Football team opens season with win against Stetson University

| 9/18/17 2:10am

After finishing last season with a 4-6 overall record, the football team traveled to Florida to play Stetson University.

by Tiffany Zhai / The Dartmouth

The Big Green football team opened its season with a 38-7 victory against Stetson University on Saturday night at Spec Martin Memorial Stadium in DeLand, Florida.

“It was great to get the first victory and do it on the road,” co-captain and starting quarterback Jack Heneghan ’18 said. “Last year, we opened up at home and so to open on the road and win was a good experience and one we want to use going forward.”

Earlier in the week, however, it was not clear whether the game would even be played. The threat of Hurricane Irma devastating the state put a question mark on the entire team’s trip to Florida.

“At the beginning of the week, we worried if we would even play the game because we didn’t really know the damage and how the land surrounding the stadium was,” linebacker Eric Meile ’18 said.

Elsewhere in Florida, college football programs had their practices and games postponed or moved as a result of the storm. The University of Central Florida was scheduled to play the Georgia Institute of Technology, but the game was cancelled after UCF’s Spectrum Stadium was refashioned as a staging area during the cleanup effort. The University of Miami and Florida State University were unable to practice last week until their campuses were reopened. The University of Florida’s campus in Gainesville, Florida survived the storm with no major damage and hosted its matchup against the University of Tennessee on Saturday. Fortunately, Stetson avoided the brunt of the storm as well.

“Everything seemed pretty clear where we were at,” running back Ryder Stone ’18 said. “You could clearly see the damage from the hurricane, but there was a big cleanup effort in the area and the game was a rallying point for the community so it was nice to see a big turnout there.”

The season opener was an impressive effort on both offensive and defensive fronts. The defensive line held the Stetson attack to just 94 offensive yards over the course of the game, including a net loss of three yards on 26 carries, while the offensive line and running backs drove the attack on offense.

“Our linebackers played really well, swarming to the ball; everyone was flying around to the ball making it difficult for the Stetson offense,” Meile said. “Our [defensive backs] also played very well in coverage — all around, on all levels of the defense, everyone played very well and made it difficult for Stetson to make any plays, and we held them to seven points which is great.”

The Big Green got off to a slow start, highlighted by two fumbles in the first quarter that fortunately did not have any negative consequences. After a scoreless first quarter, running back Rashaad Cooper ’19 rushed for 10 yards to get the Big Green on the board. Stetson was quick to respond and tied the game at seven apiece. A 25-yard field goal by David Smith ’18 put the Big Green up 10-7 at halftime.

In the second half, the Dartmouth offense came alive. Immediately after halftime, the Big Green got off on the right foot with a nine-play, 71-yard drive to the end zone culminating in a quick one-yard run by Jared Gerbino ’20. On the next drive, Heneghan found senior tight end Cam Poole ’18 in the end zone for a touchdown, putting the Big Green in front 24-7. The touchdown was the first of Poole’s career as well as his first catch.

Later in the third quarter, defensive back D.J. Avery ’20 intercepted a Stetson pass at the Dartmouth 30-yard line into the endzone for a pick-six. Running back Matthew Shearin ’19 put the finishing on the offensive attack with a 16-yard carry to put the Big Green up 38-7.

“The running game was huge in this game — the credit goes to the offensive line and the running backs,” Heneghan said. “Having those guys makes it pretty fun for the quarterback, so it was great to see all of those guys have such a huge day.”

Indeed, the Big Green came in knowing that the focus of its attack would be the running game.

“We came in knowing that they were a younger team and that they hadn’t had the best start of the season,” Stone said. “We did our study on film and saw that we could run the ball against them and other teams had had success against them doing that in the past, and that kind of turned into our game plan for yesterday.”

After a long night of travel, the team returned to campus at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday with areas to improve.

“We want to pay more attention to detail on some of our assignments and continue to execute on offense,” Heneghan said. “We were still rusty on Saturday.”

The Florida trip also provided an opportunity for team bonding.

“We had a great time Friday, we had the opportunity to go see the beach for a little bit and go play in the water for a minute,” Stone said. “So we just had some good time to just bond with the team before the game.”

The Big Green will face the College of the Holy Cross this Saturday in Hanover.

“Holy Cross is a very good football team — they beat a very good University of New Hampshire team [on Saturday],” Meile said. “And they have a very good quarterback, so they’ll be throwing the ball a lot so we have to play very well in the back end and coverage. If everyone does their job and we play 11-as-1, we should be successful.”

Kickoff against Holy Cross is at 7:00 p.m. at Memorial Field.