By Jack Herr, Sports Editor
In spite of the Bullets’ 54-19 loss at the hands of the no. 23 Muhlenberg Mules this past Saturday, October 2, kicker/punter Doug Cummings ’22 broke Gettysburg’s and the Centennial Conference’s field goal record with his 55-yard strike through the uprights, highlighting an overall disappointing game for the Bullets.
Their contest versus Muhlenberg marked the Bullets’ second home game in a row. Although the stands were not as packed as they were for Homecoming Weekend, a sizable, energized crowd for both teams showed up at Musselman Stadium for another perfect day for football.
After Gettysburg won the coin toss and deferred, the game started slowly, neither team able to get on the board until about four minutes left in the quarter, when Muhlenberg’s quarterback Mike Hnatkowksy found receiver Mitch Daniel for a 22-yard touchdown, putting the Mules on top 7-0 with Nick Stannard’s extra point. The Bullets quickly responded. On third down and nine, quarterback Mason Stolarik ’23 hit his favorite target in Sal DeBenedetto, who finished with 132 yards on five catches, for a 72-yard touchdown. Gettysburg went for two but failed, making the score 7-6. On the very next drive, though, Hnatkowsky again hit Daniel for a touchdown, this one a 39-yard score that put Muhlenberg on top 14-6 to end the quarter.
Gettysburg caught a lucky break at the start of the second. Tim Fitzpatrick muffed Cummings’ punt, and defensive back Mike Cassidy ’22 recovered the fumble to give Gettysburg a free possession. The Bullets failed to capitalize, giving the ball right back to the Mules. Later in the quarter, Hnatkowsky was leading his team down the field once again, eyeing the endzone. On a third down and ten, though, defensive end Alex Raimondo ’22 applied enough pressure to force an errant throw from Hnatkowsky that linebacker Johnny O’Beirne ’22 intercepted.
The Mules’ stifling defense forced the Bullets to once again punt. Hnatkowsky went to work again, hitting Daniel for a 31-yard gain all the way to the Bullets’ five-yard line. Two plays later, he found a new target in Zach Deldin for his third passing touchdown of the day, giving Muhlenberg a comfortable 21-6 lead after the extra point. Before going into halftime, Gettysburg added three more to their total thanks to a 29-yard field goal from Cummings.
The second half featured a similar level of domination on both sides of the ball by Muhlenberg. Gettysburg started the third with a quick three-and-out, gifting the ball to the Mules who graciously accepted and led a four-minute drive that finished in the endzone.
The score was 28-9, and while the Bullets seemed to face an insurmountable deficit, the greatest part of the game was yet to happen. Gettysburg’s offense began their second drive of the third quarter on their own 27-yard line, and it started stagnantly. On fourth down and eight, though, with nothing to lose, Coach Banks called a fake punt play that gave receiver Mike Vigliano ’23 the ball, which he ran up the field for 15 yards and a first down. An additional 15 yards were tacked on to the end of the play due to a personal foul, setting up the Bullets in shallow Mules territory.
The Bullets failed to get the offense going again, though, and were stuck at the Muhlenberg 38-yard line, seemingly too far for a field goal attempt. However, Doug Cummings hustled out onto the field with the rest of his kicking squad, ready to attempt a 55-yard field goal. Cummings commented on his emotions leading up to the kick. “I knew I had the leg from warmups so I went into the kick pretty confident. I lined up knowing my snapper Nate Smith and my holder Mike Cassidy would execute, so I just relaxed and did my job.”
Number 96 got in position, the ball was snapped, and he absolutely booted it. The ball sailed cleanly through the uprights, and the kick likely would have been good from another five yards back. The crowd enthusiastically roared in response to the history they had just witnessed. “When I saw the ball go through, I erupted with joy and immediately went to celebrate with my boys,” Cummings reminisced. “To finally get not only the program record but the conference record was an amazing feeling and a justification for the years of work I’ve put in to get to this point.”
As he stated, his 55-yard field goal gave Cummings both the Gettysburg College and Centennial Conference records for the longest field goal in history. Cummings bested Richard Eppleman’s and Josh Huson’s 48-yarders, set in 1976 and 2009 respectively, by seven yards, cementing his place in Bullets’ athletic history. He also topped the Centennial Conference record shared by Mark Slevin of Franklin & Marshall (1983) and Ben Scott of Johns Hopkins University (2006) by three yards, earning him Centennial Conference Special Teams Player of the Week. Cummings also eclipsed his personal record by eleven yards, and he has now hit his last five field-goal attempts. (Information from Gettysburg College Athletic Communications)
Not only did Cummings sink a record-setting field goal, but he recorded two tackles, bringing his total to five (three solos) on the season, a rare stat to see from a kicker/punter. However, a frequent spectator of Bullets football would know that on every kickoff or punt, Cummings is ready to get dirty, put his body on the line, and make a play if the returner gets too far up the field. “As a kicker/punter,” Cummings explained, “I typically play the role of a safety, so if the returner comes to me, I have to make the tackle to help out the team.”
Unfortunately for Gettysburg, the excitement of Cummings’ achievement faded quickly, Muhlenberg’s Hnatkowsky hitting Daniel for his third receiving touchdown of the day. Stolarik and Vigliano followed up with a 72-yard score of their own, but the Bullets would be stuck at 19 points for the rest of the game. Muhlenberg scored three more times, and Hnatkowsky continued the record-breaking with history of his own; the Mules quarterback surpassed both his school’s and the Centennial Conference’s career passing record, now sitting at 10,583 yards.
Even though the Bullets suffered a hefty defeat to a strong opponent, there were moments to celebrate from the game. With five games left in the season, Cummings emphasized that the team will “look at each game week by week and focus on executing our assignments to give ourselves a chance to win.” They head into a bye-week this upcoming weekend and will play an undefeated Susquehanna team the week after on Friday, October 15.