November 5, 2012

SPRINT FOOTBALL | C.U. Wins Final Match of Season Over Mansfield

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After a disappointing stretch — where the team lost three consecutive games — the Cornell sprint football team (4-3) ended its season on a high note, beating Mansfield (2-5), 35-26, in its last game of the year.The game did not start out well for the Red. After forcing a Mansfield three-and-out, Cornell tried to pull some tricks out of its sleeve by attempting a flea flicker, but it failed terribly, as it was intercepted. After two plays, Mansfield scored its first touchdown on a nice 21-yard scamper by running back Jeremy Estremera to make it 6-0 after a missed extra point. Six minutes later, Mansfield scored again on an 18-yard run by Estremera to give Mansfield a 13-point lead after just 10 minutes.“It was a mental thing; just a lot of mental breakdowns,” explained senior captain and defensive end Will Edmonds. “We just needed to make sure all 11 guys knew what they were doing … It was just getting everyone in the right mentality to play football. Basically every play, it would be one player missing an assignment and they would run a play right at that player and it would be a touchdown or a long gain.”Despite the rough start, the Red remained calm and bounced back the next possession. After a long nine-play, 60 yard drive — which involved converting a crucial fourth-and-two — the Red got on the board with a 18-yard touchdown strike off a great play-action from junior captain and quarterback Brendan Miller to senior wide receiver Spenser Gruenenfelder, his first of two in the game. Gruenenfelder finished with seven catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns; he almost had a third but was stopped at the one-yard line.“We planned it before,” Miller joked. “We just talked it up the whole week about getting him a couple touchdowns, so it was all pre-planned.”Mansfield struck back with another touchdown by Estremera, but after that drive, the game was dominated by the Red. Cornell got the ball back and went 67 yards in just four plays for another touchdown. Miller connected with senior captain and wide receiver Abe Mellinger on a perfectly placed ball that gently fell over Mellinger’s shoulder into his arms for a 32-yard touchdown. The Red trailed 20-14 going into halftime, but held all the momentum after two great touchdown drives.The second half was a completely different game for the Red. Its offense was unstoppable as it scored 21 unanswered points after the break and Cornell’s defense barely allowed Mansfield to gain a single yard, only giving up a garbage-time touchdown with 33 seconds remaining and the outcome of the game no longer in doubt, making the final score 35-26.“Once we got rolling on offense in the second half, we had a lot of confidence that we’ve been severely lacking in the last two games especially,” Miller said. “We knew that we could execute the plays we wanted.”“In the second half, we came together as a team and finished the season the way it was meant to be,” Edmonds said. “The offense was clicking and the defense was holding [the Mansfield] offense to almost nothing. At all times, we had all eleven guys on the field just playing football.”The Cornell offense was led by Miller again, as he went 19-32 for 242 yards and three touchdowns and one rushing touchdown, but a key contributor was senior Derek Saddler. Normally a defensive back, Saddler filled in for running back against Mansfield due to the position being completely ravaged by injuries. Freshmen Ben Pham and Ben Herrera did not play, and sophomore Jake Michaels played with an injured shoulder. Saddler was successful in his new position — he led the team with nine carries for 43 yards and would have gotten even more, but a 40-yard touchdown run in the first half was called back due to a holding penalty. Saddler did not give up his defensive responsibilities either, as he played almost every defensive snap and finished with four tackles.“[Saddler] is an extraordinary athlete, probably the best athlete on the team,” Edmonds said. “Back in high school, he was a quarterback and used to run a lot, so we tried him out at running back … And he had a great week of practice that transferred right into the game.”The Red defense also had a solid game. In the second half, apart from the garbage touchdown drive after Cornell had secured a commanding lead, the Red defense allowed less than 60 yards to the Mansfield offense. The Red was led by senior defensive back Jim Barger and sophomore linebacker Noah Shephard who each recorded nine tackles. Sophomore defensive end Evan Zittel and senior defensive end Chris Leyen each recorded a sack.“The defense always plays great, they’re the heart and soul of our team,” Miller said.After a tumultuous, injury-ravaged season, the Red come out with a win in its season finale and according to Edmonds, he could not be prouder to have finished the season with the players on the team.“This was a great way to end [my career], with a win and a winning season,” Edmonds said. “Going out with these players and coaches is great; it’s been an honor playing sprint football at Cornell.”

Original Author: Albert Liao

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