Jays Picked To Win Title

College Football

Centennial Voters Choose Hopkins Over Dickinson And Muhlenberg

August 06, 2009|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

The Johns Hopkins football team has won four Centennial Conference titles and is in strong position to add No. 5 this season. At least that's the view of opposing league coaches and sports information directors, who voted the Blue Jays No. 1 over two-time defending champion Muhlenberg and Dickinson, which has captured a conference-record nine championships.

"We expected to be near the top," said Hopkins coach Jim Margraff, whose team tied for second in the conference last season. "It's not a surprise to be the preseason pick, but Muhlenberg is reloading and Dickinson has two great offensive players and a great defense."

Hopkins went 4-6 in 2007 before improving to 8-3 last season - the biggest single-season turnaround since Margraff took over the program 20 years ago - with a team that the coach said was "very young [and] that by most standards overachieved."

Key to the reversal were the performances of running back Andrew Kase, who enters his senior season as the Blue Jays' all-time leading rusher with 2,954 yards, and linebacker Colin Wixted, a two-time All-Centennial Conference selection.

Kase's average of 148.6 rushing yards per game last season (1,635 total) ranked eighth in Division III, while Wixted bolstered the defense with 66 tackles.

As the Blue Jays begin preparation for their Sept. 5 season opener at Delaware Valley, a team ranked among the top five teams in Division III, Margraff said he expects his maturing team to be more diverse offensively.

Quarterback Hewitt Tomlin and running backs Lyndon O'Connor and Nick Fazio, all sophomores, have a year of experience. Several wide receivers, including junior Tucker Michels and sophomore Sam Wernick, appear ready to have breakout seasons.

Margraff said the team's "consistency and ball security on offense and playing great defense" will be the keys to Hopkins' success.

At McDaniel College, coach Tim Keating's team seems to be where Hopkins was a year ago. With the Green Terror coming off a 2-8 record, Keating said he has a one-two punch in the backfield with senior running backs T.J. Develin and Eric Zwilsky, and a senior leader on defense in linebacker Mike Weick.

"I can't wait to see them all play this autumn," Keating said.

Centennial Conference preseason poll

School Points

1. Johns Hopkins 115 (10)

2. Muhlenberg 102 (5)

3. Dickinson 102 (2)

4. Moravian 91 (1)

5. Gettysburg 75

6. Franklin & Marshall 63

7. Ursinus 45

8. McDaniel 26

9. Juniata 22

Note: First-place votes from coaches and sports information directors in parentheses

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