WESTMINSTER — Midway through the season, the Johns Hopkins-McDaniel football game had the potential to be a marquee matchup.
Both teams were unbeaten, vying for the top spot in the Centennial Conference and among the top 25 Division III teams in the country.
But four straight losses by the Green Terror in October helped the Blue Jays pull away and gain at least a share of the conference crown and their first NCAA playoff berth. Yesterday, Hopkins clinched the title outright with a 14-5 win over McDaniel at Scott S. Bair Stadium.
The Blue Jays (8-2, 5-1) will find out today at 1 p.m. whom they'll face in the first round of the Division III playoffs.
"This is something we've worked real hard for," Hopkins coach Jim Margraff said. "This team has found ways to win throughout the year. There's a lot of things we've got to straighten out before next week. It's always going to be a challenge against McDaniel, but as long as you find a way to win, that's good enough for me."
McDaniel (5-5, 2-4) had more total yards and more first downs yesterday and limited Hopkins quarterback Zach DiIonno to 11 yards passing in the first half, but turnovers thwarted any momentum McDaniel was able to muster. Hopkins forced three in the first half - two fumbles and an interception.
But Hopkins didn't turn any of them into points, which is why the Blue Jays never pulled away and led by only four points at halftime.
The Blue Jays' only scoring drive of the first half came after a defensive stand late in the opening quarter. After Hopkins held McDaniel to a three-and-out deep in its own territory, the Green Terror punted, and the Blue Jays took over at the McDaniel 48-yard line.
T.J. Lyons (25 carries, 135 yards) capped an eight-play drive with a 3-yard touchdown run that put the Jays up 7-0 with 1:01 left in the first quarter. Despite gaining the ball two more times off McDaniel miscues, Hopkins led just 7-3 at the half, as the Green Terror's defensive unit limited the Jays to 48 total yards in the first half.
But Hopkins took control with a 99-yard, fourth-quarter scoring drive.
With a little more than seven minutes to play and Hopkins leading 7-5, a McDaniel punt pinned the Blue Jays inside their own 1-yard line. On first down - after a penalty had backed the Jays to within inches of their own goal line - DiIonno threw a 32-yard pass to Anthony Triplin (Gilman). That started a decisive march that took less than three minutes. Lyons capped the drive with his second rushing touchdown of the game, from 1 yard out, to put Hopkins ahead 14-5 with 4:56 left.
Johns Hopkins 7 0 0 7 - 14
McDaniel 0 3 2 0 - 5
First quarter JH-Lyons 3 run (Scott kick), 1:01. Second quarter McD-Leonard 19 FG, 8:25. Third quarter McD-Safety, 13:19. Fourth quarter Lyons 1 run (Scott kick), 4:56. A-3,250.
First downs 12 18
Passing 117 145
Comp-Att-Int 10-17-1 15-42-2
Return Yards 53 75
Punts-Avg. 9-32.1 9-31.9
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 3-2
Penalties-Yards 9-53 5-35
Time of Possession 33:40 26:20
Rushing-Johns Hopkins, Lyons 25-135, Waddell 14-26, Nesbitt 1-2, DiIonno 7-(minus 42). McDaniel, Ju. Brockmeyer 3-31, Parker 8-23, Gibson 4-15, Taylor 5-13, Green 1-8, Koenig 2-5, Wenrich 10-(minus 2). Passing-Johns Hopkins, DiIonno 9-13-1-108, Waddell 1-4-0-9. McDaniel, Wenrich 13-33-2-114, Gibson 2-9-0-31. Receiving-Johns Hopkins, Triplin 8-105, Earnest 1-9, Lyons 1-3. McDaniel, Martin 5-49, Green 3-20, Unger 2-24, Taylor 1-19, Ju. Brockmeyer 1-14, Myers 1-9, E. Featherston 1-7, Lufkin 1-3.