Exactly 364 days ago, the 1-2 Springfield College football team departed Stagg Field for halftime facing a 17-0 deficit against the WPI Engineers. The entire campus knows the rest of that story. The Pride stormed back, scoring 21 unanswered and defeating WPI 28-23 in a shocking family weekend comeback. That was when Springfield was an underdog.
The Engineers arrived at Alden Street today under identical circumstances. The tilt took place on a steamy afternoon, with the Springfield families packing the entirety of the left bleachers. But this would not be the same Springfield team that was trying to find its footing and winning identity.
The Pride, kicking off their first ever NEWMAC contest, stormed the turf in maroon and gray with bravado and surety. Jordan Wilcox, American flag raised overhead, sprinted down the sideline with a noticeable extra pep in his step. The crowd’s roared as loud as it had when Chad Shade dove in for the defining touchdown one year earlier. The game hadn’t even started yet, and Springfield’s aura already displayed an overwhelming confidence.
WPI fed off the energy as well. Dereck Pacheco (five tackles) pumped his arms in the air while skipping to the sideline after tackling Jake Eglintine (139 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown) for a loss to force a three and out on Springfield’s first drive. The Engineer defense held the Pride to 11 total yards in Springfield’s first two series, but it would be all the success the WPI defense would have on the afternoon. Nothing the Engineer defense threw at the Pride could halt advancement to what would be a convincing 42-10 Springfield win to open conference play.
“We talk about being 1-0 for each week, we just try to focus on the moment and take each opponent no matter the ability,” said head coach Mike Cerasuolo. “These kids are playing tough, they’re playing hard, they’re playing physical. I’m really proud of the effort more than anything.”
Hunter Belzo (96 rushing yards) opened the floodgates for Springfield with a 26 yard rushing touchdown to put the Pride up 7-3 with 1:01 remaining in the first quarter. WPI created an opportunity to take back momentum with 9:00 left in the second. Engineer quarterback Blake Rice (198 yards, one passing touchdown, three interceptions) drove his team 41 yards down field and brought his team to the Springfield 34 yard line on 4th down and 11.
The senior uncorked a 29 yard pass to Corey Coogan (three receptions, 30 yards), but the pass would be intercepted by Springfield’s Marlowe Scott (four tackles, two interceptions) at the five yard line. The Pride followed up the WPI turnover with a 90 yard drive, ending in a Jordan Wilcox (84 yards, two touchdowns) score with 15 seconds remaining to raise the Springfield lead to 14-3 going into the half.
WPI would be unable to bounce back effectively in the third. Beyond a Rice 28 yard completion to Brendan Chipman, fueled by a 47 yard Sean McAllen run, the Engineers mustered 10 yards for the rest of the quarter. Springfield stepped on the gas, with Wilcox running in a 46 yard touchdown one minute into the second half, and Eglintine punching in a rushing touchdown following Scott’s second interception of the day just two minutes later.
“It comes down to a big team effort, the backs have been working hard,” said senior offensive lineman Chris Hayden. “We’ve just been focusing on giving them holes to run through, and when they find those holes, they’ve been hitting them hard.”
The Chipman touchdown set the score at 28-10 Springfield, but the Pride scored two additional unanswered touchdowns on 250 yards to claim the 42-10 victory.
“The team’s feeling really good right now,” said junior defensive back Marlowe Scott. “The difference from last year is that we have more experience. We have a lot of second year starters now, so we know what to expect.”
The Springfield offense logged a total of 574 rushing yards, and is off to its best start (4-0) since 2006, where it opened the season on a seven game winning streak and made an appearance in the NCAA tournament.
“We’ve definitely come a long way,” said Hayden. “WPI’s a good team, but we just stuck with the schemes that the coaches drew up like we did [last time we played them]. Obviously it was a hot one today, some players were sucking wind a little bit out there. Coach told us, ‘someone’s going to quit, but it’s not going to be us.’”
The Pride will host Norwich on Saturday.