W&J tackle relishes role as protector, leader

More news about: Washington and Jefferson
Gary Flavion is protective by nature.
W&J athletics photo 

Presidents’ Athletic Conference title hopes hinge heavily on Saturday's clash between eighth-ranked Thomas More and Washington and Jefferson.

Thomas More has claimed the title three consecutive seasons. Another loss by the Presidents could strike a severe blow to their NCAA playoff hopes.

Naturally, for W&J one of their keys to success is keeping quarterback Matt Bliss, a newly appointed starter, comfortable in the pocket. That job falls on the shoulders of left tackle Gary Flavion and other linemen like Anthony Natale and Justin Cole.

If Flavion is a little over-protective, he comes by it honestly.

“When I play football, you protect the quarterback no matter what. That's my role: to guard the blind side. I am going to do whatever it takes; even if it means getting a holding penalty to keep them from touching my quarterback. In the same way (growing up) if someone was giving my sisters a hard time, I was going to take care of it. I am their brother, and their only brother.”

Ask the kid who got just a little too physical tackling one of his sisters in a neighborhood pickup football game. Flavion pinned the boy against the fence and reminded him of a few ground rules. 

As the story goes, she wasn't one to be outdone. She collected herself, came storming to sidelines and walloped the poor sap with a roundhouse to the jaw knocking him out.

“I was always taught not to hit a girl. With a house full of girls, I never got too rough. Football has always been my release. I'm pretty outgoing. I can get mean and nasty. I like to go full-out and hit hard.” he said.

After a season-ending injury as a freshman, Flavion has been a starter since his sophomore campaign and a stalwart of the Presidents’ front line.

Flavion is the only boy in a family of four sisters. Standing in at 6-2, 280 pounds he doesn’t quite match his five- foot-something sisters -- it’s not easy to tell they are fraternal quadruplets. That is, the Flavion four are not mirror-images of each other.

“We weren't necessarily dressed alike,” Lindsay said,”but Halloween always seemed to have a theme.” Their parents definitely had a sense of humor and timing. “I was the big, bad wolf,” Gary quipped. “My sisters were the three little pigs.”

Gary Flavion and his sisters might have the numbers for a basketball team or an O-line of their own.

If they did things together, they didn't always think the same way, and didn't always have the plans. Leadership also came naturally, by interacting with his sisters. Interacting with his four sisters forced him to develop a team concept almost from the start.

 “Communicating could be difficult, just like with the guys (on the team). I learned to develop a positive attitude. I learned that positive communication is essential in almost any situation.”

With their older sister, in the mix, that also means adapting to four other schedules.

Compared to reality shows that show multiples and large families, the Flavions will tell you they were mostly pretty normal. “We can relate to them. It's always sort of crazy, but it’s not that extreme,” according to Lindsay.

"Our house was nuts when we were younger," Gary said."I know I have the best parents in the world because of how they handled everything we were doing. Every day was insane. We owe them a great deal." 

One day it’s a relatively quiet home, with Jim and Chris and 4-year-old Amanda. Then, Dec. 18, 1989, when Gary, Lindsay, Whitney, Alexandria burst on the scene. “That was that,” Lindsay laughed. ”Our parents were always busy, but they enjoyed watching us, if they were tired they never showed it.”

Fortunately schedules aligned nicely. Efforts to get schedules and logistics to jive were more like driving a city bus and less like being an air-traffic controller at O'Hare International Airport. The older Flavion would coach his son in football, while the four girls were cheerleaders. When the girls’ lacrosse season arrived in the spring, Gary became their unofficial cheerleader.

Even today they have kept things convenient. Lindsay also attends W&J. Whitney and Alexandria attend West Virginia University less than an hour away from Washington. As you might expect, it’s a relatively convenient trip. It’s about a 45 minute drive or so south on I-79 into Morgantown to meet Whitney and Alexandra - assuming they have a big enough vehicle to pack the family and a moving van, of course.

Game notes
Matt Bliss of Washington and Jefferson completed 18 of 29 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns in the President's 31-14 win over Bethany. Teammate Alex Baroffio grabbed five passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. Bethany's Matt Grimard had 204 yards passing with a touchdown for Bethany.  Alex Evans had 239 all-purpose yards, including 152 kick return yards.

Robert Kues passes for 242 yards to lead Thomas More to a 41-6 win over Geneva.

Adrian topped Augustana 17-14 as Brandon Miller completed 21 of 38 passes for 242 yards and a touchdown. Justin Hemm had seven of those passes for 108 yards and a touchdown.

Under the lights of Western Michigan's Waldo Stadium, Kalamazoo beat Rose-Hulman 43-22 Nick Jones threw for 380 yards with three touchdowns. Jimmy Frye, who was one of his favorite targets, had seven catches for 135 yards and a touchdown.

Baldwin-Wallace's Ryan O’Rourke completed 24 of 29 passes for 279 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-20 win over Heidelberg.

Denison’s Sam Fioroni rushed for 213 yards in a 42-14 victory over Hiram.

Jeremy Murray rushed for 254 yards and three touchdowns in a 58-7 win over John Carroll. Murray's 254 rushing was the most in a single game by a Purple Raider since Nate Kmic had 310 yards against Wheaton (Ill.) in an NCAA playoff national semifinal game in 2008.

Alma routed Rockford 37-17. Ed Mason rushed 29 times for 228 yards and two touchdowns. Barak Henderson grabbed six passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns.

JaVontae Hence had 172 yards in kick return yardage, highlighted by a 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, in Trine’s 42-20 win over UW-River Falls. Hence returned three kickoffs for 140 yards and had a 32-yard punt return. Thunder teammate Myron Puryear returned a fumble 71 yards for a touchdown and made 10 tackles, six of them solo stops.

Ryan Zipf set an Allegheny record for career field goals made after drilling a 35-yarder in the third quarter for his 31st career field goal.

Matt Misorski had a career-high 14 tackles for Oberlin in their 14-3 loss to Wooster.

Mason Espinosa of Ohio Wesleyan threw for 291 yards and one touchdown, in a 28-7 loss to Wabash.

Wes Chamblee tallied 258 all-purpose yards, including eight receptions for 103 yards and two TD’s, two kick returns for 63 yards and five punt returns for 92 yards for Wabash in the win.

Sean Williams hit his 12th and 13th straight field goal to set a new Wittenberg record in their 20-17 win over Washington U.

Remember when

Since 2007, Case Western Reserve has compiled a 19-1 record on the road.

Westminster won their first PAC opener since 2007, with a 25-20 win over Grove City.

W&J has not suffered back-to-back losses at Cameron Stadium since falling to Hanover (30-20) and Grove City (31-7) in 1998.  In addition, W&J has not lost to the same opponent four consecutive years since Buffalo State won four in a row from 1996-1999. Thomas More could end both streaks on Saturday. 

Trine has won 20 straight regular season games. The last Thunder loss was a 30-29 decision at Franklin on September 26, 2009.

Great Lakes Region teams in D3football.com’s Top 25 poll this week
No. 2 - Mount Union (OAC) – Picks up six first place votes, remains at No. 2 with a 58-7 win over John Carroll
No. 8 - Thomas More (PAC) - Up two spots, beating Geneva 41-6.
No. 9 - Ohio Northern (OAC) - Jumped three spots with a 34-33 overtime win over Otterbein.
No. 17 - Wabash (NCAC) – Moves three spots with a 28-7 triumph over Ohio Wesleyan.
No. 18 - Trine (MIAA) – Vaults four spots with a 42-20 win over Wisconsin-River Falls
No. 19 - Wittenberg (NCAC) – Sits at 19 after edging Washington (Mo.) 20-17.

Others receiving votes: Baldwin-Wallace (OAC), Washington and Jefferson (PAC), and Adrian (MIAA)

Games of the Week
Thomas More (PAC) at Washington and Jefferson (PAC), 1:30 p.m., Eastern:
This one goes a long way in determining the eventual conference champ. W&J is looking to break a three game losing streak against Thomas More, all resulting in second place finishes for the Presidents.

Ohio Northern (OAC) at Muskingum (OAC) 1:30 p.m., Eastern: Both teams haven’t tasted defeat will meet to stay atop the OAC hill. ONU is always a contender while the Muskies have been impressive in their first two wins. It’s way too early to get an accurate read, but they are nationally ranked in the top ten in several defensive categories, including first in sacks and tackles for loss.

Joe Sager

Joe Sager is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh. He has written about sports since 1996 for a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites. He first covered D-III football in 2000 with the New Castle (Pa.) News.

2012-14 columnist: Brian Lester
2011 columnist: Dean Jackson
2007-10 columnist: Matt Florjancic

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