With the CSFL title already out of reach, Cornell sprint football came up short against Franklin Pierce, falling to the Ravens, 24-17, in its final game of the season.
The Red (2-5), plagued by injuries all season, was without senior quarterback Rob Pannullo for much of the game, and was forced to start sophomore Connor Ostrander under center against the Ravens (4-3).
“We were looking to win this one for the seniors,” Ostrander said. “It meant a lot for them, especially Pannullo because he couldn’t play. We were just trying to play as a team in honor of the seniors.”
Franklin Pierce got on the scoreboard first, but the Red blocked the Ravens’ extra-point attempt. Cornell cut the lead to three after freshman kicker Ben Finkelstein kicked a 30-yard field goal. Later in the second quarter, Franklin Pierce extended its lead to nine after the team scored a touchdown but failed in its two-point conversion attempt.
The Red scored its first touchdown of the game when Ostrander found junior wide receiver Ryman Seeley for a 13-yard pass, which ended with Seeley powering through three defenders, and reaching the ball into the end zone.
Franklin Pierce found the end zone once more in the first half with 16 seconds left in the second quarter, after their drive was extended when the referees ruled that Ravens’ running back Kobie Smith did not fumble the ball in the Cornell red zone, much to the dismay of the Cornell coaching staff.
For the third consecutive time, the Red special teams unit was able to thwart a Ravens’ point after attempt. Franklin Pierce took an 18-10 lead into halftime.
After Franklin Pierce’s fourth touchdown of the night, co-head coach Bart Guccia was forced to insert Pannullo to run the Cornell offense following Ostrander’s fumble and two interceptions to begin the second half for the Red. Additionally, senior running back Kevin Nathanson fumbled on Cornell’s third possession of the second half.
“It was definitely a tough game,” Ostrander said. “A lot of the tipped balls, for example, we couldn’t control, but we had to bounce back from those mistakes.”
Despite injuries to his throwing shoulder and left knee Pannullo was cleared to play in his final college football game, but he had noticeably limited mobility, and he was grimacing after each deep pass he threw.
After two inefficient drives and multiple hard hits with Pannullo at the helm, Guccia turned back to Ostrander to lead the Red to its third victory of the season.
On Cornell’s next drive, Ostrander tossed a 39-yard strike to Seeley, and Nathanson capped off the series with a four-yard scamper to keep the Red within a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.
The Red got the ball back after forcing a quick three-and-out, starting with the ball near midfield. Ostrander moved the ball effectively with runs of his own, but he was also burning precious seconds at the same time.
After a costly Seeley drop, Ostrander found Nathanson for a 14-yard gain, but he was penalized when the referees ruled that he had stepped out of bounds before catching the ball, resulting in the loss of down.
On fourth-and-one with under 1:30 remaining, a flag was thrown due to a false start on the Red offensive line. On Cornell’s last play of the game, Ostrander was rushed and hit as he threw, lobbing the ball in the direction of Seeley, who was unable to come up with the reception.
“The last drive was crunch time and we had to make some plays out there,” Ostrander said. “The line did a great job protecting me, and I credit the coaches for making some really good calls tonight.”
Ostrander finished with 193 all-purpose yards and a passing touchdown. Seeley reeled in four catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. Nathanson had 56 rushing yards and a score. Defensively, senior linebacker Christopher D’Ambrosio anchored the Red with eight tackles.
“We should have won this game even though we had six turnovers,” Seeley said. “It was a tough way to end the year, but this is a step in the right direction heading into next season.”
The loss ends Cornell’s year giving the Red a 2-5 season record, tied for sixth place in the eight-team league. This year marks the sixth straight time the team has finished outside the top three in the conference.
With many starters returning for the 2017 campaign, Seeley said he’s excited about next season’s prospects.
“Next year, I am excited to become a senior leader on the team, and I am looking forward to building upon what went right this year,” Seeley said. “I think that we are capable of doing a lot better next season.”