November 13, 2007

Football runs its way to season-ending win

In the class of 2008’s final performance on Stagg Field, the Maroons played as close to a perfect game as they have this season.

Zero punts, 576 total yards, 23 first downs, and a 51–6 victory over Eureka College had Chicago and its 15 graduating seniors holding their heads a little bit higher in the wake of a less-than-impressive year.

“Everyone smiles a little bit more [after a win like Saturday’s],” Coach Dick Maloney said.

Just three minutes and 16 seconds passed before the Maroons found their groove, with second-year kicker Ryan Verissimo hitting a 24-yard field goal, and the South Siders never looked back.

“After the first series, I knew it was going to be a great game,” fourth-year wide receiver Mike Albian said.

Freshman runningback Joe Steelman tacked on a 41-yard touchdown later in the first to give Chicago a 10–0 lead heading into the second quarter.

Eureka responded when Chris Wakid reached pay dirt from a yard out, pulling the Red Devils to within four before first-year Thomas Parks’s five-yard dash set the score at 17–6 at the half.

“It was a close game until halftime.  Eureka did a pretty good job on their scoring drive,” Maloney said.  “We made several adjustments at half…. We were dominant on all sides of the ball and started running roughshod all over them.  It ended up being a lot of fun.”

Just over a minute and a half into the second half, Parks traversed 50 yards for his second score of the day. Just over three minutes later, third-year quarterback John Kiernan reached the end zone on a 45-yard run.

Joining the fray later in the third, fourth-year receiver Mike Albian scored touchdowns of 22 and 53 yards to help the Maroons build a 45–6 lead by the end of the period.

Closing the day’s scoring, fourth-year runningback Mike Serio added six more for Chicago, setting up the Maroons’ 51–6 victory.

“Anytime you get 50-plus points, it means you’re controlling the game, moving the football,” Maloney said.

Leading the way with 152 yards on the ground, Parks joined Steelman, Kiernan, and Serio as Maroons with over 100 yards rushing on the day.

“The runningbacks had a great game,” Albian said. “If [Eureka] committed to stop the run, it was difficult to cover the receivers, and if they dropped back to cover the receivers, the runningbacks ran all over them.”

Albian hauled in three catches for 90 yards, and his two scores pushed him to 15 on his career, tying him for second on Chicago’s all-time list.

“It was nice to end my career this way, to walk away from the game with a good taste in my mouth. It would’ve been heartbreaking if we had lost,” Albian said. “It’s really nice to walk away on a good note.”

Saturday’s was Chicago’s biggest victory since September 9, 2006, when they defeated Concordia 55–0. That was also the last game in which the Maroons avoided punting for an entire game.

“No punts all day, that’s unheard of,” Maloney said. “I’ve coached 320 or 330 games.  It doesn’t happen very often.  Maybe one every eight or 10 years.”

The victory finished a season rife with injuries, offensive miscues, and inconsistency on both sides of the ball.

“In a few games we really saw what potential we had on offense, in other games the defense played well,” Albian said. “It was disappointing there weren’t more games where both sides came together.”

Chicago’s 33 turnovers this season greatly contributed to the Maroons’ winless October.

Still, Maloney said that he’s confident in the team’s future.  With 15 fourth-years departing and only eight third-years on the roster, Chicago will be a very young team for the next two years.

“We had a lot of first-time starters, especially on offense; they showed great promise,” Maloney said. “We have a very young football team.  A lot of the guys got the chance to play with some very dedicated seniors.  We’re very optimistic and excited about the offseason, recruiting, coming back.”