November 3, 2008

Sprint Football Comes From Behind to Beat Visiting Mansfield

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In the last game of the season, the Red sprint football team won a surprisingly competitive and hard-fought game Friday against Mansfield University, but was unable to bring home a CSFL championship due to Navy’s win against Army in Annapolis.
In the last game of their careers, quarterback Zak Dentes, receiver Mike Brennan and the rest of the senior class led Cornell (5-2, 3-1 CSFL) to a 38-28 victory at home. Meanwhile, the Midshipmen (7-0, 4-0 CSFL) finished off a perfect season with a 24-0 shutout against their longtime rival and claimed their 26th CSFL title.
On Sept. 27, the Red dominated Mansfield offensively and defensively, crushing the sprint football newcomer, 35-0. On Friday however, a much improved and competitive team arrived in Schoellkopf Field.
When asked if the team was surprised by the play of Mansfield, senior fullback Frank Lalezarzadeh commented, “Yeah, I think we all were. After our first two offensive drives we thought it would be a walk in the park, but they came back and shocked us.”[img_assist|nid=33226|title=Running toward history|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The scoring began early, when junior receiver Chris LeBerge grabbed a six-yard pass from Dentes for the game’s first touchdown. With less than two minutes left in the first quarter, the Red expanded its lead as senior offensive lineman/kicker Mitch Ottinger drilled a 34-yard field goal.
Mansfield would come back, however, scoring on a touchdown run right before the end of the first, and then taking the lead with sophomore quarterback Danny Moss’s long 33-yard sprint to the end zone.
The Red seemed to have titled momentum back in its favor after senior defensive end Mike Zambrana sacked Moss on third down, forcing a punt. When the Cornell offense took the field again however, it was without its reliable leader, Dentes, who had to go into the locker room after spraining his MCL.
“I took a helmet to the outside of my knee, and when I tried to stand up, it hurt,” said Dentes. “The trainers had to give me some ibuprofen and wrap me up.”
Sophomore quarterback Elliot Corey filled in and played well, leading a drive that resulted in a Brennan touchdown catch and a new lead for the Red.
Although it was one of many fantastic career performances for the senior wideout, Friday’s game held extra significance; while catching eight passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns, Brennan became Cornell’s all-time leader in receiving yards.
“I guess it’s pretty cool,” said Brennan. “I didn’t really know any of the history behind it or anything. I’m just happy to have it.”
Dentes, who finished with 243 yards and three touchdowns, going 17-of-23 in pass attempts, has had great on-field chemistry with Brennan throughout their record-breaking sprint careers. “It’s just a lot of practice, and we talk a lot on the sidelines and between plays,” said Brennan. “We’ve been running the same offense since we’ve been here.”
After Mansfield re-took the lead in the third quarter, Dentes returned to the game and led the offense on a 66-yard drive in the beginning of the fourth quarter, making the score 24-21.
The Red would rescind the lead once more in the fourth, but eventually emerge victorious, capping off the scoring with a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown by senior defensive back Daniel Kubis.
“It feels good, but it’s a mixed bag,” said Dentes about the season-ending, and, for 21 seniors, career-ending, win.
“I don’t really think it’s settled for most of us that we won’t be able to play again. At least we came out with a win and played together as a team.”
“It obviously felt pretty good,” said Brennan. “It felt like we finished up on a strong note.”
Even though they didn’t win a conference title, the team refused to let that keep their spirits down.
“We were all disappointed and we knew we were really close to beating Navy,” said Lalezarzadeh. “It was tough, but at the same time we knew we had a good season and won a lot of good games. We don’t look down upon ourselves.”