Sprint Football Falls to Chestnut Hill in Heartbreaking Fashion, 44-36
PRINCETON, N.J. – The Princeton University sprint football team closed out its 2015 campaign with a heartbreaking 44-36 loss to Chestnut Hill.
Storming back from a 16-point fourth quarter deficit, the Griffins pulled in front on an 85-yard Josean Perez fumble return for a touchdown with less than two minutes to play. Sealing the Tigers’ fate on the ensuing possession, Raevon Floyd-Bennett picked off a Chad Cowden deep ball before returning it 22 yards to the Chestnut Hill 38-yardline.
Serving as the engine for the Princeton offense all evening, Cowden completed 10-of-29 passes for 205 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Also the team’s leading rusher, Cowden picked up 83 yards on the ground with two scores. Patrick Yu led the Tigers’ receiving corps with four catches for 100 yards. Nick Barnett had a pair of receptions for 61 yards, while John Van Orden caught a 41-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Racking up a season-high 346 yards, Princeton featured a balanced attack that gained 205 yards through the air and 141 on the ground. The Tigers’ 36 points are the most scored by a Princeton team since the 1995 squad defeated Penn, 39-13.
Jumping out to an early lead, Cowden hit Yu for a 58-yard TD strike to cap off a four-play 75-yard drive on the game’s first possession. After Emmanuel Castaneda picked off Reginald Robinson Jr. on the Griffins’ first drive, Cowden again found a receiver downfield, this time hitting Van Orden for a 41-yard score that made it 14-0.
With Chestnut Hill finally getting its offense going after piecing together an eight-play, 72-yard scoring drive capped off by a 3-yard Robinson TD run, Princeton once again found the endzone. Ian Lawrie got things started with a 39-yard kickoff return before Cowden found Yu for a 15-yard gain. After a pair of off-setting penalties, Cowden called his own number, scrambling 33 yards for a score.
On top 20-14 in the latter stages of the first half, Princeton forced Chestnut Hill into a three-and-out deep in their own territory. Breaking through the line, Spencer Haldeman blocked the punt, which ended up going out of the endzone for a safety to give the Tigers a 22-14 lead at the intermission. Holding an eight-point cushion, it marked the first time since Oct. 23, 2009 against Mansfield (7-7) that Princeton entered the half either tied or ahead.
Building on the momentum, the Tigers added to their tally in the latter stages of the third quarter. Making quick work of a short field after another botched Chestnut Hill punt, Princeton needed just six plays to cover 33 yards, with Cowden ultimately punching it in from three yards out to make it 28-14. Quickly answering, Floyd-Bennett took a reverse 63 yards to pay-dirt on the first play of Chestnut Hill’s next drive to once again make it a one score game.
Still on top 28-20 early in the fourth, the Tigers mounted their longest drive of the day. Starting at its own 20-yardline, Princeton marched 80 yards in 12 plays before Castaneda scampered for a 5-yard score to make it 34-20. Going for two, Cowden found Mulay Sarbanes for the conversion to make it a 16-point lead.
Wasting little time getting back on the board, Robinson hit Floyd-Bennett for a 32-yard pass before finding the receiver for a 25-yard score to keep the Griffins within striking distance. Hoping to answer, Lawrie returned the kickoff 57 yards to the Chestnut Hill 30, but the Tigers’ drive would ultimately stall in the redzone.
Getting the ball back, the Griffins pulled even. After a pair of rushes for 12 yards, Robinson connected with Domoree Hill for a 30-yard gain. Theophilus McBurnette then gained nine yards on the ground before Dasantae Callis picked his way for 11 more. Later facing a 2nd-and-6 from the Princeton 16, Robinson found Hill for a TD. Needing to go for two, Robinson gained the edge after scrambling to his right and reached over the pylon to tie things up.
Knotted at 36-36 with less than seven minutes to play, Princeton had the makings of a game-winning drive. Chewing up nearly five minutes, the Tigers covered 47 yards on six plays, aided by a pair of costly Chestnut Hill penalties. Looking at a 2nd-and-10 from the 29, Cowden hit Yu on the right side for a 16-yard gain that gave Princeton a fresh set of downs on the Griffins’ 14.
The very next play, the unthinkable happened. Trying to push the pile on a designed run, Cowden lost the football. Pouncing on the turnover, Perez picked up the fumble in stride and raced 85 yards down the right sideline for the game winning score. Perez’s touchdown capped off string of 24 unanswered Chestnut Hill points that erased a 36-20 deficit with 13:45 remaining in regulation.
With the loss, Princeton closed out its 2015 campaign with an 0-5 record. Playing in its inaugural CSFL season, Chestnut Hill finished with year with a 3-2 mark. Winless over their last 66 games, the Tigers last earned a victory on Nov. 4, 2005 against the Virginia Military Institute, a club team. Dropping tonight’s contest, Princeton will have to wait until next year to end its streak of 106 games without a varsity CSFL win dating back to 1999.