Please support the Valley News during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the local economy — and many of the advertisers who support our work — to a near standstill. During this unprecedented challenge, we continue to make our coronavirus coverage free to everyone at www.vnews.com/coronavirus because we feel our most critical mission is to deliver vital information to our communities.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, we are asking for your support. Please consider subscribing or making a donation today. Learn more at the links below.

Thank you for your support of the Valley News.

Dan McClory, publisher


Defense will be Dartmouth football’s strong suit

  • Dartmouth College receiver Dale Chesson (83) can't haul in a pass under coverage from cornerback Isiah Swann during a Sept. 17, 2019, practice on Memorial Field. Swann, an All-American last season, highlights a touted defense that will try to bring the Big Green its first Ivy League title since 2015. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »

  • Dartmouth College offensive tackle Donald Carty (79) watches defensive end Bobby Jefferson rush wide during a Sept. 17, 2019, practice on Memorial Field. The Big Green opens its season Saturday at Jacksonville (Fla.) University and the offensive line is a question mark after returning only one starter from last fall. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »

  • Dartmouth College defensive lineman Hank Knez, left, tangles with offensive lineman Luke Gagnon during a Sept. 17, 2019, practice on Memorial Field. The Big Green plays its first game Saturday at Jacksonville (Fla.) University. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »

  • Dartmouth College running back Caylin Parker, center, prepares to collide with Noah Roper (20) during a Sept. 17, 2019, practice drill on Memorial Field. Parker is slated to start for a Big Green team that was 9-1 last season and which opens this year's campaign Saturday at Jacksonville (Fla.) University. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »

  • Dartmouth College receiver Devin Powell (84) looks up for a Sept. 17, 2019, pass while being defended by safety Tyron Herring on Memorial Field. The Big Green visits Jacksonville (Fla.) University on Saturday in its season opener. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/19/2019 10:00:29 PM
Modified: 9/19/2019 10:00:17 PM

HANOVER — The Dartmouth College football team’s Twitter feed recently promoted the program’s Ivy League-best 30 victories during the past four seasons. Also noted were its 12 nonleague triumphs and three campaigns of eight or more victories during that span.

There’s one number the Big Green can’t tout, however: an outright Ancient Eight crown.

The plan is to add that achievement this season, as Dartmouth is again favored to be in the running for at least its first shared title since 2015 and perhaps its first outright championship since 1996. The Big Green was second in the Ivies each of the past two years, and it’s often hard to remember this is a program that finished winless in 2008.

Dartmouth kicks off the season on Saturday afternoon at Jacksonville (Fla.) University and is roughly a 35-point favorite against the overmatched Dolphins of the Pioneer League. The Big Green was 15th in the final 2018 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision coaches poll, but Ivy League teams are ineligible for the national playoffs.

“Kids read about (the point spread), but I say it’s the best team on Saturday,” said head coach Buddy Teevens, in the 15th season of his second stint at his alma mater and who guided the Big Green to a 9-1 overall record and a 6-1 league mark last fall.

Dartmouth figures to be the better team most Saturdays. Its defense could be monstrous, its offense boasts two strong quarterbacks, and it’s well-coached and continually fortified with strong recruiting classes. None of that comes close to guaranteeing a ring.

“We’ve got some solid football players on defense, front to back,” said Teevens of a unit that veteran coordinator Don Dobes helped allow only 12 points per game last year. “We have guys who have played and done some good things in the past.”

The defensive front features smack-talking, havoc-wreaking tackle Jackson Perry, a first-team All-Ivy pick last season whom no opponent has been able to shut down when he’s healthy. Fellow fifth-year player David Chalmers is an oak tree alongside Perry, and Niko Lalos and T.J. Simpson figure to be the primary ends. Freshman Shane Cokes has shined in the preseason.

Fifth-year linebacker Jack Traynor might be the league’s best at his position. He’s a bit short for these days at 6 feet, but an absolute tackling machine who was chosen Dartmouth’s most valuable player last season. Senior Nigel Alexander is mercurial but increasingly poised, and it will be interesting to see if sophomore Jalen Mackie can live up to his big-hit reputation.

Dartmouth boasts senior Isiah Swann, the 2018 NCAA interceptions leader and the reigning Ivy League defensive player of the year, at one cornerback slot. The other is manned by returning starter DeWayne Terry. Ryan Roegge returns at free safety, and touted hitter Niko Mermigas debuts at strong safety.

“We get a little frustrated going against our defense in camp,” said senior running back Caylin Parker. “But then we have to remind ourselves just how good they really are. They’re very crisp when you compare them to the (defenses) we see on film.”

Quarterback will again feature the platoon of senior Jared Gerbino, a run-first senior star who can gash opponents with his feet. Gerbino could be even more dangerous if his purported passing improvement proves true. Junior Derek Kyler is more the passing option, although he’s very athletic and an underrated scrambler who faded a bit as last season wore on.

Dartmouth lacks depth at running back, where Parker is the starter after playing in all 10 games last season and producing 291 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore Zack Bair showed flashes of brilliance as a rookie and tantalizes with the possibility of a breakout season. Beyond those two, however, there are only question marks.

“It’s a little scary with the low numbers we have back there,” Teevens said. “Will we be able to push people off the line and take advantage of it? We don’t want to be one-dimensional.”

The receiving corps could be solid and perhaps better than that. Onetime league rookie of the year Hunter Hagdorn’s production dropped way off last fall, but a return to the senior’s days of catching 40 or more passes in a season seems possible. Senior Drew Estrada is a threat both with catches and in running jet sweeps, and there’s a host of freshman talent in the wings. Watch for smooth Jonny Barrett and explosive jackrabbit Jamal Cooney to make early marks.

Senior tight end Connor Rempel came out of nowhere last year to post Dartmouth’s best numbers at that position in years. His 22 catches for 253 yards and a team-high five touchdowns mean he’s no longer a secret. If he can add strong blocking to his resume, the Big Green benefits mightily.

The offensive line returns only one starter from last season — fifth-year right guard Zach Sammartino. However, position coach Keith Clark is an unsung gem whose unit rarely disappoints, and Clark said he may use multiple rotations along the front. For now, senior Anders Peterson starts at right tackle, sophomore John Paul Flores is the man at left tackle, junior Evan Hecimovich goes at center and senior Tanner Aiono is the left guard.

“Some guys are going to have to go through a trial by fire,” Clark said.

“We don’t have anybody other than Zack who’s really played. The group the last two years had played so much that they could figure things out without me. Now, I have to give people a flow chart. If A, then go to B.”

The kicking game could be feast and famine. Senior punter Davis Brief is starting for a third consecutive year after averaging 36 yards per boot last fall. Sophomore placekicker Connor Davis, who made just six of 14 field-goal attempts as a freshman, hasn’t looked especially strong during the preseason and could be on a short leash. Freshman Cameron Baller would be the man on call. Senior long snapper Grant Jaffe started the past two seasons and has been steadily anonymous.

“We have some untested guys, but most of them played somewhat last season and they play hard,” Teevens said.

“(Strength and conditioning coach) Spencer Brown does a great job with the guys’ physical development, and the fact that our older guys mentor the younger guys is critical.

“The balance in the league is as good as it’s ever been. You have to stay consistent and stay healthy, but we’re coming out of the preseason in good shape, and now we have to go execute.”

Said Parker: “Most everybody’s back from a 9-1 team, so we definitely have a shot at the title.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.




Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784
603-298-8711

 

© 2019 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy