After losing their first three games by an average of 31 points, the Grinnell football team was ready to put their losing ways to rest. Thankfully, they did just that with a convincing 28-20 triumph over visiting Lawrence University.
Fed up with the mounting losses, the seniors of the team stepped up. With 1:19 left in the first quarter, Henry Cummings ’16 scored on a 67-yard touchdown pass from fellow senior Sam Poulos ’16. The play was the longest passing play for the Pioneers this season.
The next quarter the Pioneers truly brought the fireworks. With 3:05 remaining in the half, Emmi Sandoval ’16, yet another senior, returned a kickoff for 94 yards. The play was good for the longest return in Grinnell College history. While Sandoval was happy to get his name in the record books, he was happier for the team to get the victory.
“[The record’s] cool – it’s one way to be remembered, but … it feels better to get the win and to actually produce something that was able to help the team,” Sandoval said.
Head coach Jeff Pedersen ’02 was not surprised at the effort and results produced by this year’s senior class.
“Offensively, that’s been the story. The three senior receivers – between Greg [Ruzich ’16], Henry and Emmi – they’ve all three had great starts to the season,” Pedersen said. “Of course, Sam has been starting since his first year, and he’s having the best start of his career I think.”
Sandoval was happy that he and his fellow seniors were able to shine against Lawrence.
“We, as seniors, having such a small team and having a lot of incoming freshmen getting a lot of playing time, I think it does help for [us all] to step up and make those plays,” Sandoval said.
Grinnell’s other two scores came on a 19-yard touchdown reception by Jacob Bernholtz ’17 and a 4-yard run by Carson Dunn ’18.
Lawrence University would fight their way back to within one score in the fourth quarter, but a spirited defensive effort by Grinnell stopped Lawrence at their own 35-yard line, giving Grinnell their first victory of the year.
“In the second half the defense was on the field almost the whole time and that’s asking a lot of them. They only gave up two field goals,” Pedersen said.
Pedersen noted that Lawrence’s comparable size team to Grinnell was to the Pioneers’ advantage. The previous teams Grinnell had played all had much larger rosters. Grinnell is on the smaller side for a football team with just 34 active players, however, Pedersen did note that, “it’s exciting because everyone on the roster has a role.”
Pedersen highlighted the play of two more seniors on defense: Ed Hardman ’16 and Barrett Morrissette ’16. Hardman and Morrissette had eight and six tackles respectively.
The Pioneers travel to Mount Vernon, Iowa next week to take on Cornell College.