DiIonno, 2-0 Hopkins seek respect

After 9-2 and 10-1 seasons, Blue Jays are taking aim at Division III playoffs

College Football

September 16, 2004|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Quarterback Zach DiIonno is tired of Johns Hopkins getting snubbed at playoff time and is showing it on the field.

"We don't want to rely on any stupid tie-breaker systems in the [Centennial Conference] or any NCAA committees this season," said the junior, who passed for career highs of 371 yards and four touchdowns in Saturday's win over Kean. "We want to win the Centennial Conference title outright and go to the NCAAs. We should have received an at-large bid last year."

DiIonno (pronounced D-o-no) said Hopkins has such a strong academic program that "people don't think we can have a good football team."

Blue Jays coach Jim Margraff said that theory was re-visited last weekend by the players at Kean in Union, N.J.

"They didn't think guys from a good academic school could come up there and play physical football," said Margraff, whose team romped, 35-17.

The bottom line for Hopkins football is the team is still awaiting its first NCAA Division III playoff berth despite putting together 9-2 and 10-1 records the past two seasons.

In the season opener, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound DiIonno threw for two touchdowns and ran for another score in a 34-17 rout of Rochester. He has soared to the top of the Centennial Conference in yards passing per game (262) and touchdown passes (six) and ranks second in pass efficiency (157.8) and total offense (262.5 yards a game).

"Zach has a Division I arm," said Margraff. "He can throw the ball 70 yards. He sometimes tries to force [the ball] in there, but he gets away with it."

Although this is DiIonno's first season as a full-time starter, Margraff said he gave his quarterback the game decisions on whether to pass or run.

"Zach really responded to that by playing with a lot of confidence," said the coach.

DiIonno said he is surrounded by a lot of talent this season, beginning with his offensive line and continuing through receivers in Brian Wolcott and Anthony Triplin.

Wolcott and Triplin have combined for 24 receptions for 372 yards and four touchdowns in the Blue Jays' 2-0 start.

DiIonno also has his own built-in fan club of five younger sisters and brothers, with sister Alana, 12, and brother Dante, 6, being the lacrosse players in the West Caldwell, N.J., family.

"I'm not big on lacrosse," admitted DiIonno. "All my brothers and sisters are always up to something, and I enjoy talking to them often on the phone and having them come to my games."

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