Football looks to start season off on a high note against Butler
By Brett Drucker, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Tuesday, September 4, 2012
This fall, the Big Green football team will look to build on the success of its 2011 campaign, which ended in a tie for second place in the Ivy League with a conference mark of 4-3. Dartmouth will enter the season as an underdog after being ranked sixth in the Ivy League Preseason Media Poll. Defending league champion Harvard University received 13 of 17 first-place votes as the league favorites.
The Big Green will be led by a trio of veteran captains — offensive lineman Pat Lahey ’12, who returns after taking a medical redshirt last season, defensive back Garrett Waggoner ’13, who also missed a significant portion of the past season, and linebacker Bronson Green ’14.
“It’s been the same process this year,” Green said. “Last year was a step up in the right direction, but we can’t become complacent.”
One of the major challenges for the Big Green will be replacing key graduating players on both sides of the football after the 2011 season. The coaching staff and players are confident that the young players will capably fill in the holes, according to Lahey, who said the team is “looking at is as an opportunity for guys to prove themselves.”
One of the biggest holes left by departing seniors is at the quarterback position. Alex Park ’15, who transferred from the University of New Hampshire prior to last season, is slated to open the season as the starter, according to head coach Buddy Teevens.
Park’s athleticism could add new versatility to the offense, and his maturity could help him lead this year’s Big Green squad, Teevens said.
Dartmouth will also have to replace 2011 All-American and Dartmouth’s all-time leading rusher Nick Schwieger ’12. Much of the running load will fall on Dominick Pierre ’14 and Greg Patton ’13, both of whom have already seen success in their Dartmouth careers, combining for almost 600 yards on the ground last season.
“Dominick looks as sharp as he’s been since he’s been here,” Teevens said. “His quickness is very apparent.”
On defense, the team graduated nine of its starters from 2011, but the Big Green will benefit from the returns of Waggoner and cornerback Chase Womack ’13. Green, an All-Ivy Honorable Mention selection in 2011, will look to energize a unit that suffered significant losses because of departing seniors.
“It gives the younger guys an opportunity to step up to the challenge,” Green said. “We will be better because of the fact that people are competing for positions.
In addition to the returning players on the team, there is a large crop of freshmen who are looking to contribute to the team and have already impressed the coaches after only a few weeks of practice.
“We have the influx of a very strong recruiting class, but we are also looking to develop some of the guys we have who are already comfortable with the system,” Teevens said.
Dartmouth’s season kicks off on Sept. 15 against Butler University in the Big Green’s second-ever contest under the lights in Hanover. Players and coaches pointed to the game as an exciting opportunity to set the tone for the season.
“We’re looking to start off strong with the student body,” Lahey said. “It’s a great atmosphere.”
This year’s season opener will be different from past years’ due to the new academic schedule. Students will now be on campus for the first game, which should help bolster attendance.
The team is also focused on its Ivy League opener two weeks later at home against the University of Pennsylvania. The game presents a rematch of last season’s heartbreaking 22-20 defeat in the waning seconds of a rain-soaked night contest. The game will be televised on NBC Sports Network, marking the Big Green’s only appearance on national television this season.
“The Ivy League Championship is what we’re really working for,” Lahey said. “That’s what we get up early in the morning and stay up late watching film for.”
Dartmouth will have another tough test on Oct. 27 as the team takes on defending league champion Harvard over Homecoming weekend. The game provides an opportunity for the Big Green to test itself against the league’s best and try to avenge a snow-covered loss in Cambridge last year.
“The league competition is huge,” Teevens said. “We need to find a way to play teams close and beat them.”
In the Ivy League Preseason Media Poll, the Big Green is picked to finish behind Harvard, Penn, Cornell University, Brown University and Yale University. Columbia University and Princeton University round out the poll in seventh and eighth place, respectively.
This year’s Big Green team will look to silence the critics and capture the program’s first Ivy League title since 1996.