In sprint football’s first conference game of the year — a contest associate head coach Bob Gneo last week considered its “biggest game of the year” so far — an explosive fourth quarter pushed Cornell past St. Thomas Aquinas to bring its record to 3-1.
While this was the Spartans’ first year fielding a sprint football team, it entered the matchup with the same 2-1 record Cornell did — an unexpectedly strong start for an inaugural program and one that showed as the Red struggled for much of the game to take the lead.
St. Thomas managed to hold Cornell scoreless through the first half, as a muted Red offense struggled to make much noise.
“Clearly, we couldn’t get anything going in the first half,” Gneo said. “They only scored six points, but held possession for most of the time.” .
But in a twist of fate, it was Cornell’s special teams — which last week proved to be one of the team’s weakest links — that ended up playing a decisive role in the team’s late-game resurgence.
“We had several big plays from our special teams … extra point, field goal, two very good returns down the line to set up a great field position,” Gneo said. “It was the biggest part of our day.”
Catalyzed by those key plays, Cornell’s offense went into hyperdrive by the fourth quarter — scoring a stunning 23 points to blow past a St. Thomas seemingly unprepared for such a drastic turn of events.
Senior Brooks Panhans connected with junior running back Will Griffen for a fake run touchdown pass, which combined with senior quarterback Connor Ostrander’s pass to Griffen for a two-point conversion, lifted the Red to a six point lead over St. Thomas.
On the next drive, Griffen fought past two tackles to once again end up in the endzone. That, and a successfully-executed trick play for a two-point conversion, extended Cornell to a 23-6 lead.
Padding the team’s margins, sophomore running back JR Quinones ran up the middle to score his first collegiate touchdown. An extra point from junior Ben Finkelstein brought the final score to 30-15.
“This was our first league game, and winning it helps get us on a streak and build momentum before we head into the next two conference games,” Gneo said.
Cornell has two more matchups in the regular season, both of which are conference games. The sprint football league is divided into two, five-team divisions, and the squad with the best record within each one will face off in a single postseason game.
The victory over St. Thomas brings the Red’s conference record to 1-0, meaning its upcoming game against Post University is likely must-win if Cornell is to contend for a divisional title.
“Our game against Chestnut Hill was the biggest game of the season.” Gneo said. “Now the game against Post is our biggest game. We are not looking past it.”
The Red hosts Post at home this Friday at 7:00 p.m.