Unbeaten Frostburg State, the only collegiate football team in Maryland with a legitimate chance for a postseason appearance, will end its most successful regular season at Waynesburg State Saturday.
The Bobcats (9-0) are No. 3 in the South Region of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division III rankings. They need a victory over Waynesburg (5-4) to ensure their first postseason appearance.
"We have to treat the Waynesburg game as a playoff game," said coach Dennis Riccio, who came to Frostburg four years ago and has raised the program at Maryland's westernmost four-year college from the doldrums. "If we win, we're in. If we lose, we're out. I think we have enough character and determination on this team to do what has to be done. If we don't, I've made a great misjudgment of this bunch of players."
The Bobcats, who never were much better than a .500 team before Riccio took over, went 2-8 in his first year, 4-6 the next and 9-1 last year, just missing the playoffs.
Riccio came to Frostburg from Division III power Augustana (Ill.) College, where he was an assistant. Arriving at Frostburg the same year was Mike Colletta, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound tackle from Calvert Hall who leads the team in sacks this season with six.
"The first year was rough, but it has gotten better each year," said Colletta, who lives in northeast Baltimore. "He [Riccio] makes you work, but the hard work has paid off."
In addition to being ranked in the South Region, behind Ferrum (8-0) and Washington and Jefferson (9-0), Frostburg is among the national leaders in seven categories, three on defense and four on offense.
Fullback Rory McTigue is nationally ranked in scoring with 98 points. Defensive back Keith Shorter is ranked in interceptions with a school-record eight. And wingback Jimmy Carter is ranked in punt returns with 17 for 195.
With an eye toward the playoffs, Riccio said he'll use his players differently.
"We've been using our starters very little in the second half, because when we get ahead I believe in letting as many kids as possible play, but that's got to change," he said. "We have to get our starters more work, and we also have to start deciding what 48 players to suit up if we make the playoffs."
One of the 48 would be wide receiver and kickoff returner Warren Tweedy, a 6-2, 212-pound sophomore from Waldorf who returned a kickoff a school-record 98 yards against Bethany Saturday and had an 81-yard return nullified because of a clip.
Frostburg has 25 players from Baltimore-area high schools, and five are starters. In addition to Colletta, defensive end Mark Price, a 5-11, 197-pound senior from Dulaney High School, is considered one of the hardest hitters on the team. He is second in tackles with 55.
* MORGAN STATE: Junior Rob Johnson (Overlea) has emerged as the team's top kick returner after being featured in the role only the past three games. He has returned six kickoffs for 150 yards (a longest of 51), and five punts for 47 yards. Saturday's effort at Howard, although resulting in a 10th straight Morgan loss, 49-13, marked the second straight game in which the Bears did not have a kick blocked.
* SALISBURY STATE: The Sea Gulls (1-8) gave first-year coach Joe Rotellini his first collegiate coaching victory when they defeated Newport News Apprentice, 31-13, Saturday. Junior Jason Barton, who transferred from Shippensburg State to remain with Rotellini, had 109 rushing yards a week earlier, then 81 this time, prompting his coach to say, "That is the kind of potential he has to play week in and week out." Senior Bill Lewit concluded his most successful season with four catches for 98 yards, giving him 20 for 297 yards for the year.
Defensively, the team had season highs of five sacks and three interceptions. Junior end Joe Tasman had three sacks to go with six tackles and a fumble recovery, and back Francis Bundukamara, the team's most consistent defender, had four tackles and an interception, and knocked down two passes. Another of the interceptions went to senior back Harry King (Northeast-Anne Arundel).
* WESTERN MARYLAND: Individual leaders in the Green Terrors' 15-14 victory over Swarthmore that preserved their first-place position in the Centennial Conference included defensive back Mike Robinson, defensive lineman Danny Moore and offensive backs Eric Frees and Rob Johnson (North Carroll).
Robinson had his second two-interception game of the season for a total of five, most by an individual since 1986, and the team has 15, most in the same time. Moore, coming off an ankle injury that had kept him out of a couple games, returned with an 18-tackle show; Frees broke his own single-season yardage record, raising it from 1,260 to 1,321; and Johnson rushed for 65 yards and caught three passes for 56 yards, including a 40-yarder for the winning touchdown in the last seven minutes. He started that drive with an option pass to Chris Kane that went for 34 yards.