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The Scarlet & Black

First-years propel football team to end-of-season win

On Nov. 10, the Grinnell College men’s football team ended their season on a high note with a stunning 41-31 victory over conference rival Beloit College. In addition to giving the squad their second win of the season, the victory also ended Grinnell’s 24-game losing streak in the Midwest Conference and marked the College’s first win against Beloit since 2013.

While breaking a significant conference losing streak is certainly a momentous occasion, several players noted that they were motivated by a more important matter: sending off the senior players the right way. After dropping seven straight conference games this season, players were determined to give their Class of 2019 teammates a win in the final game of their college careers.

“We [the football team] really consider ourselves close and wanted to send them [the graduating seniors] off the right way, because what better way to do that than with a win,” said first-year defensive back Sal Kargbo ’22, who finished the game with two interceptions. “Going in, the game plan was the same, just trying to execute everything you can and give it all you got because it’s the last time you’re going to do it for the seniors.”

The team certainly succeeded in sending the seniors off “the right way.” In an impressive offensive display, they racked up 481 total yards en route to a total of 41 points, nearly matching their season-high of 46. The defense did their part as well, holding Beloit to seven points in the second half and ensuring a Pioneer victory.

“The main focus points were just playing as a team and focusing on the little things,” wrote Dustin Saia ’22, in an email to The S&B. “Many of our close games this year had come down to us not doing a lot of the little fundamental things right and Saturday we were finally able to put a lot of those things together.”

Kargbo identified accountability as a key part of the team’s successes this season. He explained that the team was able to persevere through its mid-season struggles in large part due to strong leadership and their ability to hold each other accountable.

“Instead of pointing fingers and blaming each other, we asked ourselves, ‘Is there something more we can be doing?’ And I think our win on Saturday was a great example of us taking it to that next level and pulling a little bit extra out of ourselves … and it’s something that’s really promising moving forward,” Kargbo said.

In keeping with this forward momentum, the Class of 2022 stepped up in a big way on Saturday. In addition to Kargbo’s two picks on the defensive side of the ball, Jake Kaplinski ’22, Daniel Carter ’22 and Saia put up huge offensive numbers. Quarterback Kaplinski led the way with 230 total passing yards and three touchdowns, while wide receiver Carter scored four touchdowns and running back Saia finished the game with an historic 301 all-purpose yards.

With such an arsenal of young talent, the team has high expectations heading into the offseason. The team hopes to capitalize on their potential through hard work and a continued emphasis on strong leadership and accountability.

In an email to The S&B, Kaplinski wrote, “We need to take this offseason very seriously. We don’t have a lot of guys, which means we need to be in great shape. Everyone has areas to improve on and needs to get stronger and faster. This offseason is essential to having a good season next year.”

Although this win certainly gives the team a boost of confidence heading into the offseason, the players are very clear that they are far from satisfied. Carter wrote, “I don’t think anyone is happy with two wins, and we hope to win a lot more games next year.”

Dustin Saia ’22 carries the ball against Ripon College. Saia is one of the first-year player stand-outs this season. Contributed photo.
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