Reality reacquainted itself with the Swarthmore football team last night.
But the awakening that Johns Hopkins meted out to the Garnet Tide in a 37-3 win wasn't the sort that either team had been accustomed to. The ugly anticlimax of the past two meetings, with the final scores headed for 73-0 and 42-0 finishes, didn't unfold.
This time at Homewood Field, Johns Hopkins, a team with legitimate aspirations of a Division III playoff berth, was simply good enough to beat Swarthmore, a team that aspires to keep games like this close, and maybe win more than once in 29 games.
"If you look at the last three years, we've been closing the gap," Swarthmore coach Peter Alvanos said. "You never feel good about a loss like this, but the goal is to improve week by week."
The Blue Jays (2-0, 1-0 in Centennial Conference) had plays that the Garnet Tide (1-1, 0-1) had no chance of stopping. Those tended to involve Adam Gentile running to the left side of the field, which he did for the majority of his 21 carries for a career-high 219 yards.
"We have the best left tackle in the league in David Perna," Blue Jays coach Jim Margraff said. "They were matching up against him man-to-man and that's a mismatch against most teams in our league."
Gentile, a senior from Middletown, N.J., followed the lead of left guard Jason Wolcott and Perna, gaining 102 yards on five carries to that side in the first half alone. The three -- Wolcott, Perna and Gentile -- teamed up for a 23-yard gain on Hopkins' first play from scrimmage, then did so again for 39 yards and a touchdown that put the Blue Jays ahead 7-0 with 8: 50 left in the first quarter.
Gentile had already broken the 100-yard mark in the first quarter. His 29-yard run set up Hopkins' second score, a quarterback sneak by Jamie Monica, that made the score 14-0 with one second left in the first quarter.
"We just came off the ball hard on every play; we didn't feel as if they could hang with us," Perna said. "Adam just gets behind us and makes things happen."
"We had line surges on every play," said Gentile, who had 172 rushing yards at halftime. "It's easy to run when you're in the secondary on every play."
Instead of lying down, however, Swarthmore stood in and took all the shots that the Blue Jays could fire. The Garnet Tide's inability to do better than a 17-3 halftime deficit had more to do with a mix of mistakes and bad luck.
On one occasion, Monica threw directly into the hands of Swarthmore defensive back Tony Hillary -- a sure interception return for a touchdown -- only to see the ball fall to the ground. Other times, Garnet Tide quarterback Scott Murray had receivers open deep in Hopkins territory, misfiring on some passes and watching Blake Atkins and Keith McManimen drop the ones that hit the mark.
"We dropped balls and missed tackles," Alvanos said. "Had we executed like we talked about, it could have been different."
By the time the Garnet Tide figured out how to stop Gentile's runs to the left, it was too late. Gentile's 1-yard run with 4: 01 remaining in the third gave the Blue Jays a 24-3 lead, and everything after that was purely cosmetic.
The Hopkins defense, led by defensive back Harrison Bernstein, ensured that the few opportunities Swarthmore missed were limited to that. The Blue Jays held the Garnet Tide to 146 yards of total offense, a pittance compared to the 412 it rolled up in the 42-6 win over Oberlin, which broke a 28-game losing streak.
Hopkins' defense did so without the services of defensive lineman Greg Gorla, who was lost for the season when he tore his left biceps against Washington & Lee last week.
"We played good solid defense," Margraff said. "[Swarthmore] hadn't scored more than seven points on us in awhile, and our defense wanted to keep that streak going."
Swarthmore 0 3 0 0 -- 3
Johns Hopkins 14 3 7 13 -- 37
JHU--Gentile 39 run (Andrade kick), 8: 50
JHU--Monica 1 run (Andrade kick), 0: 01
S--FG 27 Castelluccii, 5: 04
JHU--FG 40 Andrade, 0: 24
JHU--Gentile 1 run (Andrade kick), 4: 01
JHU--Martorana 1 run (Andrade kick), 10: 02
JHU--Johnson 1 run (pass failed), 4: 58
First downs 9 25
Rushes-yards 31-30 49-363
Passing 116 147
Return Yards 123 89
Comp-Att-Int 10-23-0 13-23-0
Punts 8-301 1-37
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 2-1
Penalties-Yards 7-63 6-50
Time of Possession 29: 57 30: 03
Rushing: Swarthmore, Clark 15-20, Murray 3-(-41), Aleffi 10-41, Andres 3-10. Johns Hopkins, Gentile 21-219, Heleniak 1-9, Martorana 10-56, Monica 4-10, Johnson 7-61, Roccia 1-(-11), Stache 2-3, Maddigan 2-5, Lightfoot 1-11.
Passing: Swarthmore, Murray 10-22-0-116, Andres 0-1-0-0. Johns Hopkins, Heleniak 1-5-0-13, Monica 2-4-0-12, Roccia 10-14-0-122.
Receiving: Swarthmore, Ellis 1-11, McManimen 2-20, Aleffi 2-36, Clark 1-15, Forstik 1-5, Atkins 3-29. Johns Hopkins, Baylin 5-71, Gentile 2-11, Skinner 3-46, Martorana 1-5, Halas 1-9, Stache 1-5.
Pub Date: 9/18/99