Sometimes things don’t end as well as you’d hoped. That’s certainly what happened with the Lions’ season this year, as they lost their final game 26-0 to Rowan University in a disheartening finish to what was an up-and-down season.
The Lions (4-6, 3-5) entered the game hoping to play spoiler for the Profs, who were fighting for a playoff spot. Those hopes quickly faded, as Rowan’s punishing run game kept them in the driver’s seat for most of the game, while the College struggled to put anything together on the offensive end.
For the seniors playing in their final game, however, the end result wasn’t as important as the journey they took to get there.
“Great season,” senior quarterback Dan Dugan said. “It was amazing, playing with a team like this. Good coaches, great friendships, that’s really all I can take from this.”
The final game for the seniors was the highlight of the night, as before the game every member of the team’s senior class headed to the center of the field for the opening coin toss, the friendship among the group apparent as they grasped hands to form a solid line facing down the opposition.
The seniors were also announced and honored during halftime, and when the game had already fallen beyond the Lions’ reach, the seniors who typically backed up the starters got their chances to play one last time.
During the game itself, there wasn’t much chance for positive emotion, as Rowan controlled play from the opening kick. The Profs dominated the stat sheet, holding possession of the ball for 39:51, nearly double the Lions’ 20:09. The scoring began with 11:45 left in the second quarter with a 7-yard touchdown thrown by senior quarterback Louie Bianchini to senior wide receiver Dan Reed, and continued in the first half with an 86-yard touchdown thrown by Bianchini to junior wide receiver Warren Oliver with 2:32 remaining.
The Lions’ best efforts of the first half came from the play of their special teams, who blocked both extra points in that half (one each by senior Thomas Hoppe and junior Jeffrey Adubato), as well as a punt. The College also saw strong play from senior punter/kicker Derick Hughes (despite a missed field goal from 38 yards, the Lions’ only scoring opportunity).
The Lions couldn’t get into an offensive rhythm, however, finishing with just 167 yards of total offense to Rowan’s 451.
Rowan put the game away in the second half, scoring on running plays of six and 47 yards by freshman running back Withler Marcelin and Bianchini, respectively.
Once the fourth quarter began, it became clear that the College would not be able to come back, so the players began playing more for pride than outright victory. Senior wide receiver Glenn Grainger had the biggest play of game during the fourth, a 23-yard catch from Dugan.
“By that point, I think we were down by three possessions, so it was just about going out there and playing, try to finish it on a high note” Grainger said.
The seniors looked back on the season after the game, and had nothing but praise for their teammates.
“I had a good time,” Grainger said. “It was a good group of guys here. It’s a good team.”
The Lions also finished the year entering the record books, with senior running back Justin Doniloski tying the record for most receptions during a season with 64 in all. Dugan ended his career at the college with records in most completions in a game (34), most attempts in a game (50), completions in a season (260), attempts in a season (419) and yards in a season (2,392).
Overall though, the players were not as concerned with the record books as they were with the team.
“Yeah, I broke some records, but I’d rather win.” Dugan said.
In the end, it all came back to the team.
“I’d just like to thank all my teammates for making me stick through it all these years,” Dugan said.
Those words are an ending the Lions can certainly be proud of.