KMTS FOOTBALL: Mistakes Doom Demons in Dante’s Debut

ERIE (8/29/14) — A shanked punt here, a bad snap there… add an untimely penalty and an “inadvertent” whistle, and the Glenwood Demons went down to a 23-10 defeat at Erie in sophomore Dante Sparaco’s initial game as starting quarterback.

The Tigers’ junior quarterback Chantz Schenbeck deserves much of the credit for the victory in the season debut for both teams, firing three touchdown passes, including a 57-yard hitch pass on Erie’s first offensive play of the game. Schenbeck also made the Demons pay for special team mistakes, lofting a 28-yard TD just over a leaping Zane Lundin to Luke Conilogue for a 17-0 lead with 1:53 left in the half. That score followed an 18 yard punt by Chase Nieslanik that sailed out of bounds on the Demon 39. On the next play, Sam Carmer knocked the ball loose but a Demon drilled a scrambling BJ Jensen as he recovered the ball for an 8 yard loss. The late hit moved the ball from midfield to Glenwood’s 32 and a couple of plays later, Erie was in the end zone.

Glenwood got on the scoreboard on the last play of the half when a 23 yard scramble by Sparaco and a late hit penalty on Erie gave Robert Hiles the chance to boot a 30-yard field goal.

The Glenwood defense, which played well overall, holding Erie to just 25 yards rushing, forced a punt on the Tigers’ opening second-half possession, but more special teams’ problems set up a quick-strike chance for Schenbeck. On 4th and one at his 19, Nieslanik fielded a one-hop snap, but went to a knee doing so and was ruled down at the Demon five yard line. On the next play Schenbeck hooked up with Luke Conilogue for the second time to make the score 23-3 with 7:43 left in the third quarter.

Sparaco dropped a couple of snaps in the first half, was sacked three other times, and threw an interception, but settled down to complete 3-of-7 for 48 yards and rush for 70 in ten first-half attempts. Then with the Demons backed up on the one yard line by a tremendous punt from Toby Crawford, Sparaco faked into the line and slipped to the left sideline, outrunning the entire Tiger defense for a 99-yard touchdown… but wait. The officials are huddling, and it’s coming back – not because of a penalty, but an official blew his whistle because he thought Evrett Marr had the ball and was tackled. “Sorry, coach,” the ref said to an astonished Demon sideline as the referees “estimated” Sparaco was at the Tiger 25 when the play was whistled dead.

The defense continued to clamp down on Erie, holding the Tigers without a first down in the second half, and with 8:09 remaining in the game, Sparaco and Marr accounted for three first downs, moving the ball to the five. Sparaco had to leave the game after being hit on an option play that lost two yards, and sophomore Jake Townsley handed off to Marr for three yards before Dante returned. On 4th and goal from the four, Sparaco scored his first varsity TD breaking outside on an off-tackle run left with 2:44 to play.

Miscues aside, and there were plenty to correct before next Friday’s home opener against Conifer, the Demons had to be pleased with Sparaco’s in-game progress, as he finished 8-of-18 for 69 yards passing and rushed for 135 yards in 21 attempts. Getting him time to set up in the pocket and finding a rushing threat to join him in the backfield could be priorities for the coaching staff, along with smoothing out the snap exchanges and special teams.

Last year, the Demons lost 14-0 to Conifer, which has made the playoffs eight straight seasons. With losses to co-league champions Palisade and Rifle, Glenwood began 0-and-3, but reeled off eight straight wins, including a first-round win at Elizabeth.