September 11, 2008

Sprint Looks to Rebound From ’07

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After going undefeated and winning the CSFL championship in 2006, the sprint football team hobbled out of the trainer’s room and into third place last season, going 4-2 (2-2 CSFL) while being nagged by injuries all year. If it weren’t for injuries, however, head coach Terry Cullen believes his team would have repeated as league champions.
“I’d classify it as a frustrating season,” Cullen said. “We lost that game to Penn after we had already beaten them, and in the Navy game we lost our quarterback and our running back [to injury] in the first series, so we didn’t have much offense. I think it could have been a championship team.”
With a year to heal from that disappointing third place finish, the key difference between last year’s team and the 2008 squad seems to be the team’s health.
[img_assist|nid=31598|title=No mercy|desc=At Schoellkopf Field last Friday, a member of the White team escapes one of the Reds in the sprint football team’s annual Red vs. White scrimmage, kicking off the season.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“We’ve got six returning starters on offense and five on defense,” Cullen said. “We’re bringing lettermen back at all 22 positions, and we’ve got a good senior class. Actually, with all the injuries last year, we’ve got a lot of guys who ended up starting games that they wouldn’t have been otherwise. It’s a good club. If we stay healthy this year, we look pretty good.”
The biggest change this year will likely be in the offensive and defensive backfields, as senior Matt Malleo is making the switch from halfback to cornerback. Malleo’s natural position is in the defensive backfield, where he played with the varsity football team before switching to sprint last year. Due to injuries to Glenn Palmer ‘08, however, Malleo became one of the team’s primary options in the offensive backfield and ended up leading the CSFL in all-purpose yards and touchdowns as a halfback in 2007.
With Malleo back on defense, junior DJ Schiavetta will open the season as the Red’s halfback and share the running load with senior Frank Lalezarzadeh.
“We were thin at running back last year, but DJ stepped up and played really well in the preseason and the coaches felt that he could handle the job,” said senior running back Brandon Stoller.
“DJ has been playing well, so he got the job,” Cullen said. “Malleo and Schiavetta both played a lot of positions last year, so this year we decided to put them in one position and just let them play. Hopefully it will be more productive.”
Aside from running back, the team’s offense looks extremely similar to last year’s eleven.
“We’ve only gotten stronger from last year,” Stoller said. “Aside from running back, all of our skill positions are back on offense, the entire defensive backfield is back, and the linebacking corps is back.”
Senior co-captain Zak Dentes is one of those players who will be back. Dentes will resume his role as quarterback for an offense that set a new school record with 162 points last season. After leading the CSFL with 891 yards through the air in 2007, the Ithaca native needs only 738 yards this year to pass the school record of 2, 474 career passing yards by Dave Zittel ‘88.
Dentes favorite receiver from last season, senior co-captain Michael Brennan, is also on pace to put his name atop the Red’s record book. After leading the CSFL with 409 receiving yards last year, Brennan needs 368 yards in 2008 to pass Jason Meier’s (‘93) record of 1,131.
Having caught passes from Dentes since they were teammates at Ithaca High School, chances are good that Dentes and Brennan will pitch and catch their way into the record books in their final seasons with the Red.
With senior co-captian John Parke back — who led the team in tackles in 2006 but sat out the final two games of 2007 with an injury — the defense should be improved from last year to compliment a record-setting offence. If the team stays healthy, the only unkown this season should be Mansfield, a school new to the CSFL.
“We’re looking to win the league,” Stoller said. “We have really high expectations — to go undefeated and win the conference. We have the right components in place to do well this year.