The Kenyon Lords football team gave the Hiram College Terriers a run for their money this weekend, losing to the heavily favored Terriers 62-56.
The game featured two fast-paced offenses, with both teams combining for 1,251 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Lords only had 49 points combined from their previous four North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) games, and in this match they outscored their NCAC season total by seven points.
In this game, the Lords were never down by more than two touchdowns. At one point when it looked like the Terriers might run away with the game, the Kenyon special teams came up with a huge takeaway to stay competitive.
Down by 14 with five minutes left in the first half, the Lords were forced to punt the ball away on 4th and 11. If they had given back the ball to the Terriers, they probably would have lost the game for good. Instead, the Terrier receiver dropped the punt, allowing defensive end and special teams specialist Sam Becker ’20 to recover the fumble.
“I saw him try to catch the ball and it pop[ed] out, and I saw it just sit on the ground,” Becker said. “The second I jumped on it I knew it was our ball … it felt really good because we scored on fumble recovery.”
Thanks to this play, the Lords were able to stay competitive until the very end, when the Terriers had the ball around midfield on fourth down up by 6. Instead of punting the ball, the Terriers decided to go for the first down with 44 seconds on the clock, completing an eight yard pass that iced the game. Had the Terriers not completed this play the Lords would have had about 40 seconds to march 56 yards to try and win the game.
The offense was led by quarterback Thomas Merkle ’20, who passed for a season-high 410 yards, and a career-high six touchdowns (five passing), all while keeping the ball out of the opponents’ hands by only throwing one interception in 57 pass attempts.
All of these statistics finish within the top five performances in Kenyon history, with Merkle finishing third in passing yards in a single game, tied for first in passing touchdowns in a single game, and tied for third in Kenyon history with 57 pass attempts. If he continues at this pace, Merkle will surpass his record for most pass completions in a Lords’ season and break the Kenyon record for highest completion percentage in a season.
Behind every great quarterback performance is usually a strong offensive line. Starting offensive linemen Parker Subia ’18, Josh Walmer ’18, Michael Itschner ’18, A.J. Brennan ’19 and Chase Kirol ’20 deserve credit for holding back the Hiram defensive line and allowing them to be non-factors in the game. Merkle was only sacked once and he was rarely rushed, as the offensive line helped starting running back Seamus McCurren ’21 to rush for 114 of the Lords’ 139 rushing yards.
“Obviously Merkle dropping back 57 times and only getting sacked once is a huge testament to the line, especially because I was not in backfield for maybe 20 of those passes,” McCurren said.
McCurren not only led the offense in rushing but also in receiving this weekend, tacking on another 171 yards for a total of 285 all-purpose yards. This was the most for the Lords since running back Rafael Sanchez’s ’08 292-yard performance against Wooster in 2004. It is also the most all-purpose yards put up by an NCAC player since 2015. “I had no idea about that statistic, I just felt really good,” McCurren said.
The Lords’ next game will be on the road at Allegheny College, where their offense can enter in hot against a team they defeated 31-7 last season.
“We’re gonna try to go 1-0 every week, go 1-0 on every drive,” starting linebacker Sam Dickey ’20 said. “If we focus on the small aspects of our game … it can hopefully lead to our first win.”