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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, April 15, 2024

Offense marches football to a big win over the Wesleyan Cardinals

The Jumbos cruised to a 49–14 win over the Cardinals under the lights of the Ellis Oval.

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Cade Moore is pictured playing against Wesleyan on Oct. 14.

Parents and Family Weekend and the Play for Pink day had the Tufts football team fired up, and the squad was dominant right out of the gate. Under the lights and in front of a big crowd, junior running back Chartellis Reece started off the game for Tufts with an eight-yard carry. Junior quarterback Michael Berluti ran the ball later in the drive, gaining 24 yards and the third first down of the possession. Berluti put a 17-yard pass into the hands of junior wide receiver Cade Moore to send the Jumbos up 7–0. Sophomore kicker Vaughn Seelicke made the extra point. He went seven for seven in PATs on Saturday. 

Cardinal junior quarterback Niko Candido would look to respond, throwing to senior wide receiver Thomas Elkhoury on third down for a gain of 19 yards. Jumbo senior linebacker Shane Reiner then stepped up and got his first sack of the game. Reiner had nine tackles, three of which were sacks. Candido again found Elkhoury for a 15-yard pass, but good defensive plays by senior and junior defensive backs Kristian Rosario and Henry Ferrelli stopped any forward momentum.

At the start of the Jumbos’ second possession, Berluti threw to senior wide receiver Jaden Richardson who took it for 73 yards into the endzone, making it 14–0. On the next Cardinals possession, senior defensive back Vic Garza got a sack for a loss of nine for the Cardinals. A high special teams snap sent the ball over the kicker’s head, and it was recovered by Tufts inside the Wesleyan five-yard line. A two-yard rush by Reece would give him his second touchdown of the game, and make it 21–0. The Jumbos’ offense got the ball right back through a three and out by the Cardinals. With a huge 57-yard pass that was bobbled and then caught by Richardson in the endzone, Berluti made the score 28–0 right at the beginning of the second quarter.

A 50-yard pass from Candido to junior receiver Chase Wilson saw the Cardinals begin to get some momentum going. On a two-yard rush, Candido finally made it into the endzone and put up points for the Cardinals to make the score 28–6. Senior kicker Daniel Yoon put it through the uprights to make it 28–7. Yoon made both of his PAT attempts during the game.

On the next Tufts possession, Berluti connected with Moore for a gain of 20. Junior running back Aundre Smith ran for a gain of 21, using good footwork and a fancy spin move to avoid Wesleyan tacklers. Reece was the ball carrier for the next two plays, running first for 15 yards and then an additional five into the endzone to make it 35–7. Reece ran for a net 51 yards and two touchdowns against the Cardinals. Two penalties halted any additional momentum from the Cardinals on their next possession, and quickly the ball was back in Jumbo hands. For the first time in this game, Tufts did not score on their next drive.

The Jumbos got the ball back later in the quarter and Berluti threw to senior wide receiver Luke Botsford for a 39-yard gain. He then connected with Moore for a 20-yard touchdown pass to make the score 42–7 at halftime. Sophomore defensive linemen Suleiman Abuaqel of the Jumbos got a sack on the next Cardinals possession, adding to the Jumbos’ defensive tally.

While it was a serious game, the Jumbos enjoyed themselves. Cade Moore felt that spirit played into their performance level.

“I think when we’re out there having fun and enjoying each other and celebrating each other’s successes, that’s when we’re playing the best,” Moore said.

It was a stellar defensive game for the Jumbos, and senior linebacker EJ Comerford had a blast against the Cardinals.

“We’re a pretty old group on the defensive side of the ball. So, I mean, we’ve been playing with each other for a while. It’s just an absolute blast when we go out there and play,” Comerford said.

After halftime, Wesleyan attempted to come out firing, and a good 12-yard rush by graduate student running back Ezra Jenifer along with a good seven-yard pass to junior wide receiver Rickey Eng got the Cardinals moving in the right direction. However, a sack on fourth down by Reiner for a loss of six yards snapped the Cardinals’ momentum.

Tufts took the ball over, and Berluti connected with Richardson again, and then Smith had a 28-yard rush to find the endzone, making the score 49–7. The Cardinals drove all the way down to the Jumbos’ one-yard line on their next drive. Jenifer put it in the endzone to make the score 49–14.

With the score being so lopsided, Tufts gave senior quarterback Matt Crowley two possessions and then junior quarterback Luke Leongas took over for the rest of the game. The game provided a unique opportunity to bring in players who don’t see the field as frequently. Berluti was thrilled about the opportunity to see younger players come in and play.

“It’s always great when that happens at any position, and certainly under the lights, … Parents Weekend, with all the alumni there, the more guys we can get in the better,” Berluti said.

Tufts will take on Amherst at 1 p.m. on Saturday.