By NIKITA DUBNOV
As of Thursday afternoon, the sprint football team was still unaware of whether its Friday night game against Army would be played. Due to the government shutdown, Army had to decide whether or not it had the funds to travel to Ithaca to face the Red. Sprint football has one of the shortest seasons of any Cornell team, playing only seven games in its yearly campaign, which means that playing one less game would impact the program in significant ways.
The 0-3 record to start the season is not a good sign for the club, and every game left gives the Red a chance to turn the season around. After speaking on the phone with the Army program heads in the late afternoon, the Cornell coaches informed the players that the game would in fact be played, and they have since begun to prepare for the weekend’s contest. The Red has not won a game against Army since the 2010 season. With the early losses this year, the team needs any chance to change the course of play towards success on the field. There has not been a concrete issue with the team so far this year, according to co-head coach Bart Guccia.
“It’s a matter of correcting our mistakes. That’s what hurts us. It’s not something you can put a finger on,” Guccia — who is in his ninth year with the sprint football team — said. “In different circumstances we did different things wrong, like not scoring in the red zone and giving up big plays on special teams. We’ve had breakdowns.”
In its previous game against the University of Pennsylvania, the Red was unable to score until the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Additionally, Cornell gave up huge plays which clearly swung the momentum in the direction of the Quakers. The Red gave up a 39-yard “Hail Mary” pass for a touchdown to Penn at the very end of the half. These are the sorts of breakdowns that the coaching staff is trying to limit in future contests. However, there were moments of triumph for the Red against Penn as well. Two closing minute touchdowns put Cornell on the board, eventually leading to a final score of 28-14. Additionally, senior running back Nick Perez came up with a 79-yard kick return that got the crowd on its feet. The Red is working hard at practice to limit the mistakes and to change the momentum of the season so far.
The sprint football team practices just as much as any other team on campus.
“Six days of team activities — five weekly practices and one game,” said freshman wide receiver Logan Stevenson. “This week we spent some extra time working on defense, and the wide receivers did extra catching drills because that’s something we’ve had trouble with lately.” The team also gathered together to review its scouting report on Army. The Red gets film of every game from every team in the sprint football league and reviews it prior to the matchups. “In practice we play scout offense and scout defense. This week we’ve tried to run Army’s plays against our offense and defense,” Stevenson said.
Additional review of the Army tapes has led the Red to a viable strategy on
offense for Friday’s game. The tapes revealed that Army tends to keep linebackers in and on the line. The Red hopes to be able to implement tight screen plays or quick passes to take advantage of the defense. Furthermore, the Red acknowledged some of Army’s peculiar sets on offense. “Army tends to run quad-wide receiver and sweep offenses. We know how to recognize that after all our practice,” Stevenson said.
Cornell will take on Army at Schoellkopf Field tonight at 7:00pm. The Red hopes that the efficient scouting of the opponent and fewer breakdowns on both sides of the field will lead to its much-needed first victory of the season.