1,099 days: That’s how long it had been since McBride Field had seen a victory from their home side. Among the seven current full-time coaches, only Defensive Line and Special Teams coach Tom Lachendro witnessed that victory three years ago. However, on Homecoming Saturday, the Lords were able to treat their fans to their first home win since Homecoming 2016, overcoming a halftime deficit to defeat the Hiram College Terriers 15-12.
The Lords got out to a slow start on offense. Despite out-gaining the Terriers by over 60 yards in the first half, the Lords offense was repeatedly halted by penalties, specifically three holding calls on their banged-up offensive line. This led to the Lords only going 1-for-7 on third down and 0-for-2 on fourth down, while Hiram was able to go 3-for-5 on third down. This dichotomy led to a 6-0 Terriers lead at the half, with Hiram converting two key third downs on the only scoring drive of the first half.
However, the Lords’ coaching staff realized that the problems weren’t with their game plan—as the quick pace had actually been very effective up to that point—but rather with their execution. “I told them [at halftime] that the only reason we’re losing this game is because of penalties, because of mental errors [and] because of lack of execution. It had nothing to do with our gameplan; it’s all self-inflicted,” Head Coach James Rosenbury II said. “I thought, offensively, we just need to execute better. ‘If you do those things,’ I told them, ‘we’ll blow the door off them.’”
Luckily for Rosenbury and the Lords, first year Andrew Schnarre stepped up. First, Schnarre helped pick up a key 3rd-and-12 conversion from the Kenyon 38-yard line with a 32-yard reception over the top of the defense. Then, on 4th-and-6 from the Hiram 26-yard line, with the Lords offense seemingly stalled once again, quarterback Thomas Merkle ’20 and Schnarre re-energized the unit. Hiram defensive lineman Brandon Turner, who had just recovered a Merkle fumble on the previous drive, broke through the offensive line quickly.
However, Merkle saw the pressure and stepped back as a diving Turner flew by. Merkle then rolled out to his right, lofting a ball up to the right pylon for Schnarre.
“It was just a little bit of a scramble drill,” Schnarre said. “[Merkle] started scrambling around, and [I] just tried to find grass and he put it up there for me.”
Schnarre’s heroics did not end with that drive. Now leading 7-6, the Lords’ stellar defense held Hiram to a 3-and-out, something they ended up doing six times throughout the course of the game. Just 30 seconds after his touchdown, Schnarre broke through the Terriers’ punt protection team and got a hand on the ball. The ball then proceeded to fall right into the hands of Jimmy Andrews ’21 at the Hiram 29-yard line.
“I felt like I was getting off the ball pretty easily throughout the first half, and I felt like I could block one,” Schnarre said. “Our coach called punt block, and I just kind of got free.”
However, even with the desirable field position, the Lords’ offense still needed to capitalize. In the first half, they were in a similar position, starting on the Hiram 25-yard line off a Jack Sherritt ’22 interception, but lost yardage and came away with no points. Once again, Schnarre made a play, this time a 15-yard reception on first down to put the Lords at the Hiram 14-yard line. Schnarre then drew a pass interference call on 3rd-and-2 from the Hiram 6-yard line that gave the Lords a fresh set of downs from the Hiram 2.
After a pair of rushes from running back Eddie Pozo ’20 failed to score a touchdown, the Lords reached in the back of their playbook to increase their lead.
Offensive coordinator Andy Allison had Merkle in the shotgun with five receivers out wide, forcing the Terriers to spread their defense across the endzone to respect the pass. Then Merkle looked to his left and his right, tapping his helmet and shouting what appeared to be an audible. However, as he moved toward the line, Merkle quickly set up under center, took the snap and found a seam into the end zone.
“Coach Allison said earlier in the week that he thought we could get them and that while we were checking at the line they were relaxed and put their guard down,” Merkle said. “I was thinking to myself ‘I don’t know if they’re going to buy it,’ and if they didn’t buy it we were in bad shape. But they bit, and it worked exactly the way we wanted it too, so all credit to [Allison].”
Then, up 13-6, Rosenbury made his boldest call of the game: On the extra point attempt, holder Gage Anzulavich ’22 pulled the ball, rolled out and passed to defensive tackle Trevor Brown ’20 in the endzone for the two-point conversion.
The Lords weren’t going to take their two-possession lead for granted however, as just last year the Terriers had made a fourth-quarter comeback in similar circumstances against them.
After giving up a touchdown, but stopping a two-point conversion attempt, the Lords were up 15-12 with 6:25 left and possession of the ball. That’s when Andrews was given the ball to run out the clock.
“We were in a similar situation last year and we ended up losing and I didn’t get the call,” Andrews said. “So I knew this year that I’d have to step up when I got the call.”
The Terriers did get the ball back with 1:42 seconds left, but the Lords’ defense had one of their most impressive series all season, sealing the game on a Sherritt sack with one minute remaining.
The Lords will look to improve on their 2-2 record this Saturday at Oberlin College.