August 31, 2007

Dentes Solidifies QB Position for Cornell

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The headline on The Sun’s Sept. 12 article read the following: “Sprint Football Looks for QB.”
This year, it’s a different story.
One undefeated season (6-0) and a championship later, head coach Terry Cullen no longer has any lingering doubts about Zak Dentes taking the snap from behind center.
“Last year at this time, he was fighting to get a chance,” Cullen said. “[This year] he’s a different Zak Dentes. He is a leader and a returning player from last season.”
After leading the Red to its first Collegiate Sprint Football League championship in two decades, the surprising sophomore was named the CSFL all-league first team quarterback.
“I was very happy with that award, especially because I thought there were some other really good quarterbacks in the league,” Dentes said.
The award may have come as a slight shock considering the circumstances that preceded Dentes’ insertion into the starting lineup. The outset of training camp was marked by an inconclusive quarterback competition between Dentes and fellow sophomore, Brandon Stoller. The team’s incumbent quarterback, senior Brian Kennedy, was no longer an option as he had undergone career-ending elbow surgery on his throwing arm.
“During the preseason, it was all unclear to us as to who was going to start,” Dentes said. “There was an article in the paper at one point, which I think was titled, ‘Sprint looks for QB,’ and that kind of embarrassed us all.”
However, any preseason embarrassment quickly disappeared.
Dentes made a statement in last year’s season opener against the Penn Quakers, completing 10-of-12 pass attempts for 156 yards and gaining an additional 66 yards on the ground.
Most first-year quarterbacks, whether college or professional, thrust into early action often struggle for the first couple months. Someone forgot to inform Dentes that he was a rookie.
“I remember the coaches coming up to me and saying ‘Don’t be nervous, don’t be nervous,’” Dentes said. “But for whatever reason, I was fairly relaxed. I did pretty well and wound up receiving the MVP for that game. I sort of got lucky and lost myself.”
However, Dentes’ teammates would argue what he modestly refers to as “luck,” is simply the byproduct of desire and dedication.
“We knew Zak [Dentes] was good in practice,” said senior offensive lineman and co-captain, Ben Abramhoff. “But as the season progressed and we kept wining our confidence in him grew.”
“He’s one of the hardest working kids I have ever really met,” said senior wide receiver and linebacker Jason Remillard. Remillard, the 2006 Collegiate Sprint Football League’s Most Valuable Player, offered more complementary words for his quarterback. “It’s pretty good going into the Kuritzky said. “We’re old enough to realize that we’re not going to be fazed by that. It’s just going in there with the right attitude.”
Kentucky returns the core of a defense ranked 23rd nationally last year, which should make for an exciting contest when matched up against Cornell’s also traditionally strong backfield.
“We don’t really know too much about either one of those teams,” Scales said. “Other than that they had a number of scrimmages and they’ve been training and playing preseason probably two and a half weeks, which is about a week and a half longer than us. They’ll be in good shape. They’ll be a little further along fitness-wise than we are.”
Though senior tri-captain and star defender Kyle Lynch is still out with an injury, most of the other regular starters are expected to play this weekend.
“It’s disappointing because Kyle’s our leader in the back. But we also know that [junior] Joe Yonga’s also a guy who’s played back there with Kyle and we’re expecting great things out of Joe,” Scales said. “We feel like we have enough guys that we’re going to be able to compensate for Kyle’s loss for a little bit.”
The team was able to win both of its preseason scrimmages last week without Lynch in its arsenal. According to Scales, some shaky play in the scrimmage against McGill on Aug. 22 was just due to the natural readjustment period at the beginning of the season.
“It was our second day [back], and it literally looked like our second day with regards to how the soccer looked, what type of connections we were able to make, how we played as a group collectively,” he said.
Cornell also scrimmaged against Syracuse on Aug. 25, but the game was called after only 40 minutes when a thunder and lightning storm broke out. Kuritzky scored the only goal of the game and the Red seemed to be getting into a groove. Since the team was playing so well, both Scales and his players were disappointed that the scrimmage was cut short.
“So early in the season, that was really nice to see us play that well,” Kuritzky said. “[Even though we only scored one goal] we could easily have scored two or three [goals in that first half].”
In addition, four freshmen will be on the Red’s roster this weekend: Brett Sumpio, Matt Stengel, Jeff Zimering and Scott Caldwell. Sumpio and Zimering each scored a goal in the Red’s scrimmage against McGill.
“The teams that we take on the road with us when we travel are always up for grabs during the week,” Scales said. “It’s using who’s doing better and who’s in good form. I think the whole group has had a good eight [or] nine days of preseason and those four guys address a few needs that we think we’re going to have to have when we get into this tournament.”