Known for an uncommon excellence and spirit that embodies the “traditionally nontraditional,” Chestnut Hill College was proud to usher in the newest era of Griffin athletics this fall, with the new sprint football program.
“Sprint football is untraditional, yet at the same time it’s extremely competitive,” says Mike Pearson, head sprint football coach. “The quality of student-athletes playing is really high so it may be uncommon, but there is certainly excellence associated with it as well.”
To those who may not know, sprint football shares most of its characteristics with the sport it is modeled after. Like college and professional football, there are four quarters, touchdowns are worth six points, 11 men are allowed on the field at one time and the list goes on. The one major difference is that in order to play sprint football, a player must weigh no more than 172 pounds. This promotes a faster style of play and one that focuses on agility and quickness more than on muscle and brute strength.
Chestnut Hill joined the league prior to the 2015 season, doing so on a provisional basis. This meant that instead of the full seven-game schedule, the Griffins played just five, three at home at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School and two on the road, both of which CHC won, meaning at least in one regard, the team is still “undefeated (on the road) since 1924.”
The Griffins finished with a respectable 3-2 record, earning marquee victories in their first-ever game, a rout of Princeton University (48-13) and a come-from-behind win in the inaugural Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) Bowl against rival Post University (24-21). The Griffins also ended their season with a second defeat of Princeton in a high-scoring game for both sides (44-36).
“The provisional schedule was our introduction to the league,” says Pearson. “It gave us a glimpse of what it takes to be successful in the league with great effort and team work."
While the on-field results are definitely something Pearson’s team can be proud of, it is the greater impact of the culture and program he is building that is really the biggest benefit of adding the sprint football team to the College.
“Launching our sprint football program has proven to offer much more than just a new athletic opportunity for our students,” says College president, Carol Jean Vale, SSJ, Ph.D. “The sport has added increased vitality and energy to the campus community and we experienced this firsthand when more than 700 alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends showed up to witness that first historic game.”
“I want us to fit into the culture of Chestnut Hill College, while developing our own football culture as a part of that greater experience,” adds Pearson.
In addition to experiencing this culture through the general excitement that tailgating, homecomings, pep rallies and a brand new cheerleading squad add to the fall atmosphere on a college campus, the sprint football team also has attracted students who otherwise never would have heard of Chestnut Hill College - students with all kinds of diverse backgrounds and those who have come from all over the country and beyond with dreams of playing football.
“I had been looking at schools in the area and was between here and Drexel,” says North Carolina native, Jonathan Baldwin ’19. “When I heard about Coach Mike and about the sprint football program, I knew Chestnut Hill was the right decision to make.”
These students and their unique stories — be it a former rugby player from Australia, a bronze medalist in karate, a former U.S. soldier who served tours in Afghanistan, a trio who transferred from the same community college, or the College’s first-ever student from Alaska, and the spirit they have brought to campus offer perhaps the best and most unforeseen benefit sprint football has given the College.
“This is why I love sprint football,” says Pearson. “It brings together these students, some not the biggest kids in the world, some who never even played high school football, but it brings them together because they want to play the game, they love the game. Sprint football gives them the opportunity to play and get an excellent education at the same time.”
The Griffins will enjoy a much-earned off season but will do so, according to Pearson, as active fans of the other sports teams on campus. In just a few short months however, prior to the start of the next fall semester, it will be back to the grind and back to the focus of a new season and a new chance to give the College something to cheer about and to continue to grow the beloved “Griffin Pride.”
“Sprint football brought the community together in a new way,” says Sister Carol. “To say I’m pleased with how this first season went is an extraordinary understatement.”
— Marilee Gallagher ’14