Oberlin Loses to Hiram, Cruz Sets Record
The football team dropped its final game of the season last Saturday, falling 35–13 to the Hiram College Terriers. The loss left the team with a 2–8 record in what was Coach Jay Anderson’s first full year as head coach.
Sophomore Justin Cruz did catch two touchdowns to set Oberlin’s single-season record for receiving touchdowns. However, his scores weren’t nearly enough to help the Yeomen pull out a win.
This loss was especially disappointing for the Yeomen, considering it was their fourth in a row and the last game ever for the team’s five graduating seniors.
Last fall, the Yeomen also played their final game of the season against the Terriers, coming away with a 47–13 win, a far cry from this year’s 22-point defeat.
The Terriers put the game out of reach with a stellar first half, scoring 21 unanswered points to start the game on drives of nine, eleven and again nine plays. The Yeomen’s inability to get off the field on third and fourth down was especially troublesome, as they allowed the Terriers to convert on nine of their eighteen third and fourth down chances.
While the Terriers’ offensive statistics don’t jump off the page, senior captain and left guard Josh Guisler said that a few key errors plagued the team.
“The defense played well, but there were a few mistakes that resulted in points for [Hiram],” he said.
Despite coming out of the half down 21, the Yeomen didn’t quit and reversed their recent trend of tough third quarters. Sophomore wide receiver Justin Cruz caught a three-yard pass from quarterback Lucas Poggiali to score Oberlin’s first touchdown with seven minutes and 47 seconds left in the third quarter to finish off a 14-play, 85-yard drive.
Thirteen seconds later, the Yeomen scored again after recovering a fumble on the Terriers’ 20-yard line, allowing Poggiali to hit Cruz for a second straight score and pull the Yeomen to within eight points.
“Up to that point it could have just been another blowout, but we ended up rallying a little bit, and we scored two touchdowns in a pretty short span to make it a game again,” said Guisler.
This second touchdown was Cruz’s 11th of the year, giving him Oberlin’s single-season record for receiving touchdowns. The previous record of 10 touchdowns in a season was set in 1974 by Jay Greely. Cruz finished the game with nine catches for 80 yards, leaving him with 64 catches and 828 yards receiving on the season.
“I really couldn’t have done it without Lucas [Poggiali] throwing me the ball and the offensive line blocking for me,” he said.
Unfortunately, Cruz’s touchdowns weren’t enough, as the Terriers put 14 more points on the board in the fourth quarter, putting the game out of reach for the Yeomen.
Poggiali’s third interception of the game was returned for a touchdown by the Terriers and another late touchdown with under a minute to play iced the game.
The loss came as a harsh letdown, given the win was Hiram’s second in the last 13 times the two teams have met.
Though the team was unhappy with the 2–8 record, a new head coach and stadium have given the Yeomen plenty to be optimistic about.
“We laid the foundation to do some good things for the future, and I think things are definitely going to turn around,” said Guisler.
Anderson seconded Guisler’s words, noting that there were a number of factors that held the team back this season.
“This was a developmental year for us,” he said. “We got off to a decent start playing a lot of young players, and we got hit with an injury bug a little bit mid-season, which forced us to play more younger players. It was a huge year for us, getting those young guys some experience and developing them and getting them acclimated to the college level.”
With 20 incoming recruits, things are looking up for the team.
“I think that we hit on our needs with what we’re looking for while recruiting,” Anderson said. “We expect to bring in another successful and exciting recruiting class.”
The team is graduating five seniors this year, but the 20 expected first-years would give the team over 60 on its roster next fall, a number they haven’t had in 15 years. The larger roster will allow for the team to practice more effectively and efficiently, while also giving players more rest between reps and hopefully keeping the team healthier.
Between getting Anderson back for his second season and the increased numbers on the roster, Cruz is already excited about next year.
“I know all of the football guys are going to be working really hard during the offseason,” Cruz said. “Next season I definitely see some growth, especially with the younger guys, because they now have a year of experience under their belt. They’ve developed a little bit more. I think it’s going to be a really good year.”