This week’s football game was a commanding victory for the Cards over the weak Hamilton squad that has yet to win a single game this season. However, the game was marred by four turnovers and 14 penalties, so while the Cardinals proved stronger than their opponents, there is clearly still room to improve. On the other side, the Red and Black defense pulled some impressive moves this week, allowing only nine points and 244 total yards of offense throughout the entire game. On defense, the player of the game was Shayne Kaminski ’18, who built on his game-winning interception last week with two sacks and two passes defended. On offense, Dario Highsmith ’20 ran for 95 yards on just 15 carries, scoring two touchdowns and providing the consistent run game that the team had been lacking the two weeks prior.
The first quarter started off well for both teams, as the Cardinals and the Continentals both scored field goals on their opening drives. In fact, a vital penalty gave Hamilton a first down when punting, allowing them to keep their drive going after a good defensive effort from the Dirty Birds. But Hamilton was forced to punt after only five plays on their next drive. The Red Birds capitalized, scoring on a 34-yard touchdown from Mark Piccirillo ’19 to Evan Hull ’19. Hamilton opened the last drive of the first quarter with a 42-yard pass to the Wesleyan 23-yard line, but thanks to a clutch sack by Jude Lindenberg ’19 and Brandon Morris ’19, the Continentals were forced to punt despite almost reaching the Wesleyan red zone.
The second quarter continued with strong defense from both sides; however, penalties were a substantial factor in giving each team chances to take control of the ball, since each of the first six drives ended in punts or turnovers. On their fourth drive, Wesleyan once again gave Hamilton a second chance after committing a penalty during an earlier punt. Despite forcing a fumble, the Cardinals did not recover, and they themselves had two turnovers while on offense. Thanks to an interception in a tough situation from Piccirillo, Hamilton started a drive on the Wesleyan 12-yard line and was able to score a touchdown, missing the extra point. With a strong kickoff return to their own 41 and solid, consistent production on offense, the Dirty Birds were able to score in just 50 seconds, taking a 17-9 lead towards the end of the second quarter. On the following Hamilton drive, Wesleyan forced a fumble but couldn’t recover. Despite getting the ball back with a punt, Piccirillo threw another pick and the Continentals came within three yards of scoring another touchdown before halftime.
Though the third quarter started a little rough with a few penalties but a good kickoff, the Cardinals made it into the end zone once again as Highsmith ran in another touchdown thanks to Hamilton’s penalties. Wesleyan was able to force Hamilton to punt and reached the Hamilton 25-yard line, but again committed a turnover near the red zone, missing a scoring opportunity after Mike Maggipinto ’20 coughed up the ball.
The fourth quarter almost started incredibly for the Cardinals, but an interception on the first play was negated by an offside call. The Continentals were forced to punt after only gaining 27 yards over eight plays. A strong punt and another penalty started the subsequent Wesleyan drive on their own 6-yard line. Through a balance of strong rushing between Piccirillo and Highsmith, a few short and accurate passes, and some fatal penalties by Hamilton, the Cardinals were able to march up the field 94 yards and score a 29-yard rushing touchdown by Highsmith. Hamilton picked up momentum in their final drive of the game but threw a pick to Ben Thaw ’20, sealing a victory for the Dirty Birds.
Throughout the game, Wesleyan committed key penalties that gave Hamilton second chances on offense and gave up turnovers in the red zone, which changed this game from being a convincing victory to a game that was closer than it should have been. The Cardinals will need to improve their discipline and ball management for future success, as the last two matches have been marred by unnecessary penalties and fumbles in key moments.
Next week, the Cardinals will be playing Colby, who are averaging just a shade over four points on offense, while allowing an average of 32 points per game on defense. The Cardinals hope to build on the successes of the past two weeks, as they continue to have a dependable running game between Piccirillo and Highsmith and have cut down on the turnovers that have held them back thus far.
Jacques Slaughter can be reached at email@example.com.