ball before falling out of bounds and ruled there was no catch on the play. Unable to find the endzone on their next two plays, the Lords had to settle for three points, as Szabi Simo ’17 connected on the 29-yard field goal attempt to make the score 13-3.
Kenyon started with excellent field position on their next drive as well, after Nick LaPoint ’16 got a piece of a Denison punt, which Curt Williams ’18 returned to the Denison 38-yard line. This time, the Lords would not be denied, as Bates hit John Clark ’18 with a five-yard touchdown pass off a play-action fake, making the score 13-10.
Denison responded on their ensuing possession, however, extending their lead to 20-10 when Big Red quarterback Gebele hit tight-end Cam Layer with a five-yard touchdown pass with just over 30 seconds left in the half.
After receiving the second-half kickoff, Denison made the score 23-10 via a 42-yard field goal.
Intent on making it a one-score game, the Lords drove deep into Denison territory on their next possession. Facing a fourth-and-three from the Denison 11-yard line, Kenyon successfully executed a fake field goal in which Pridemore picked up the necessary three yards to give the Lords a first-and-goal from the eight-yard line. Despite the favorable field position, the Lords could not get in the end zone in four plays, and an incomplete pass on fourth down gave the ball back to Denison.
On their first possession of the fourth quarter, with the score still 23-10, Kenyon drove 72 yards in three plays to give themselves a first-and-goal from the Denison seven-yard line. Once again, the Denison defense stymied the Kenyon offense, and the Lords turned the ball over after yet another unsuccessful trip inside the red zone.
Starting from their own five-yard line after taking over on downs, Denison drove 95 yards in 11 plays, with Gebele tossing a 20-yard touchdown pass to make the score 30-10.
Blake Calcei ‘16 came up with a two-yard touchdown run on Kenyon’s next possession to cut Denison’s lead to 13, but it was too little and too late, and the Big Red captured their 10th straight win over the Lords.
Despite finishing the season with just two wins, Head Coach Chris Monfiletto said he was pleased with the strides his team has made since last year, and is confident the progress the team has made will manifest itself in more wins next season. “There’s like 20 different categories where we improved, and some of these are super drastic,” Monfiletto said. “So you look at these rankings on the side, and you don’t see a 2-8 football team; you see a team that’s better than that. … This year, again, was about improvement, and next year it has got to be about results.”