Swann, Traynor lead way for championship-hungry football team
Co-captain Jack Traynor ’19 will anchor the Big Green defense at the linebacker position.
The Big Green football team has unfinished business to take care of this fall after narrowly missing the Ivy League title one season ago. After winning its first seven games of the 2018 season, Dartmouth fell to the Tigers of Princeton University, who went on to win the conference championship. With many key players returning, the Big Green will look to win its first Ivy title since 2015.
The defense returns five all-conference players, led by co-captains cornerback Isiah Swann ’20 and linebacker Jack Traynor ’19. The defense was stellar a year ago, allowing an average of 12 points per game and 4.1 yards per play. Swann described the identity of the defense as tough and nasty.
“We’re always going to outhustle you,” Swann said. “I think we strike fear in a lot of our opponents.”
Swann is currently tied for the program record with 13 career interceptions. He was named to the STATS FCS Preseason All-America First Team and is on the watch list for the Buck Buchanan Award. Despite the accolades and records, Swann said he will not feel any added pressure.
“I just honestly want to do everything I can to help us win games and an Ivy League championship,” he said.
While Swann and Traynor will lead the defense, the Big Green offense will return its two-quarterback system featuring Derek Kyler ’21 and Jared Gerbino ’20.
Expectations for both signal callers are high. Kyler is on the watch list for College Football Performance Awards FCS Performer of the Year, and Gerbino spent a week this summer at the Manning Passing Academy under the direction of National Football League superstars Peyton and Eli Manning. Gerbino said he learned a lot about leadership and enjoyed working with some of the most promising quarterbacks in the country.
“It was awesome to try to see just how close you are to some of these guys who are literally Heisman candidates,” Gerbino said.
The offensive line will be tested early in the season, as guard Zach Sammartino ’19 is the only returning starter up front. Gerbino said he expects the team to continue its success of a year ago with strong play on both offense and defense.
The dual-quarterback system of Kyler and Gerbino was successful last season. Kyler was extremely accurate, ranking third nationally with a 69 percent completion percentage. Gerbino, who runs plays out of the wildcat system, rushed for over six yards per rushing attempt. Gerbino said he expects the unique offense to be difficult to defend again.
“It’s not a common thing you see in football,” he said. It has an aggressive tone to it, and it’s hard to gameplan for.”
Swann said that the team must continue to play its own style of Dartmouth football.
“Just big, tough, nasty, physical football,” he said.
Gerbino said the team had its best set of preseason practices he has seen in his time with the Big Green. He said the offense feels fluid and has faced a good test by challenging the Big Green defense during each practice. He added that a lot of the younger players are learning plays quicker than in previous years.
Buddy Teevens ’79 is entering his 20th season as the Big Green head coach, and he sits four wins away from his 100th career victory.
The Big Green’s non-conference schedule includes a matchup between last season’s top-two FCS scoring defenses against Colgate University, a road trip to Marist College and its season opener on Saturday on the road against Jacksonville University.
Gerbino said he is looking for good execution in the week one matchup and hopes that the weeks of preseason preparation will pay off.
The team’s schedule also includes the annual games between all seven Ivy opponents, with home games against Yale University, Columbia University and Cornell University, and road tests at the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University and Brown University.
The marquee game of the season will be a November matchup between Dartmouth and Princeton in a celebration of 150 years of college football and Dartmouth’s 250th anniversary at Yankee Stadium in New York City. It will be the Big Green’s second game in a Major League Baseball stadium in the past three years. Dartmouth defeated Brown 33-10 at Fenway Park in 2017. Swann said he expects a great atmosphere in “The House that Ruth Built.”
“Not many people can say they’ve played at Fenway and Yankee Stadium,” he said.
While the venue of the game would make it special on its own, last year’s matchup, which served as the de facto conference championship game, adds extra motivation for the Big Green. Gerbino said he is excited for another opportunity to face the Tigers.
“It’s going to be a little bit of a revenge tour,” he said.