Seniors lead the way in win over Sacred Heart

Courtesy of Duquesne Athletics
Courtesy of Duquesne Athletics
Courtesy of Duquesne Athletics

By Andrew White | Staff Writer

Seniors Dillon Buechel and Christian Kuntz ensured that the last time they suited up for a game on Rooney Field would be a special one. Together the two guided the Dukes to a 31-10 victory over NEC conference foe Sacred Heart on Senior Day in the final home game of the season.

The day was filled with personal accomplishments for the Dukes’ senior class. Buechel eclipsed 10,000 yards passing for his career, Kuntz not only broke the Duquesne school record for career sacks, but also tied the NEC record for career sacks, and kicker Austin Crimmins tied the NEC record for career field goals made.

“Its great to get accolades like that,” said Buechel. “All the hard work, all the effort, the things you put into it, to see it pay off is great. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates or coaches though.”

The Dukes opened the scoring with 3:07 remaining in the first quarter when freshman running back A.J. Hines took a pitch from Buechel and bounced the ball outside for a four-yard touchdown run. The run capped off an impressive drive that lasted 16 plays and spanned just over seven minutes highlighted by two impressive fourth down conversions.

Sacred Heart was not able to get much going in the first half, but a forced fumble put them deep into Duquesne territory with a chance to score their first points of the game. However, the Dukes held the Pioneers to just a field goal — making the score 7-3 in favor of Duquesne with 4:20 left in the half.

With 1:43 left in the half, the Dukes got the ball back and set out to build upon their lead heading into the break. The freshman Hines was able to punch in into the endzone on a two-yard rush for his second touchdown of the day, which gave the Red & Blue a 14-3 advantage.

The Dukes started the second half with a two possession lead and they quickly added to it on their first drive of the half when Buechel found Wayne Capers in the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown.

Sacred Heart struck right back on their following possession though once again making it an 11 point deficit when senior quarterback RJ Noel hooked up with a wide open Andrew O’Neill in the end zone for a touchdown.

However, the Dukes struck right back as senior kicker Austin Crimmins connected on a 38-yard field goal to make the score 24-10 in favor of the Dukes.

Kuntz sealed the game on Senior Day as he stripped Noel and recovered the ball in the endzone for a touchdown. The sack was Kuntz’s second on the day.

“It’s nice,” said Kuntz when asked about his record. “But I couldn’t have done it without my coaches. I’m more happy that we got the win.”

The Dukes dominated both sides of the ball, out gaining the Pioneers 381-225 on the day. Buechel finished with 225 yards passing, while Hines finished with 86 on the ground.

Head coach Jerry Schmitt credited both the defense and the offense for executing the gameplan, holding Sacred Heart in check, while also having a dominant air and ground attack of their own.

“[The win] is huge for our seniors,” Schmitt said. “They contributed to a great win and it’s great to send them out as winners. They all had great Rooney careers.”

With Saint Francis’ win this weekend the Dukes were eliminated from NEC championship contention. But the Dukes will travel to New Britain, Connecticut next weekend to close out the regular season with a battle against Central Connecticut State.