SEWANEE, Tenn. - In his first game as Sewanee's head football coach, Travis Rundle gave Sewanee fans, students and alumni something they have not seen in a long while: a win, as the Sewanee Tigers down the Kenyon Lords, 45-20, in front of a packed house at Historic Hardee-McGee Field at Harris Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The win snaps a 19-game losing streak for the Purple and Gold, with their last win coming two years ago against the same Kenyon squad at home.
Both teams got off to a slow start in the contest, switching punts on their first respective drives. The Tigers had an attempt to strike first on the scoreboard with a field goal attempt by Michael Jacobs, but he was short on his 47-yard attempt with 10:16 left in the opening quarter.
Later in the quarter, the Lords went on a 5:22 drive to strike first on the scoreboard with 35 seconds left in the opening frame. After a 16-yard pass by Thomas Merkle to Ian Bell to put the ball at the Sewanee 5, Nat Henry punched the ball in for the first score of the contest.
However, the defense would step up in a big way in the second quarter. After the Lords charged the ball down to the six-yard-line, the next play would be historic for Sewanee football. Henry rushed the ball to the two before Wesley Porter punched the ball out. William Phillips picked up the pigskin off the turf and ran the ball all the way back to the Sewanee endzone for a 98-yard touchdown.
After a Kenyon (0-1) punt, the Tigers responded with a score on offense. Darras connected with Calid Shorter for a 34-yard score for the first offensive score of 2017. After a Michael Jacobs' successful point-after-attempt, the Tigers took the lead, 14-7, and they would not give it back up.
Jacobs added three points with his leg on a 32-yard field goal with 5:07 left in the half to put the lead to double digits, 17-7.
On their next possession after the field goal, the Lords used a 14-play, 75 yard drive that took 4:21 off the clock. Merkle found Ian Bell for a 12-yard score to put Kenyon down 17-14 to Sewanee.
On the next possession, with 40 seconds left for the Tigers in the half, the offense would belong to the Hearn brothers. Sam Hearn, who started the contest, came back out under center and found his brother, Steven Hearn, not once, but twice in the three-play drive. Steven caught Sam's 44-yard pass to put the Tigers in Kenyon territory. After a seven-yard rush by Sam, he would connect with his brother again for a 25-yard score to give the Purple and Gold the 24-14 advantage at the half.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Lords started the fourth quarter with the football. Down to the Sewanee 15-yard-line, Merkle threw the ball to Sewanee's Walker Weatherly for the interception.
The Tigers (1-0) used that defensive stop to earn another seven points. Mikey Plancher carried the ball for three of the five plays in the drive following the pick, with the senior punching the ball in from four yards out to put the game out of reach for the Lords. Sewanee led 31-14 with 11:13 left in regulation.
The Purple and Gold tacked on two more touchdowns late, a two-yard rush by Sam Everette to make it 38-14, and a three-yard run by Everette to make it 45-14.
Kenyon added a score late, but it was not enough as the Tigers snap their 19-game losing streak.
Sam Hearn and Darras, who have been even at the quarterback position, were fairly consistent in the 2017 opener. Hearn finished 8-for-16 in his sophomore debut with 150 yards and a touchdown. Darras went 9-for-16 with 179 yards and a score in his Sewanee debut.
Plancher led the running game, carrying the ball 15 times for 59 yards and a touchdown, while Everette carried the pigskin 11 times for 41 yards and two touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, Porter, who forced the fumble to give the Tigers the first score of 2017, led the contest with 13 tackles and an interception. Pierce Johnson also added 13 tackles, including two tackles for a loss, totaling five yards.
Phillips, who had the fumble recovery for a touchdown, also picked off the Kenyon quarterback twice in the contest, totaling 46 yards.
Jackson Menefee also picked off the quarterback, while assisting on two tackles.
Merkle finished the contest for the Lords going 33-for-54 with 300 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions. Ian Bell caught 17 of Merkle's 33 passes for 156 yards and a score.
The 45 points are the most points for Sewanee at home since they struck for 31 against Berry College on Nov. 8, 2014. The last time the Tigers put 40 or more on the scoreboard came on Sept. 2, 2006 against Hampden-Sydney.
"First game as a head coach: it's exciting, but more importantly, I am more excited for our players, especially our upperclassmen," said head coach Rundle. "It's been a long time coming for them. To watch that unfold, and to see the clock at four zeros made it a lot of fun."
When asked on Darras and Sam Hearn, "The old saying is when you have two quarterbacks, you do not have one; that did not imply for us. Both guys in preseason camp were on fire. Sam would have a good day, and Alex would match it the next day. We felt confident that both could come out as starters, and everybody on the team has confidence in both of them."
The Tigers will hit the road for the next three Saturdays, beginning with a matchup with rival Washington and Lee. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. ET / 12 p.m. CT.
Chattanooga Times Free Press: Sewanee sheds losing streak in 2017 opener, 45-20
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