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Spartan Defense, Special Teams Shine in 16-3 Win versus Chicago on Seniors’ Day

Spartan Defense, Special Teams Shine in 16-3 Win versus Chicago on Seniors’ Day

From Case Western Reserve University Athletics

The Case Western Reserve University football team forced four turnovers and blocked a pair of punts in a 16-3 Seniors' Day victory versus the University of Chicago on a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon at DiSanto Field.

The game was the first on the University Athletic Association schedule for each team as the Spartans (4-3, 1-0 UAA) knotted the all-time series with the Maroons (5-3, 0-1 UAA) at 12-12.

In addition to the turnovers and impact plays on special teams, the Spartans limited Chicago to 141 yards of total offense, including just 10 on the ground. Case's 16 points went unanswered after the Maroons grabbed an early 3-0 lead.

The visitor's three points came on the second drive of the game via a six-play, 48-yard drive that was aided largely by a 38-yard pass from Vincent Cortina to wide receiver Sam Coleman. The Spartan defense held the Maroons at the 10 yard line, but Karol Kurzydlowski hit a 21-yard field goal to put his team on the board at the 10:46 mark.

A three-and-out by the Spartan offense again gave the Maroons excellent field possession in Case's half of the field. However, a stout defensive effort forced the Maroons into a punt attempt which resulted in a botched snap. After a brief recovery by Chicago punter Ben Cheaney, sophomore linebacker Everett Dishong (Chagrin Falls, Ohio/Chagrin Falls) swooped in to force a fumble at the Chicago 14 yard line.

A personal foul at the end of the play hampered the Spartans' field position, and four plays later, a 40-yard field goal try by freshman Nick Bavaro (Medina, Ohio, Medina) was blocked by Steven McGugan.

Another Chicago three-and-out followed and resulted in a low line-drive punt that was returned 51 yards by junior wide receiver Sean Lapcevic (Presto, Pa./Chartiers Valley) to the Chicago 11 yard line.

Three plays later, senior quarterback Erik Olson (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park) dumped a pass off to junior tight end George Darany (Northville, Mich./Detroit Catholic Central), who was able to break free from his defender for a eight-yard touchdown. Bavaro tacked on the extra point to make the score 7-3 with 4:18 left to play in the first quarter.

That score remained until the final minute of the first half when the Spartan special teams came up big once again. Sophomore linebacker KJ Pederson(Lancaster, Pa./Hempfield) blocked a Chicago punt attempt which was recovered by sophomore wide receiver Ethan Albers (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty) and returned to the Maroon four.

The Spartans then picked up a 22-yard field goal off of the foot of Bavaro to go into the locker room with a 10-3 lead.

Not to be outdone, the Maroon special teams unit made a crucial play of its own midway through the third quarter when defensive tackle Michael Cifor broke through the line and blocked an Olson punt attempt. Even with starting possession at the Case 19, the Maroons went back backwards thanks to a sack and eventually were forced out on downs.  

Overall, the third quarter went scoreless, and it wasn't until 4:40 left in the game when the next points occurred. A short punt handed the Spartans possession at the visitor 34. Eight plays later, Case put the game away as junior running back Manny Sicre (Miami, Fla./Belen Jesuit Prepartory) caught a screen pass from Olson and ran nine yards for a TD. Chicago defensive tackle Scott Mainquist was able to get a mitt on Bavaro's extra point, keeping the score at 16-3.

Late interceptions by sophomore linebacker Aaron Weisberg (Plantation, Fla./Central Catholic) and senior cornerback Fady Haddad (Mayfield, Ohio/Mayfield) sealed the game for the Spartans. Overall, the Spartans incepted three passes in the fourth quarter as sophomore corner Jordan Esteban(Miami, Fla./Belen Jesuit Preparatory) accounted for the other

For the game, Weisberg and senior linebacker Scott Campbell (Chagrin Falls, Ohio/Chagrin Falls) led the Spartan defense with nine tackles apiece. Campbell, who totaled a career high for tackles, also picked up a half-sack. Dishong filled up the stat sheet with four tackles, including two for loss, with a forced fumble and three pass break-ups.

Olson threw for 109 yards and two touchdowns but had his streak of 126 pass attempts without an interception broken. Lapcevic was tops in the receiving game with four receptions and 30 yards.

Chicago was led by linebacker Brian Duffy with a game-high 10 tackles.