Sprint football head coach Terry Cullen has installed a shotgun option running-oriented offense over the past couple of years. Fortunately, he didn’t have any problems switching to a passing attack in the Red’s season-opening win against Penn, 23-18.
Junior quarterback Zak Dentes went 13-for-21 and gained 251 yards in the air. Classmate Michael Brennan was the recipient of most of them with eight catches for 87 yards.
“I was surprised I got the ball so much,” Brennan said. “I always tell Zak I am open, even when I am not but he kept throwing the ball my way.”
On the defensive end, John Parke led the team with 13 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss.
The game started off very shaky for the Red as Penn quarterback Michael D’Angelo and running back Rob Lombardi ran the ball up the field, resulting in a 32-yard dash by D’Angelo for a touchdown.
“They [D’Angelo and Lombardi] were very shifty,” Brennan said. “We will have to work on making that first tackle.”
The Red responded quickly with its first possession, going down the field and scoring a field goal thanks to the rushing efforts of senior tri-captain Glenn Palmer and junior Matt Malleo.
As the game approached halftime, the Red flirted with a touchdown in the red zone. An errant pass, a dropped by senior linebacker Cameron Washington and a small rushing gain by quarterback Zak Dentes set up freshman Michael Ottinger for the field goal to tie the game. But the Fleetwood, Pa., native could not tie the game, missing to the right of the uprights.
An extended halftime — thanks to a lighting warning — gave the Red a chance to adjust to the Quakers running attack and implement a passing attack.
In the second half, Dentes used more of his arms than legs, throwing over the middle of the field to Malleo for a 74-yard touchdown on only the third play out of the half. Malleo’s agility allowed him to avoid numerous tackles during the touchdown connection giving the Red a 10-6 lead.
“We were spreading them out,” Brennan said. “And we forced them to try and make plays.”
Two possessions later, the Red let the Quakers regain the lead as Lombardi rushed for 51 yards and D’Angelo, once again, ran the ball in for a touchdown — this time from 24 yards out.
But the Red wasn’t done scoring, and Dentes wasn’t done throwing. On the following possession, Dentes connected with Brennan multiple times — including a 37 yard connection — to get into the red zone. Dentes finished the job, running into the end zone for four yards.
The Quakers started the fourth quarter with a field goal, knotting the game at 16 going into the final quarter.
With the Quakers threatening, senior linebacker Cameron Johnson and junior Scott Lutgens forced an unlikely fumble from Lombardi to give the Red great field position. With the opportunity to take the lead, Malleo and Dentes ran the ball up the rest of the field, giving the Red a 23-16 lead thanks to Malleo’s 5-yard run.
Strangely enough, the game came down to a punt attempt. With 3:20 on the clock, freshman John MacIntosh got his punt blocked into the end zone. In a mad dash to prevent the Quakers from landing on it for a touchdown — and consequently tying the game — MacIntosh knocked the ball out of the end zone giving the Quakers two points for the safety as opposed to seven with a touchdown.
“When I saw that, I thought we had to score again,” Brennan said.
Blitzing by Parke, Washington and Lutgens helped seal the game as the Red stopped the Quakers final march down the field and the game came to a close.