Big Green football hopes to send off seniors with a win

by Ben Reed | 11/18/05 6:00am

Assured of a seventh place Ivy League finish with a 1-5 league record (2-7 overall), a Dartmouth football victory over second-place Princeton (6-3, 4-2 Ivy) Saturday would do nothing to improve the Big Green's league standing. With Brown only needing a victory against Columbia--a team that has been outscored 241-42 in six Ivy contests (all losses)--to clinch an Ivy title, moreover, it seems highly unlikely that Dartmouth will even have the opportunity to spoil Princeton's own championship aspirations.

But while the season finale may do little to influence the ultimate Ivy hierarchy, try and tell the Dartmouth seniors that the game is insignificant. Several thousand of Dartmouth's faithful will head to Memorial Field on Saturday to see many of their favorite gladiators don their green and white uniforms for the very last time. And among the couple dozen players that will say goodbye to their fans this weekend are several that have offered spectators plenty to remember them by.

Saturday's contest will be the last for co-captain and hard-hitting linebacker Josh Dooley '06. A model of consistency, the four-year starter has notched at least 72 tackles each season, twice earning second-team All-Ivy League recognition. With a 3.70 GPA in environmental and evolutionary biology, Dooley has recently been named to the CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine District 1 Academic All-America football team for the second consecutive season. The Oklahoma native needs only three tackles against the Tigers to become the ninth Dartmouth player to record 300 for his career.

Another co-captain will also anchor the Dartmouth defense for the last time against Princeton. Bruising and relentless defensive end Anthony Gargiulo '06 has ravaged opponents' backfields over the last three years, tallying 23 sacks, including an astounding 12 in 10 games last season. He has amassed 30.5 tackles for a loss in just the last two seasons. In addition to the fun of playing the game, Gargiulo says he will especially miss the camaraderie he has experienced as a member of the team.

"I can't even begin to describe how much Dartmouth football has meant to me," he said. "The friends I've made and the life lessons I've learned are invaluable."

Dartmouth football will also be saying goodbye to much of its offense, including starting wide receivers Jason Raiti '06 and Ryan Fuselier '06, running back Jason Bash '06, tackles Daniel Tootoo '06 and Mike Shannon '06 and quarterback Charlie Rittgers '06, a starter for much of the last three seasons, before he was relegated to a backup role midway through the year.

Despite tossing 28 interceptions to 25 touchdowns for his career, Rittgers accumulated 4,472 passing yards -- third in Big Green history -- after taking over as starting quarterback in 2003 and leading the team to a second-place Ivy League finish after an 0-4 start. In an unforgettable 30-16 upset against previously undefeated Harvard that season, Rittgers was on the throwing end of the miraculous diving, one-handed 38-yard grab by Andrew Hall '05 on third down and 28 that set up a Rittgers rushing touchdown to put the game out of reach.

Dartmouth will also lose the leading kickoff returner in College history. After handling return duties for four years, Steve Jensen '05 has gained 1,802 yards, shattering the previous record of 1,376 set by Chris Pollard '89. As a freshman in 2001, Jensen, who also plays cornerback, set the single season kickoff return record of 771 yards.

With so many players concluding long and productive Dartmouth careers, Saturday will certainly be an emotional day for Dartmouth players, coaches and fans.

"It's going to be very sad for us seniors when we walk off of Memorial Field in uniform for the last time," Gargiulo said. "We have dedicated ourselves every day to Dartmouth football and it will be tough to let go."

A win against one of the top teams in the Ivy League, especially after a difficult season, however, would make for a grand departure. And head coach Buddy Teevens thinks that an inspired effort from the seniors could make that possible.

"[The seniors] have been very consistent for us through the course of the year," Teevens told reporters. "They've given a bunch already, and I expect nothing less than that this weekend, If they do that, it'll give us a chance to finish on a positive note."

Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. at Memorial Field Saturday. Dartmouth leads the historical series 42-38-4. In their last meeting a year ago, Princeton defeated the Big Green 17-10 last season in Princeton. The game can be heard on WDCR (1340 AM) and WFRD (99.3 FM).