2019 football captains named following Green-White game
The Green-White football game featured a talented squad that hopes to build on last year's 9-1 record.
We are still several months away from Sept. 21, when the Dartmouth football team will travel to Florida for its first game of the season at Jacksonville University. But while the team’s first official game is still far off, the culmination of the Big Green’s spring practices arrived last week in its annual Green-White spring football game.
The game saw the offense and defense battle with no live tackling but full contact until the whistle ended the point. Both the offense and defense demonstrated some positives. Quarterback Derek Kyler ’21 completed a whopping 16 of his 17 passes for a touchdown and no turnovers, but the defense surrendered just the one touchdown and three field goals on the day.
The defense picked up right where it left off from last season. The unit was a huge reason for the team’s 9-1 record, never allowing more than 24 points in a game, pitching two shutouts and holding the Big Green’s opponents to 14 points or fewer in seven of its 10 games.
The defensive group will look different in 2019 without safety Ky McKinney-Crudden TH ’19 and four of the team’s eight leading tacklers, but the Big Green has plenty of remaining defensive talent to keep the unit as strong as it was last season, according to linebacker Jack Traynor ’19.
“Defensively, we have a lot of guys who have played a lot of snaps and have been in a lot of different situations,” Traynor said. “[They] know how to carry themselves, how to prepare and how to perform.”
Retaining Traynor will be huge for the Big Green; he has experience as a captain from this past season and was reelected to the role as a fifth-year senior. But unlike last season, he will only be accompanied by one other captain: cornerback Isiah Swann ’20. Last season, McKinney-Crudden and offensive lineman Matt Kaskey ’19 joined Traynor for a typical group of three captains, but this year’s vote pointed to having two captains.
“It was a dispersed vote, with 20 players getting votes,” head coach Buddy Teevens ’79 said. “We revoted, and Jack and Isiah were appreciably higher.”
Swann was not a captain last season but certainly made his presence felt by leading the Football College Subdivision with a remarkable nine interceptions, including three in one game against the College of the Holy Cross en route to multiple first-team All-American honors. He is also known for being a sure tackler, posting 39 last season, a high number for a defensive back.
Swann said being named captain is a tremendous honor largely because it represents how much he has grown from being just one of many talented freshmen to a primary leader of the team.
“If you would’ve told me four years ago that I would’ve been [a Dartmouth football captain], there’s no way I would’ve believed you,” Swann said. “It’s an incredible feeling to have my teammates, who I’ve grown with for the last few years, nominate me as a group.”
With these two superstars and other solid returning players such as linebacker Nigel Alexander ’20, defensive lineman Jackson Perry ’19 and cornerback DeWayne Terry Jr. ’21, all of whom matched or exceeded the 35-tackle threshold last season, the defense should be in good shape. In its first test during the Green-White game, the defense bent but did not break, giving up just one touchdown and holding the offense to three field goals.
“I think we were a little slow coming out, partially because we weren’t able to tackle,” Swann said. “But we picked it up in the middle and the end and played how we were supposed to play. We looked pretty solid.”
With Swann and Traynor both defensemen, the Big Green did not elect an offensive captain, which is relatively unusual. However, Teevens established a leadership group consisting of rising seniors, several of whom are offensive players, who he believes are poised to represent the team well on and off the field. Teevens noted that some of the players from the group played a key role in the team’s groundbreaking decision to hire coach Callie Brownson, the first full-time female coach in Division I football.
“I try to identify guys who will represent us well on campus,” Teevens said of how he formed the group. “If there are issues we have, I’ll ask for advice or suggestions from these guys. We have eight to 10 minds who can go back to their teammates and let them see some of the decision-making processes I might make.”
Dartmouth finished second in the Ivy League with a stellar average of 34 points per game last year, and it finished the season strong with 35 and 49 points in its last two games against Cornell University and Brown University, respectively. All of this happened with a sophomore quarterback primarily at the helm, which should mean more offensive success as Kyler matures in his junior season.
Last season, Kyler led an efficient, ball-control offense throughout the season. In a run-heavy offense, he only averaged 17.7 passing attempts per game, yet he still managed 13 touchdown tosses while being intercepted just twice.
His greatest strengths were playing turnover-free football and completing most of his passes, and he built on those trends in the spring game. While the sample size of 17 passes was small, he greatly exceeded his conference-leading completion percentage of 68.9 percent from last year without throwing an interception.
“That may have been his best outing of the spring,” Teevens said.
While the passing game was efficient last year, the Big Green certainly relied more heavily on its ground game. Overall, the team had 442 rushes on the season, more than doubling its league-low total of 212 pass attempts. The team will return its leading rusher in Jared Gerbino ’20, a quarterback who is known for running the ball in a Wildcat-style offense. Losing primary running back Rashaad Cooper ’19 will be a tough blow, but Caylin Parker ’20 played well in the spring game and appears ready to shoulder the load, according to Teevens.
Dartmouth had a great deal of success on the ground last season, but in order to duplicate that success in the 2019 campaign, many new players will have to emerge on the offensive line. If the spring game is any indication, the unit is poised for another big season, as Teevens was pleased with what he saw from it.
Zach Sammartino ’19, who is also a part of the leadership group, had a solid outing as the anchor of the offensive line. Teevens also praised a couple of freshmen John Paul Flores ’22 and Calvin Atkeson ’22 who appear to have bright futures in the trenches.
The expectations are high for the running game, but with a more experienced quarterback and two of the team’s top three receivers from last season in Hunter Hagdorn ’20 and Drew Estrada ’20, Teevens is expecting improvement from the aerial attack.
“We need to expand our pass game this year,” Teevens said. “We’ve been running the football well. Mixing and matching our schemes will be critical.”
Looking forward, the team will finish up lifting and running in the spring term before transitioning to the summer, Teevens said. Rising juniors will stay on campus to train while most of the team will train separately, according to Teevens, and the team will reunite in mid-August in hopes of achieving one common goal.
“There’s one thing that keeps eluding me, and that’s an Ivy League championship,” Swann said. “That’s the main goal.”