Football ends on a loss
Sam Tapper — Sport Writer
Senior Day for any team is always filled with emotion from coaches, players and parents. Though emotions ran high for the Owls on their senior day, it was not enough, as they fell 34-20 to Pace University at Jess Dow Field.
With the loss, the Owls finished the season with a record of 2-8. With their record in mind, it was known that the game would indeed be the final ride for the seniors and the 2019 Owls’ season. With that being said, Owls’ head coach Tom Godek said that once the clock hit zero, it was on to next season.
“There’s a lot of talk throughout the year of a shorter group of seniors in this class,” Godek said, “and a lot of kids played; a lot of kids got experience. If those kids can come on out and continue to build academically, athletically — we have a lot of work to do in the offseason for sure, but we feel like we’ve made some strides with experience and getting some game time.”
Given the circumstances, the Owls came out of the gates with a lot of energy, as, to start the game, their defense recovered a fumble and forced a punt in their first two series.
Their offense could not get going though, and on their third defensive series, the Setters opened the scoring in the first quarter with a 43yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Carlton Aiken complete to senior receiver Darius Jones.
From that moment on, Pace took over the driver’s seat. The Setters scored again in their first possession of the second quarter, this time on a fiveyard rushing touchdown from graduate student Jhalen Bien-Aime to make it 13-0. The Owls’ offense continued to struggle as balls were dropped by receivers and their quarterback, freshman Jackson Ostrowsky, was ultimately just 4-16 passing with 32-yards at halftime.
“A few coverages changed, possibly,” said Godek. “Pace’s defensive line played well; we missed a couple of things at times there. It was a culmination of a lot of things.”
After the halftime break, Pace came out swinging once again, as they were able to extend their lead even further, leaving the Owls trying to climb their way out of a 27-0 hole.
The Owls were able to get on the board late in the third quarter on a touchdown pass from Ostrowsky to graduatestudent receiver Brandon Swain-Price to make it 27-7.
Pace’s Aiken finished the night 14-20 with 251 passing yards and two touchdowns. Aiken would also rush for 40-yards and two touchdowns. His top receiver, Jones, finished with both receiving touchdowns and 152 receiving yards on nine catches. Their running back, Bien-Aime, tallied a whopping 210 yards on 33 carries. He was never tackled for a loss.
“We just tried to keep our heads up,” said redshirt-senior defensive back Kyle Armour. “Tried and limit those big plays, we were getting them to third down, but we just weren’t getting the job done on third down. When we let them convert and make big plays, that’s what the outcome is going to be.”
For Armour, this was his final collegiate-football game. Though he said he did not know how to feel yet, the final moment with his teammates is something he won’t forget.
“I’m going to be honest, it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Armour said. “I’m still feeling all of the emotions — excitement because I’m surrounded by all my brothers, but I’m sad, I’m going to miss this. Great family, great bond, and when you’re around everybody for four, five years, it really hits the heart and means a lot.”
For Swain-Price, who finished with 86 receiving yards, he caught another touchdown late in the fourth quarter on an Odell Beckham-like catch; however, the game was all-but over by that point, as the score was 34-14 with under nine-minutes to play.
Despite being at Southern for just one year after transferring from Assumption, the Owls’ leading receiver Swain-Price was filled with emotion after the game, giving nothing but praise to Southern for the opportunity he was given.
“I want to thank the organization for bringing me here,” said Swain-Price with a smile. “I’ve made many catches like that, for sure, but this one was special because it was here, my last play, my last catch of my college career, so that was special to me. I won’t ever forget that.”
The Owls were able to put one final score on the board in the last second of the game, as Ostrowsky found junior receiver John Wells open in the end zone to make the final score 3420. After the game, players, coaches, friends and family of the graduating seniors came onto the field in support of the senior class as hugs were given and emotions ran high from everybody.
“It’s just memories that you’ll never forget,” said senior tight end Mike Howell. “It’s lessons that you could never have imagined you would learn. One day, down the road, you’ll be doing something, and it’s going to make you think of football. Football directly correlates to life in a lot of ways, so the experiences and the opportunities you get to learn about life through football is what’s truly amazing.”
As many seniors played out their final collegiate games, redshirt-senior quarterback Matt Sanzaro did the same, however only as his team’s holder. Though he wasn’t under center like he had been throughout most of his career, the captain still was able to help lead his team one final time.
“I really don’t even have words for it,” Sanzaro said. “I love this game; I love this program, the coaching staff, the kids on the team. I can’t even begin to describe it. I just love it here; it’s home.”
Photo credit: Hunter O. Lyle