2018 Record: 12-2 overall; 8-1 Centennial Conference; Division III semifinals
Key Returners: QB David Tammaro; DB Robert Fletcher; DE Mike Kalanik
Key Games: Sept. 14 vs. Susquehanna; Nov. 2 at Muhlenberg
Outlook: If there has been one constant in the Centennial Conference for the past decade, it's that the John Hopkins football team finds itself at the top by the end of every season.
The Blue Jays capped off the 2018 season by claiming their 10th consecutive conference championship and advancing to the semifinals of the NCAA playoffs, nearly upsetting Division III powerhouse Mount Union.
The Blue Jays will try to make it 11 in a row this season, but this year will be different. Longtime head coach Jim Margraff died in January at the age of 58. For the first time in nearly 30 years, there is new leadership in Johns Hopkins' locker room.
Greg Chimera takes the reins of the Blue Jays' program after spending the past 10 years as a member of the coaching staff, including the past three seasons as the offensive coordinator. Chimera directed an offense that averaged 45.6 points per game and 550.3 yards in 2018, both school records.
Chimera said the loss of Margraff is in the back of everyone's mind, but the atmosphere in the building has been positive and the team is ready to take the program further in 2019.
"It's kind of an upbeat feeling," Chimera said. "Our players are just anxious to get back here and get ready to go. [Margraff's death] is something people think about in the back of their heads, but it's definitely not weighing down on people."
The Blue Jays' offense lost five starters from last year's team, but David Tammaro returns as the Blue Jays' signal caller for his senior year after posting career highs in 2018. The Chantilly, Va., native threw for 3,861 yards -- completing 67 percent of his throws -- and tossed 35 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
While Tamarro is coming back, he will be without receiver Luke McFadden, who finished his college career with 148 receptions, 2,632 yards and 25 touchdowns. Chimera and the offense will look to returning receivers like sophomore Harrison Wellmann and junior Ryan Hubley to take on larger roles.
"You can't expect to just put another guy out there and expect them to be Luke," Chimera said. "I think Harrison is a special talent, and Ryan ... is a really special player for us and dynamic with the ball in open space."
The defense, which allowed just over 15 points and 191 passing yards per game in 2018, returns seven starters, including sophomore Robert Fletcher. He became a standout player on defense last year, leading the team with 100 tackles, 67 of which were solo.
This year, Fletcher is making a transition from linebacker to safety, and the new challenge excites him.
"I think it fits my athletic ability along with my stature and build," said Fletcher, who is listed at 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds.
With most of the team's starters coming back, the expectations have risen. The Blue Jays are after more this year.
"We have a team that can go all the way this year," Fletcher said. "... We know our potential. We all believe we can do it."
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Johns Hopkins Athletics
Issue 256: August 2019
Originally published Aug. 15, 2019