Mark Tillotson – Staff Writer –
The Southern Owls football team started several freshmen with key players Jacob Jablonski, Vaughn Magee and Jerome Cunningham sidelined, apparently because of team-sanctioned suspensions.
Without these key contributors, the Owls made mistake after mistake against Assumption College and lost 44-0. The blowout drops their record to 2-6 overall and 2-4 in the NE-10 conference.
The offenses for both teams remained quiet until Assumption quarterback Bobby Jordan capped off an eight play drive with a six yard rushing touchdown halfway through the first quarter.
On the first play of the ensuing Owls’ drive, the shotgun snap sailed over the head of redshirt freshman quarterback Bobby Lippincott and was recovered by Assumption at the Owls’ one yard line. On first and goal, Jordan added another rushing touchdown just 19 seconds removed from his first one.
Things only got worse on Southern’s next drive. On a third and long, Lippincott fumbled the ball and Assumption recovered again deep inside Owls’ territory. On third and goal from the four yard line, Assumption scored again on an Adam Gruschow option play with two minutes and eleven seconds left in the first quarter.
The Owls got their first break of the game on the first play of the second quarter when Assumption was driving inside the Owls’ 10 yard line and sophomore defensive back Mike Dunkley recovered a fumble at the eight yard line. After back-to-back runs by sophomore running back Jack Mallis, Lippincott threw an interception on third and six.
The Owls, down 21-0, got the ball back at their own five yard line with about eight minutes left in the second quarter. On third down, Lippincott fumbled in his own end zone and the Assumption defense recovered for a touchdown.
Coach Rich Cavanaugh said he didn’t know why Lippincott struggled so much.
“It might have been nerves,” Cavanaugh said. “He had a good week of practice but I don’t know; I don’t have an answer for you.”
Although Lippincott struggled in the first half, Cavanaugh said he tried to encourage him at half time.
“I just told him to relax,” Cavanaugh said. “What’s behind you is behind you and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
However, Lippincott’s nightmarish game continued. On the next drive, he again fumbled. Assumption recovered but this time couldn’t capitalize on the mistake, as they missed a field goal attempt with just a few minutes left in the half.
Assumption added a field goal early in the third quarter. The Owls took over, this time with true freshman quarterback Michael Eckrote leading the offense.
Eckrote would play the rest of the game but like Lippincott, couldn’t get anything going for the Owls.
Early in the fourth quarter, Lippincott fumbled at his own 14 yard line and Assumption recovered. Mike Dunkley would get an interception on Assumption’s next drive but the Owls couldn’t take advantage of it.
Later in the quarter, Eckrote fumbled again. It was recovered by Assumption defensive lineman Quint Preston and returned 78 yards for Assumption’s final score of the game.
The Owls fumbled seven times total, losing six. The passing game was also nonexistent; the two quarterbacks combined for just three completions for 49 yards, making maybe their best offensive weapon Willie Epps a non-factor. On defense, Zac Williams was a bright spot with nine tackles.
The road doesn’t get any easier for the Owls, who will next play at the University of New Haven, who is currently ranked third in all of Division II.