October 24, 2007

Sprints' 13 Seniors Reflect on Titles, Injuries, Careers

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For 13 members of the sprint football team, Friday’s game against Army will be the last time they step on the turf at Schoellkopf Field in CSFL competition. With 10 members of the undefeated 2006 CSFL Champion team and three senior rookies, the class of 2008 is the smallest group of seniors Terry Cullen has seen in 43 years with Cornell sprint.
“It’s the smallest senior class we’ve had,” Cullen said. “And it’s been getting smaller as we’ve been losing them throughout the season to injuries.”
After a perfect 2006 season, injuries have slowed the Red (3-2, 1-2 CSFL), particularly limiting the senior class. Senior tri-captain Jason Remillard began his sprint career last year by winning the CSFL Player of the Year award and ended his career in the 2007 season opener by tearing his ACL.
Senior linebacker Cameron Johnson, one of only four seniors to have played since freshman year, had his season end after three games when he broke a bone in his knee. Prior to the injury, Johnson won the CSFL Defensive Player of the Week award for his two-interception effort against Princeton.
“Coming into the season the goal was to repeat, but since very early on we’ve been plagued by injuries,” said senior tri-captain Glenn Palmer, who sat out Cornell’s second game against Princeton due to injury. “It seems like all the seniors, and our star players, have been going down.”
With Remillard and Johnson watching from the sideline, seniors Greg Solomon and Steven Attanasio have filled in at linebacker. Attanasio’s third-down sack against Princeton in the second quarter ended what was shaping up to be Princeton’s most impressive drive of the game, preserving the 34-0 shutout. In the Red’s overtime loss to Penn last weekend, Solomon led the team with 10 tackles.
“Cam[eron] and Jason have been on crutches, yet they’re still on the sidelines, on the bus and they’re there every night doing an outstanding job still leading this team,” Cullen said. “But with the captains hurt, Solomon has taken over that role on defense, while DeSantis has stepped up on the offensive side.”
Daniel DeSantis joins tri-captain Ben Abramoff as the only seniors on the offensive line. Abramoff, like Johnson, Solomon, and Palmer, is in his fourth year with the team. In a game where weight is almost as feared an enemy as Army and Navy, Abrammoff and DeSantis, along with senior starting tight end Warren Liao, have solidified an offensive line that has opened the lanes to just under 160 yards a game.
A good portion of those yards has come from Palmer, whose 57.8 yards per game lead the Red rushing attack. After getting injured in the game against Navy and missing the Red’s second game against Princeton, Palmer returned in last weekend’s game at Penn to run 19 times for 97 yards.
“Coming to Cornell, I didn’t know what the level of competition would be like, playing at the collegiate level,” Palmer said. “It’s great to have the opportunity to play football, which I didn’t think I was going to do.”
Senior Kenechukwu Erike has also played a role in the backfield. In Cornell’s first game against Princeton this season, Erike carried the ball a team-high 18 times — including once for a touchdown.
First-year seniors Ted Moore, Eric Westerduin and Mike Reskin joined returning tackle Linn Lung on the defensive line. Westerduin and Reskin have found multiple ways to contribute. Westerduin is 2-for-2 on extra points this season, while Moore returned a punt for 11 yards.
Aside from the three newcomers to the team, the sprint seniors will go down in the record books as part of one of the greatest Red teams in the 73-year history of the CSFL. The team’s 6-0 effort (4-0 CSFL) gave Cornell its first championship since 1986 and first winning season since 1992. While the offense was second behind Navy in points scored with 147, the defense gave up only 36 points the entire season, making Cornell the only team to give up less than 100 points throughout the year.
“Last year was the first winning team I was on, and nobody expected the turn around we had,” Palmer said. “It was nice to come out and show everyone we could win. We shocked ourselves and everyone else, and the combination of everything made the season really rewarding.”
“Over the past four years, the program has turned around and gotten so much better,” Abramoff said. “The team dynamic has changed so much since my freshman year, and everyone is dedicated. Last year was an exciting season. We might not have been the most talented team, but we were definitely the most dedicated.”
After two consecutive losses on the road to Navy and Penn, the Red has the chance to reach .500 in CSFL play when it faces Army at home this Friday. Unlike 2006, the CSFL championship is not on the line, but for 13 men, it will be the last opportunity to taste victory.
“It’s definitely sad coming into the last game of the season, and we’re obviously coming in trying to finish up with a win,” Palmer said.
“We’ve had some tough breaks and injuries this season,” Abramoff said. “To come out in our last game and whoop Army would help us forget about some of that.”