By Maximillian C. Burgos
The football team struggled at home against Christopher Newport University, losing 38-13 on annual Senior Day. This week was riddled with adversity for the Lions as they lost their beloved offensive lineman coach, Donny Klein. Nevertheless, the Lions took the field and played their hearts out.
“Coach said just win the day,” said senior offensive lineman Michael Garcia. “Just win the day. Just to be out there ready to compete means we’ve already won the day.”
The Lions received the ball first and drove the ball down the field. Freshman quarterback Dave Jachera hit junior wide receiver Jack Clevenger with a 47-yard bomb to get into the redzone on the fourth play of the drive. Fans erupted into cheers.
Newport’s defense held firm and kept the Lions out of the endzone, forcing the Lions to kick a field goal. Freshman kicker Alex DeLeo cashed in the chip shot field goal to give the Lions their only lead of the day.
Newport responded with a two-play 68-yard drive that ended in a touchdown. The first play was a dime over the middle to a wide open receiver and the second was a rainbow connection to a wide open receiver down the sideline. The Lions’ defense looked stilted.
“To be honest that was a damn good Christopher Newport football team,” said Head Coach Casey Goff. “They are doing a lot of good things, especially on the defense side of the ball and today their offense really stepped up. To be honest, a few of their guys, once you saw them in person, they were better than we anticipated.”
The Lions came back on their ensuing drive and tried to answer Newport’s big play ability with a score of their own. The drive was snuffed out, but the Lions were bailed out by a muffed punt, giving them the ball deep in Newport territory. The Lions tried to capitalize on the gaff, but were shut down by the imposing Newport defense.
The Lions shut down Newport’s next drive and made some more noise toward the end of the first quarter. Jachera evaded defenders, broke tackles and dashed 26 yards before the defense even knew what was coming. After a few plays that went nowhere, Jachera stepped up again, running for another 12 yards getting into the 10-yard line for his team. The Lions fizzled out and went backward before missing the field goal.
The team managed to force two turnovers before the half and kick another field goal, but Newport’s offensive aerial raid proved too much for the defense. Newport scored two touchdowns before the half, putting them ahead 21-6. The score before the half seemed to suck the life out of the Lions, as they took the field with a less than six seconds left to go in the half and with a little less pep in their step.
“When it was third and 15, I was battling with the decision to call the timeout or not,” Goff said. “I didn’t know if they were comfortable with letting the clock run down or not. I was like you know what? We are going to fight. We are going to go after this. So, I called the timeout. Unfortunately, it bit us in the butt and they scored. It is what it is, that’s the game of football.”
Newport came out of the half, gashing Lions left and right with long passing plays, putting the score out to 28-6. The Lions’ defense did seem to have more life in it as they tried valiantly to get after the quarterback and stop the bleeding, but it was not enough to quell the growing amount of yardage.
Sophomore quarterback Andrew Donoghue came into the game in the third quarter like a man on a mission. After a two-second gain up the middle on the ground, Donoghue uncorked a 48-yard missile to junior wide receiver Vinny Guckin, stunning Newport’s defense. On the next play, Donoghue found junior tight end Vince Ratamess for a 10-yard touchdown grab. That would be the last time the Lions would score.
Later in the quarter, Donoghue hooked up with Guckin again for another 19-yard gash through the air, but it was too little too late and Newport kept its foot on the gas pedal, scoring twice more before the game ended to push the score out to 38-13.
“This is what happens when you are dealing with a team that is still growing,” Goff said. “We had a couple of guys that we challenged early and they did eventually rise up to the challenge, but we got burned with things early on. I felt like we were prepared. I felt like we were ready to go. But I am going to be looking back and ask as a coaching staff what could we have done differently? What more could I have done? You should be thinking that after every loss, but this one was tough.”
Donoghue finished the game 10-for-16 with 132 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Jachera finished the game with a 76-yard passing, an interception and 45 yards rushing. Guckin had four catches for 81 yards while Clevenger had four grabs for 74 yards. Ratamess had three grabs for 40 yards and a touchdown.
Senior offensive lineman Ryan Signora reminisced on his time at the College playing football and felt nostalgic after playing his last home game.
“You really just have to take everything day by day,” Signora said. “You really don’t think about the coming but you should enjoy the time you have left. I wouldn’t trade my time here for anything. I loved my time here, I love the College, I love this team and I love the sport of football. I am grateful for the opportunities that have been afforded to me and I’m grateful for the opportunity to give it all I got one last time.”
The Lions will conclude their season when they travel to Buena Vista, Virginia on Saturday, Nov. 14th for a game against Southern Virginia University.