Sprint Football: On senior night, hosts suffer another close loss
On Friday night, the sprint football team fell to Franklin Pierce 21-14 in its last home game of the season. The Tigers took the field clad in the customary black and orange as well as pink socks for breast cancer awareness. The stands were filled with fans coming out to support the Tigers on their senior night — an atmosphere that was both noticed and appreciated by the team.
“The crowd was phenomenal,” senior quarterback Jaison Zachariah said. “It was senior night, so a lot of family and friends were in attendance ... That was probably the largest crowd that I’ve ever played football in front of — it was awesome.”
The Tigers (0-5) gave their fans a lot of credit for motivating the team.
“The passion and energy that they bring to games really motivates the team,” senior defensive back and wide receiver Ross Cadman said. “We feed off the crowd’s noise and play with an increased determination with our friends rooting us on. We’re extremely disappointed that we couldn’t pull out a victory at home this year. It would have been very special for the team and for the fans who have supported us tremendously this entire year.”
The game started with a scoreless first quarter; Franklin Pierce (1-2) scored early in the second period but missed the extra point, taking a 6-0 lead. A few minutes later, the Tigers came back for a touchdown by senior wide receiver Nick Lulli, making good on the extra point for a one-point lead at 7-6.
However, the Ravens were not content to let the Tigers keep their lead, scoring a touchdown on the next drive and successfully going for two points to bring the score to 14-7, where it stood for the rest of the half.
In the third quarter, with the Ravens backed up at their own one-yard line, senior defensive lineman Matt Kann forced a fumble into the end zone, which senior defensive lineman John Wolfe recovered for a touchdown. A successful extra-point attempt tied the game at 14-14.
But the Tigers’ next drive ended with a punt attempt, and after an off-target snap, senior kicker Andrew Bierschenk tried to pass to Cadman in the backfield. The ball was intercepted and run back for a 44-yard touchdown by the Ravens’ Will Ellery, securing a 21-14 lead that stood for the remainder of the game.
Despite four Princeton drives in the fourth quarter, the Tigers were unable to convert those plays into points. The Tigers drove to the Franklin Pierce 36-yard line in the waning moments, setting up a possible scoring opportunity on the final play. But after multiple false starts, freshman quarterback Joseph Bush’s last pass was intercepted, and Franklin Pierce kept the Tigers from their first win.
“Losing multiple games by close margins really takes a toll on the team,” Cadman said. “We come so close week in and week out but haven’t been able to get a win this year. Looking forward to the next two weeks, we will really see how strong our determination is to close out this season on a high note ... We’re running out of time to earn a victory this season, so it’s crunch time for us to ball out and make this thing happen.”
Despite the close defeats, the Tigers take pride in their growth and increased competitiveness this season.
“We have made huge strides this year,” Zachariah said. “Our team is playing at a level which it hasn’t in years. Every player has improved from last year, and we have some of the best athletes at each position in this league.”
The loss follows last weekend’s close game against Post, when a victory was also very much within reach for the Tigers before they lost in overtime.
“Getting this close is not enough, and you definitely get that sense in the locker room,” Zachariah added. “Our players, especially seniors, are still hungry for that win, and we are working every day toward it.”
The team maintains its focus on improvement with two games coming up on the road, starting with one next Saturday against Army.
“In order to get over this hump, we just need to hone in these last few weeks and really focus on the task at hand,” Zachariah said. “This time of year is always difficult with classes, exams and job-hunting on top of the taxing athletic commitment. If we just set that all aside and practice and prepare crisply, we will be successful.”