After dropping three of their first four games to begin the season, the Springfield College football team has strung together three important conference victories to pull themselves back into the mix in the NEWMAC standings.
After victories against Norwich and Coast Guard, Springfield took down Merchant Marine, 45-34, this past Saturday. This marks the most points the team has scored this season and it gives the Pride a 3-1 in conference record.
The team put together one of their best performances collectively and three individuals were given NEWMAC offensive, defensive, and special teams players of the week for their play this past week. Fullback Tim Callahan, linebacker AJ Smith and kicker Christian Hutra provided the clean sweep for players of the week and deservingly so.
“It means a lot to be up there with my teammates this week,” stated Callahan. “AJ (Smith) and Christian (Hutra) have been having tremendous seasons and our offensive line deserves a lot of credit too because they’re the reason I was able to find the holes and break off some big runs. It’s always a great feeling to contribute to the team and I just want to do my job in putting the team in the best situation to win.”
Prior to the matchup against the Mariners, the Pride failed to eclipse over 21 points in their first six games. This offense was finally able to break out and Callahan was a key reason for their scoring success. He capped off Springfield’s first drive with a two-yard touchdown and later broke free for a 60-yard score in the second quarter and a 67-yard touchdown in the third.
Seven different players rushed the ball for the Pride and although Callahan only had 12 carries, he was able to make the most of it accumulating a career high 161 years and three touchdowns.
Hutra was six of six on extra point conversions and added a 32 yard field goal down the stretch to expand the Pride’s lead late in the fourth quarter. The Springfield kicker has been perfect so far this year on field goals (5/5) and extra points (21/21) and will continue to add to the strong special teams play of late.
On the defensive side of the ball, Smith added 13 tackles to extend his team-high to 58 tackles. Merchant Marine entered the game as the top team in the country in total rushing but were limited to 176 yards on the ground by the Pride defense. Smith has played exceptionally well this year and will keep that up if he continuously attacks the ball the way he does.
While the running game looked as good as it has all season, the passing game got more involved as Chad Shade threw for a season-high 97 yards including a 55 yard strike to Andrew Smith on their first drive. While 97 yards is not anything extraordinary, it is a step in the right direction for a run happy offense that has only averaged 34.6 yards per game through the air.
Consistent play for this offense has been a struggle at times but this showing hopefully springs this team forward for more big games.
“I think this team is really coming together,” said Callahan. “This 1-0 mentality that we have is consistently talked about as a team and really brings us closer to achieving our goals each week. We just have to trust each other. I know it was easy after the start to the season we had to get down on each other but we strapped up, collected ourselves, and went out and performed the way we needed to.”
Sitting at 3-1 in the conference, the Pride are tied for second in the NEWMAC with Merchant Marine trailing an undefeated WPI squad that took down the Pride earlier this season. Springfield will need to stay hot in order to keep pressure on the Engineers for that top spot in the conference.
Callahan mentioned that in order to keep performing the way they are they need to make some more clutch defensive plays and play aggressively on both sides of the ball. “If we continue to give it 100 percent every play like we do we should be good to go.”
The Pride’s final three games will all be against NEWMAC opponents including a home game on homecoming weekend this upcoming Saturday at 1 p.m. against 0-6 Catholic.
“It should be a good game and that crowd should be fun being that it’s homecoming,” added Callahan. “Our fans have been really supportive, especially on this three game winning streak. They haven’t counted us out which and we want to go out and give them a show and continue to do what we have been doing.”
After their battle against Catholic this weekend, the Pride have a week off before their final two games against Maine Maritime and MIT. If the Pride can ultimately win out and extend their winning streak to six games, it puts the team in a great position.
Photo courtesy of Jack Margaros