The sprint football team opened its season with a victory on the road against Mansfield, 37-23, with strong performances from younger players making the key difference in the contest.After a slow start, Cornell’s sprint football team (1-0) led a fourth-quarter comeback to beat Mansfield (0-1) in the season opener for both teams. The Red trailed, 23-20, with 7:43 left in the final frame before sophomore quarterback Brendan Miller hit senior wide receiver Abe Mellinger for a 50-yard touchdown strike. When all was said and done, the Red stood victorious, 37-23.
“We got down a little bit early and it is always a tough atmosphere to play in [at Mannsfield], but we really did a good job of sticking together and staying on our game until we righted the ship and ended up with the win,” said senior wide receiver and tri-captain Tim Bruhn. “It’s good to see everyone fight until the very end, when we finally got all four cylinders firing.”
The Red struck first in the first quarter, as Mellinger caught a 25-yard touchdown, the first of his two on the day. However, the Mounties responded, as they scored the next 16 points, exciting their home crowd and taking away all the momentum from Cornell.
“At no point were we really down. We always had confidence and knew that we could pull out a win,” said senior linebacker and tri-captain Tim Dooley. “From a defensive perspective, we couldn’t worry about what the other side of the ball was doing. We just worried about stopping their offense.”
Cornell responded well, forcing Mansfield into an interception by junior defensive back Jim Barger and two punts to end the half. Meanwhile, the offense was finding its groove as sophomore kicker John Rodriguez converted two field goals to cut the lead, 16-13.
The Red immediately grabbed the momentum coming out of half, as Barger recovered a fumble on the second play of the half. The offense capitalized on the opportunity, when Miller completed a 13-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Spenser Gruenenfelder, giving the Red its first lead since the game’s first score.
Mansfield struck back with a time-draining, 17-play touchdown drive before Cornell mounted its comeback.
The clinching play was a pick-six by freshman linebacker Mike Monahan.
“We had an interception for a touchdown by Monahan…that was a huge play,” Dooley said. “That was the play that really sealed the outcome of the game for us.”
Cornell’s offense was led by Miller, starting his first game at quarterback. He did not disappoint, completing 17 of his 35 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns. He also had an interception and a fumble.
“[Miller] did a great job. To come out and have your first game starting in that type of atmosphere and that type of adversity [is tough], especially getting down early,” Bruhn said. “He did a great job of responding and really taking control of the offense of the team.”
Perhaps the biggest breakout star of the game was Abe Mellinger. Starting in his first sprint football game, he reeled in five catches for 150 yards, two of which were touchdowns. He also returned two kickoffs for 45 yards and one punt for 15 yards.
“Abe — in his first game for us — had an absolute monster day,” Bruhn noted. “He’s really bringing something special to the table.”
“I think Abe had a really good game,” Dooley added. “Usually the defenses try to key on Spenser [Gruenenfelder]… but now that we have Abe on the other side of the field, they can’t really key on [Gruenenfelder] anymore. It really opens up a lot of opportunities on offense and I think he had some great catches, got open and really made a lot of key plays.”
The offense was also helped by senior running back Doug Famularo, who rushed for 59 yards on 16 carries and caught three balls for 30 yards. Gruenenfelder caught three passes for 54 yards and a touchdown, while Bruhn had four completions for 24 yards.
On defense, Dooley led the team with eight tackles, while sophomore linebacker John Kelder, Monahan and Barger all intercepted a pass. In total, Cornell’s defense stymied Mansfield offense, allowing only 191 total yards for the game.
“In the beginning, it was a little bit of a slow start,” Dooley said. “But as the game went on, our defense got on the same page and stepped up and stopped them pretty much the whole second half.”
Although there were many encouraging factors, the game was nowhere near perfect for the Red.
“We definitely have to work on [our special teams] this week and we got to give our quarterback a little more time; he had to make a lot of plays under … stress, so we need to give him more time [to operate].” Dooley said.
Original Author: Albert Liao