Cengia quite a catch in flag football
Former Notre Dame quarterback Evan Sharpley throws a pass during the Alumni Flag Football Game prior to the Blue-Gold Game.
(Irish Sports Report/JAMES BROSHER)
9:00 am, April 23, 2012
The last time Scott Cengia remembers being on a football field as something other than a kicker was back in high school in Melbourne, Fla., two decades ago. Junior-to-be nose guard Kona Schwenke and fifth-year senior wide receiver John Goodman were named game captains by the Irish coaching staff.
That might help explain why he was happily bewildered at being named the co-MVP of the April 21 Notre Dame alumni flag football game on a day when his foot never touched the ball.
“I think it was a matter of me maybe being the youngest guy out there,” the 36-year-old makeshift defensive back/wide receiver said with a smile and a shrug after the Blue and Gold teams played to a 22-22 tie in the precursor to the main event — the 83rd annual Blue-Gold Game.
Actually, Cengia wasn’t close to being the youngest, but he played like it. The former kicker, who walked on under coach Lou Holtz and finished his Irish career in 1997 as a scholarship player under Bob Davie, caught passes, scored touchdowns and even returned a botched two-point conversion attempt 100 yards for a defensive two-point conversion.
“Good thing it was early in the game,” said Cengia, currently a financial adviser for UBS in Cincinnati and a volunteer assistant coach for Ohio power St. Xavier High School. “If it happened at the end of the game, I wouldn’t have made it to the end zone.”
The thrower of the conversion-gone-bad was Evan Sharpley, one of four quarterbacks who battled over the Irish QB pecking order five springs ago in the Blue-Gold Game.
Sharpley played well enough, outside of that miscue, to share the MVP honors on defense. His highlights included picking off a Mark Green pass when Sharpley was playing defense.
“I thought it was a blast,” said reigning Miss Indiana Jackie Jerlecki, an ND grad herself and Sharpley’s girlfriend. “I hadn’t met Evan yet when he was playing here at Notre Dame. So to sit in the stands and hear, ‘Evan Sharpley with a touchdown pass,’ that’s so cool.
“I probably did see him play when I was here. I just don’t remember it.”
Nor apparently did Green, a running back during his playing days at ND and a member of the last Irish football team to win a national title (1988).
“It was funny,” Sharpley said. “I was playing catch with him before the game, and he said, ‘You throw like a quarterback.’
“I said, ‘Yeah, I played quarterback.’
“So then he asked me how I gripped the football. And I gave him a couple of tips on how to throw it. And he threw pretty well too. If I had known he was going to be the quarterback for the other team, I might have thought twice about it.”
The game had plenty of glitches, including a tackle of Cengia on the first completion of the game in a game where tackling wasn’t allowed.
And both of the ceremonial coaches — Golden Tate and Sergio Brown — took the term “ceremonial” more to heart than “coach” as both were nowhere to be found in the stadium that early in the day.
Former All-America running back Reggie Brooks ended up coaching both teams, arguing with the refs and chiding Sharpley for leaving the pocket too early.
“He was really on my case,” said Sharpley an infielder with independent minor league team, the Lake Erie Crushers, which he’ll join later this month. “But the whole day — even that — was really fun.
“I wish I could have played a little longer. Maybe I’ll see if coach (Brian) Kelly will let me play in the game this afternoon.”
ND head coach Brian Kelly said that was based on Schwenke and Goodman being the most improved players on the team this spring.
Tight end Troy Niklas, a converted outside linebacker, was a late scratch because the sophomore-to-be wasn’t cleared from a concussion he suffered earlier in the spring.
The official stats indicated the Notre Dame offense went 0-for-11 on third-down conversions, but the Irish actually were 2-of-11. Both conversions came via penalty.
The first was a personal foul on Ishaq Williams for nailing quarterback Everett Golson out of bounds. The other occurred when the Big East officials walked off six yards on a five-yard offsides penalty on third-and-6.