SPRINGFIELD — Eighteen plays. Seven minutes and 38 seconds. A six-yard rush on the outside from Ryan Deguire to seal the game-winning touchdown after an 85-yard march downfield.
This is what it took for Springfield College football to seal the 21-14 win as they hosted Kean on Saturday.
“There were a couple options here and there, but there were a couple of zone-dive plays in it as well,” head coach Mike Cerasoulo said. “Obviously we threw some options in there at them a little bit, some good critical third-and-short pickups that was just all the offensive line. The fullbacks and obviously the halfbacks as well with some of their responsibilities as well, they did a great job up front.”
Although the Springfield offense was near-perfect on their final drive, they weren’t without mistakes all game. The Pride fumbled the ball six times, and the Cougars recovered three of them.
“We had some ball security issues and we’ll clean them up,” center Nick Bainter said. “The rain obviously adds a factor but we have to do a better job holding onto the football. That’s the thing of it, and up front we have to do a better job blocking.”
Turnovers aside, the Pride faced another issue- mounting injuries. Hunter Belzo was taken out of the game after the second offensive snap. Following the game, players could be heard saying, “Text Hunter.” To members of the Pride, pulling out the win was in honor of Belzo, who was regarded as the hero of the 2018 campaign.
“It’s huge, I mean everyone knows Hunter really represents our program very well,” Bainter said. “He’s a big piece of our program. We all talk about brotherhood, we’re all extremely close with him and he adds more than just him running the ball like an animal.”
Along with Belzo, Isaiah Cashwell went down late in the third. After a while, he was able to get up and reentered the game. Even Bainter had an issue as he was slow to his feet, missing a few snaps as his ankle was being wrapped.
After walking on the sideline comfortably and getting back into his groove, Bainter returned to the field to finish the job.
“The thing that I can say about our team is our response to everything,” Bainter said. “Often times we do get punched in the face, all I’m saying is people don’t have a plan until they get punched in the face. It’s all about that response, and that’s what we brought.”
These past two games against Western New England and Kean went nothing like how they did the year prior. In 2018, the Pride routed both teams, 42-21 and 42-0 respectively.
The rise in out-of-conference competition can be viewed positively for the Pride. They’re getting exposure to more critical situations.
“It’s nice to play teams from other leagues and get some exposure with them, playing tougher teams and teams from different areas,” Bainter said.
These first two games, like 2018, are in the past. The Pride still has one more out-of-conference matchup left at Union before their first NEWMAC game against WPI. Rather than reflecting on games in the past, the Pride are focused on what will be a tremendous road challenge.
“These non-conference games, we treat them like it’s the championship,” David McMullen said. “Like coach (Cerasuolo) said, 1-0 mentality. We just adapt, we overcome, and like you see today, we finished.”
Deguire added, “Like David said, 1-0. We can’t really look back to last year. Right now, it’s just the next rep, the next play. We just have to focus on that every single day.”
Chad Shade and David Wells shared playing time and both registered a rushing touchdown. The ground-and-pound offense racked up 420 rushing yards, 100 of them belonging to Deguire.
With zero passing yards, the game was another reminder of how run-heavy the Springfield triple-option offense is.
“What we do is run the ball until you quit,” Bainter said. “We’re going to pound you until you quit. That’s a good representation of what Springfield football is about.”
Adversity would be an adequate word to describe the showdown on Stagg Field. Despite the hardships Springfield faced against Kean, they were able to make a much needed rebound.
“Great response from last week as far as overall being able to step up and face a lot of adversity today, self-inflicted,” Cerasuolo said.
Featured photo courtesy Tyler Meurelo