Johns Hopkins football team primed for another playoff run

Expectations running high for Blue Jays after 10-3 season in 2009

August 29, 2010|By Todd Karpovich, Special to The Baltimore Sun

Johns Hopkins safety Michael Milano remembers reading a national magazine article as a sophomore in which the publication jokingly expressed surprise that the school even had a football team.

Long known for their prowess at lacrosse, the Blue Jays never created a major buzz in football despite winning five Centennial Conference championships since 2002. All that changed last season, when Johns Hopkins drew plenty of attention during its remarkable run to the NCAA quarterfinals.

The increased exposure coincides with high expectations by Blue Jays coaches and players, who will seek to build upon their unprecedented success of a year ago. Hopkins enters the season ranked as high as 15th in the Division III national polls and is the favorite to win its second consecutive conference title and a trip back to the NCAA playoffs. The Blue Jays went 10-3 in 2009 and beat two previously unbeaten teams in the playoffs before losing to third-ranked Wesley (Del.) in a driving winter storm.

"No one expected us to get as far as we did," said Milano, now a junior who had a team-high 84 tackles last season. "Once we started the offseason, we put it all behind us. Those seniors who led the team were leaving. It was a new start for everyone and we had to start our own run."

The biggest challenge for Hopkins will be replacing running back Andrew Kase, the school's all-time leading rusher, who teammates described as being "automatic" on third-and-short yardage. However, junior quarterback Hewitt Tomlin returns after throwing for a school-record 2,642 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. His top three receiving targets — Dan Crowley, Tucker Michels and Sam Wernick — also return after combining for 2,127 yards on 171 receptions and 10 touchdowns.

"We get to open it up a little bit," Tomlin said. "We might get to throw the ball a little bit on third and short. And even if we are still running, we might go outside instead of always going inside. We have to get good at a lot of things."

Coach Jim Margraff, who is entering his 21st season and is the winningest coach in school history, said one of the keys to the season is the amount of depth on both sides of the ball. The Blue Jays ended last season with four consecutive road games, winning three. Hopkins opens this season with three consecutive away games, including two conference matchups against Gettysburg and Moravian. Hopkins opens the season Sept. 11 at Randolph-Macon. The Blue Jays don't play a home game until Oct. 2 against Muhlenberg.

"There's nothing better than going into somebody's place and beating them," Margraff said. "We take that as a huge challenge. We had some huge wins on the road last season, but we'll have to do that again this year."

Frostburg

Last season: 1-9 overall, 1-2 Atlantic Central Football Conference

Coach: Tom Rogish (third season, 4-15)

Outlook: The Bobcats' only victory last season came against Apprentice on the road. However, expectations are higher this year with the return of 15 starters from a team that led the league in third-down percentage and red-zone offense

McDaniel

Last season: 5-5 overall, 3-5 Centennial Conference

Coach: Tim Keating (18th season, 103-70-3)

Outlook: The Green Terror is expected to finish seventh in the 10-team Centennial Conference. McDaniel will be led by wide receiver Matt Cahill, who led the team with 52 catches for 787 yards — the second-most receiving yards in program history. He also had seven touchdown receptions.

Salisbury

Last season: 5-6 overall, 2-1 Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference

Coach: Sherman Wood (12th season, 74-41)

Outlook: Salisbury is looking to build on last season's fourth ECAC Bowl appearance, a 37-21 loss to Lebanon Valley. The team will be a led by a defense that finished fourth in the nation with 3.55 sacks per game.

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