Cardinals Beat McDaniel 45-28 in Season Opener
Matt Snow, Tower Staff
September 7, 2012
Filed under Sports
At first glance one may ask, “How can a team get much tanner during a football game at 7:00 on a Friday night?”
Tanner Keefe, preseason all-American wideout, has the answer. “My quarterback was on point, and the McDaniel defense had to worry about four other great receivers,” said Keefe after his six catches for 45 yards and two touchdowns performance. After dealing with several nagging injuries during preseason, Keefe did not miss a beat and had McDaniel feeling an uncommon type of Tanner this past weekend.
The Cardinals started off the season the way they wanted to with a big 45-28 victory. With the win already under their belt, Catholic U faces cross-town rival Gallaudet University Friday night. Despite the Cards’ flourishing on the field, empty seats were visible at last Friday’s football game.
Despite Keefe’s heroics, the opening victory would not have been possible without a star performance from Greg Cordivari. From the get-go, Cordivari came out firing with a 63-yard bomb to Alonzo Cooke on the third play of the game that had fans going wild. Cooke capped off the drive with a stunning reception in the end zone that gave the Cards a quick lead and left spectators wondering, “How did he do that?”
The momentum continued as linebacker Joe Tretter started off his senior season in spectacular fashion by bringing the pain to an innocuous McDaniel running back on the first defensive play of the Cards’ season. Tretter recorded a tackle for a four-yard loss.
After a McDaniel field goal that brought the score to 7-3, Cooke smelled the end zone again. After coming up with a beautiful pass from Cordivari, Cooke showed no mercy on his way to the end zone, breaking what should have been an easy tackle and turning the reception into a 53-yard touchdown.
McDaniel quickly responded, cutting the lead to 14-10 before placekicker Brian Gongaware boosted the Cards with a 32-yard boot that extended CUA’s lead to 17-10.
McDaniel showed resilience by scoring another touchdown despite missing the extra point kick, bringing the score to 17-16. After a crucial stop on 3rd and 6 by Catholic defensemen Conor Stueckler and Mark D’annibale, McDaniel was forced to punt, giving the Cardinals one last chance to score before halftime. Cordivari, as expected, showed brilliant poise as the first half came to a close, hitting Keefe on a four-yard touchdown pass that gave the Cards momentum entering halftime.
Stueckler was all over the place in the first half on defense, recording a mind-boggling nine tackles by halftime.
“The D-line did a great job keeping the lineman off me so that I could roam free,” said Stueckler after his 11 overall tackle game. “Having Vinnie Cortese and Rob Schaetzl, eat up so many blockers in the middle means a lot to me and I strongly appreciate their efforts,” said Stueckler, who showed tremendous leadership during a nail-biting first half that had the entire team on the edge of their seats with every McDaniel score.
Coach Dave Dunn led the Cardinals into the locker room, confident in his team and yet utterly dissatisfied with the first half performance. After a few coaching conversations and halftime adjustments by the defense, Dunn concluded this halftime meeting with a fiery oration that had the Cardinals ready to strike in the second half.
Tucker Hubbell, another CUA receiver, made several substantial contributions on special teams with three big tackles. Hubbell made a huge tackle on the second half’s opening kickoff that prevented a huge gain for the McDaniel return team. In addition to Hubbell’s efforts, Jeremy Shiner showed fearlessness on special teams while Zolen Rodriguez was all over the place on defense as well, tallying up six tackles, one for a loss.
After a quick three and out, McDaniel was set to punt. Little did McDaniel know that they would soon feel the power—Ben Powers, that is. In a true swing of momentum that eventually led the Cards to victory, Powers busted through the line and blocked an attempted McDaniel punt before linebacker Drew Papas found the ball in the end zone and recovered it for a stunning touchdown as the Cardinals cashed in on huge plays from Powers and Papas.
“I treat every play like it’s my last,” said Powers in a postgame interview.
McDaniel tried to regain momentum by making a formidable drive downfield, all of which was negated by a fantastic break on the ball and interception by Cardinal safety Ryan Klein.
The Cardinal offense struck again at the beginning of the fourth quarter when Keefe made a highlight- reel catch in the corner of the end zone for his second touchdown of the evening, giving the Cardinals a 31-16 lead.
McDaniel answered again with a 60-yard touchdown that cut the lead to 31-22 after a failed two point conversion.
With a little over five minutes to go in the game, Mike Pittsenberger punched in a backbreaking fifth offensive score for the Cards, giving them a huge 45-22 lead and peace of mind. Pittsenberger’s path may not have been as easy if not for a big effort from the offensive line. With Coach Kevin Barger at their side, Kenny Meyer, Mike O’Shea, David Trancynger, Mike Zolfo, Eric Hrynczyszyn and Cam Kurtz all contributed to a rugged romping of the McDaniel defense that allowed Cordivari and company to shine. Although they may not appear in the box score, these offensive linemen are the engine that makes this Cardinals car run.
“We didn’t win the game on Friday night, we won the game in the off season by getting in the weight room and working hard. Now the results are just showing up on the scoreboard,” said Kenny Meyer after the game. The offensive line gave up zero sacks the entire game, keeping Cordivari properly protected.
One more late McDaniel touchdown brought the score to 45-28. The Cards then proceeded to let the clock strike zero on offense and finished their first contest with a W. After the victory, Dunn quickly brought to his players’ attention that the team must move on and focus on their next opponent.
Drew Papas solidified his performance with two tackles for a loss, including a forced fumble in the fourth quarter that eventually led to him being named ODAC Player of the Week. Papas took advantage of several opportunities and posted a stupendous stat line that led to much recognition.
“It was truly a team effort, I couldn’t have done this without my teammates,” said a humble Papas after the game.
Kevin Ross and Pat Thomas both had huge nights on defense, finishing with nine tackles apiece including a tackle for a loss by Ross. Timbo McGarry aided Klein in the secondary support with two nearly intercepted pass breakups. Troy Robinson had a highlight reel run and catch that a coach described afterward as “running over their entire team.” Brian Gongaware and long snapper Garrett Norris teamed up to give the Cardinals a perfect seven for seven on PAT’s and field goals throughout the night.
Although the Catholic University Cardinals certainly showed up on the field Friday night, there were hundreds of unoccupied seats in the stands. Although a less-than-expected crowd showed up, the Cardinals faithful who showed up to the game on Friday night showed tremendous support for their beloved football team. Seeing is believing, and once these fans saw how talented this football team is, they couldn’t help but cheer their hearts out.
The Cardinals will take on the Gallaudet University Bison on Friday at 7:00 pm at Cardinals Stadium.