By Jared Prenda
The scoreboard showed a much closer game than what was actually played as the CUA Cardinals held off the Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets to win 25-20 this past weekend. The Saturday, September 16th win at Cardinal Stadium brings the team’s record to 2-1 before they debut in the NEWMAC Conference against MIT. The win is the team’s second straight upset, with Randolph-Macon standing as the reigning ODAC Champions.
Catholic was the first team to find the scoreboard as they faced off against its former ODAC foe. The defense set the tone for the game on the Yellow Jackets’ first drive, with senior defensive end and captain Pat Vidal forcing a crucial 3rd down fumble on Randolph-Macon’s own 26-yard line. Sophomore quarterback Alejandro Ros took over immediately for his team, capitalizing on the turnover on a 21-yard run followed by a 4-yard run to bring the team to edge of the endzone. Junior tailback Nick Esposito punched in the game’s first score on an acrobatic dive over the pile up on the goal line.
Both sides of the ball were firing on all cylinders for the Cards as they faced off against their former ODAC rival. Ros had a monster day for the home team, passing for 265 yards and connecting with 6 different receivers for 3 touchdowns. Ros also lead the team in rushing with 52 yards on 6 carries.
The Catholic defense continued to frustrate the Yellow Jackets for most of the game, keeping their opponents scoreless for the first 37 minutes of the game. The team racked up 4 sacks, 2 fumbles with 2 recoveries, 2 interceptions, 6 deflected passes, and 6 tackles for loss. They were led by Vidal, who added to his impressive senior year with 11 tackles, 3.5 for loss, 3 sacks, a forced fumble and recovery, as well as breaking up one pass. His performance earned him his second straight NEWMAC Defensive Athlete of the Week award.
First year head coach Mike Gutelius is more than pleased with the performance of his team, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
“We work very hard at emphasizing the game-changing nature of forcing turnovers and this team has really taken that message to heart. Our defensive coordinator, coach Bachman, has had terrific plans for our last 2 opponents and I am looking forward to seeing how well we execute the next game plan against MIT,” Gutelius said. “With that said, our offense improved by a large margin as well and that is also vital to our growth as a program.”
Cornerback Isaiah Snead was another standout performer for the defense, by breaking up two potential Yellow Jackets touchdowns. The first came on an impressive pick in the endzone, followed by a broken up pass to save the game for the Cards. The junior finished the day with 2 interceptions, 2 breakups and 3 tackles, earning him D3football.com National Team of the Week honors.
The team continued its dominance into the second half, when Randolph-Macon made a late push by scoring halfway through the third and twice in the fourth quarter. Scoring their third touchdown in the game late with only 2:18 to play, the Yellow Jackets attempted an onside kick which failed when junior hands team member Andrew Lunarola caught the line drive kick to seal the game.
The Cards make their NEWMAC debut next week as they host the MIT Engineers at Cardinal Stadium on Saturday, September 23rd. The game will conclude the Cards’ three game home stretch. The team has won their last two and have had strong showings in each, but they remain wary of their opponents.
“Opening with a premier school like MIT highlights many of the reasons we are glad to be a part of the NEWMAC,” Gutelius said. “As to this game specifically, MIT is a tough program. Just a couple of years ago they were undefeated and made it to the 2nd round of the national playoffs. They have some very talented young men that are going to force us to play our best to have a chance. However, one of the lessons we are driving home this season is that success lies in worrying about improving yourself, and consequently the team. So our focus is on us, not our opponent.”