On Saturday, Cornell’s sprint football team will kick off its season in Mansfield, Pa. for the second year in a row. Since Mansfield joined the CSFL in 2008, the Red has won all six meetings; however, the team does not feel that this is a dependable trend.
“I believe that the first few years, [Mansfield] was inexperienced and just entering the league and we did have that edge on them,” said co-head coach Bart Guccia. “But now that they’ve been in the league for four years, they’ve acclimated and know what to expect.”
Mansfield will look to improve after finishing last season with only two wins. The Mountaineers return an experienced team and have a promising freshman class.
“They have seven starters back on defense and five back on offense,” Guccia said. “They also brought in quite a few freshmen, so they’ll have some experienced and non-experienced players … I assume that they are going to be quite formidable.”
Mansfield’s defense will be led by a trio of returning All-CSFL defensive linemen. Justin DiMatteo and Paul Houseknecht both earned second-team honors, while Cody Croasdale was named to the first-team. The Mountaineers’ offense will be a far greater question mark, as the team graduated both its starting running back and quarterback from last season.
For the Red, this season appears very promising and the team is excited to start the year versus Mansfield again.
“It’s a really good atmosphere and … a good way to kick off the season,” said senior wide receiver and tri-captain Tim Bruhn. “It’s a good tradition down there, so they’re definitely going to come out fired up.”
Cornell will return three first-team All-League players to lead its offense. Junior wide receiver Spenser Gruenenfelder will lead the receiving core, while senior running back Doug Famularo will head the rushing attack in his second season as a starter. Senior offensive lineman and tri-captain George Gomez will help direct the offensive line. The Red’s quarterback position will not see continuity however, as last year’s starter Elliot Corey ’11 has graduated. Sophomore Brendan Miller will most likely replace him, as he played in all seven games last year and saw some time at quarterback.
The defense took a harder hit than the offense due to the graduation of players. The team lost three first-teamers and two more second-team players, with senior linebacker and tri-captain Tim Dooley the only returning defensive player who was named All-CSFL.
Despite returning a handful of starters, Guccia knows that this is no guarantee of a great season.
“There are two factors that come into play with our team and the other non-military teams, and that’s how well you stand up with injuries and how quickly your younger players can adapt to give you good depth,” Guccia stated. “Injury and depth can sometimes be a problem.”
The coaching staff has tried to ready their players for the start of the season but that is not always an easy task; the league allows only 16 practices before the first game.
“Everybody has the same amount of days to practice, that’s one of the league’s rules; you can only have 16 practices on the field with coaches before you open up,” Guccia explained. “Because of that I think we’re as prepared as we can be.”
Despite feeling as ready as possible, the team is still nervous to start the season.
“I feel like every time you step out on the field for the first time of the season, there’s always going to be some first-game butterflies,” Bruhn said. “But, a couple plays in and those get knocked away pretty fast.”
Overall, the Red feels that it has a good chance of winning the CSFL title for the first time since 2006, but understands that it is not favored to win the league.
Army and Navy are definitely [the favorites]. They have the two best teams in the league, year in and year out,” Guccia said. “Generally, its one of them that is the favorite if only because of … the length of time they get to spend on the players because they have the standard physical training that they have to do every day.”
Despite the competition, Cornell remains confident.
“This league is really tough to predict, this year especially,” Bruhn said. “There are a lot of strong teams coming in this year … but I feel like our chances are good. We go into every year looking to win the championship and our goal is no different this season.”
Original Author: Albert Liao