At the midway point of the Division III football season, two Baltimore-area schools have positioned themselves for a run at postseason berths.
Coach Jim Margraff's Johns Hopkins team has reached the NCAA tournament during four of the last five seasons. The Blue Jays, who were ranked ninth in the Oct. 6 American Football Coaches Association national poll, swept their first five opponents by a combined score of 200-77. Hopkins posted its biggest win of the season Sept. 27, pounding then 23rd-ranked Muhlenberg, 42-26. The Blue Jays' toughest remaining test will come Nov. 1, when they travel to meet conference co-leader Ursinus (5-0, 4-0 Centennial).
The Blue Jays, 5-0 overall and 4-0 in the Centennial Conference, have relied on a stout defensive unit that returned eight starters from last year's league champions. Junior linebacker Keith Corliss (31 tackles) and sophomore defensive back Jack Toner (26 tackles, team-leading three interceptions) have been the Blue Jays' defensive leaders. The traditionally strong offensive unit, which is scoring at a 40-point per game clip, is led by new starting quarterback Braden Anderson (68.6 completion percentage, eight touchdowns) and returning running backs Stuart Walters and Brandon Cherry (708 combined rushing yards).
Now in its fourth year of existence, Stevenson is poised to have its best season. Coach Ed Hottle's Mustangs began the campaign with four consecutive wins before falling to league co-leader Lycoming. The Mustangs, who are 4-1 overall and 3-1 in the Middle Atlantic Conference, still have games remaining with perennial contender Delaware Valley and league co-leader Widener, but appear to be headed for their first winning season.
The Mustangs' defensive unit has been the key to Stevenson's success. Last season, the Mustangs gave up an average of 24.2 points. In 2014, a veteran unit that returned 10 starters has limited opponents to 14 points an outing. The Mustang defense, which recorded the first shutout in school history with a 7-0 triumph at King's Sept. 13, has been led by sophomore linebacker Cory Pietrzyk (team-leading 40 tackles) and senior defensive back Shane Clough (29 tackles, two interceptions). The Mustang offense has been built around sophomore running back Trey Lee, who has rushed for 451 yards and 5.0 yards per carry.