Hopkins football team heading to Ky. for NCAA playoffs

Jays face undefeated Thomas More tomorrow in 2nd-round game

November 28, 2009|By Mike Klingaman | mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

Manned flight was a pipe dream in 1882, when Johns Hopkins started football. Not that it would have mattered. Only Friday did the Blue Jays first board a plane for a road game.

It took 127 years, and a trip to the NCAA playoffs, to bring Hopkins around. The high-flying Jays (9-2) flew to Kentucky for today's second-round game at Thomas More (11-0), a Catholic liberal arts college whose team is ranked 10th in the nation in Division III.

"They're not overly big, but they're fast, aggressive and they fly to the football," Hopkins coach Jim Margraff said of the Saints. "They remind us of us."

Hopkins, making its second appearance in the playoffs, is unranked. Last week, the Jays upset previously undefeated Hampden-Sydney, 23-7, for their first-ever tournament victory.

The win triggered an avalanche of congratulatory letters and e-mails from far-flung alumni, said Margraff, Hopkins' coach of 20 years.

"We've heard from former players in Ghana, Malaysia and Afghanistan," he said. "All over the world, our alums are doing amazing things, and when they wake up on Sunday morning, they're all looking for us in the left-hand [win] column."

Today's game pits Andrew Kase, Hopkins' all-time leading rusher, against the Thomas More defense, ranked No. 2 in the country against the run. But the Saints haven't faced an offense as relentless as Hopkins', Kase said.

"Hopefully, they [the Saints] will be lower in the rankings by Sunday," he said.

The winner plays next Saturday against either Wesley (Del.) or Mississippi College.

Their success has pushed the Jays' season past a point (Thanksgiving) where no Hopkins team has gone before. After practice Thursday, coaches and about 35 players shared a holiday repast at Sammy's Trattoria on North Charles Street.

It wasn't mom's cooking, linebacker Colin Wixted said, "but I certainly won't pass up free food."

Hopkins' academic renown leads some opponents to take the football team lightly, Wixted reckoned.

"They don't expect athletes to come out of this school," the senior co-captain said. "But we played an undefeated team last week and put a blemish on their mark, and I wouldn't mind doing the same [today]."

That victory created a buzz on campus that spilled over into the Charles Village community, Wixted said.

"Even the food workers at Eddie's Market, where players go for sandwiches, are treating us like celebrities.

"This is huge for Hopkins football."

Note: A live audio broadcast of the game will be available at d3football.com/audio.

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