Thomas More's Hayden bounces back from injury

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"You can't be successful on the field if you aren't successful in class," said Thomas More running back Domonique Hayden. I've learned to balance both school and football."
Thomas More athletics photo

Domonique Hayden was coming off the best season of his college career, and a promising 2012 campaign awaited the Thomas More running back.

That is until fate turned in the wrong direction.

As Hayden ran with the ball in a game against nationally ranked St. John Fisher during the season opener last fall, he was tackled and the defender gator rolled his leg.

The end result wasn't pretty.

"My right hamstring was torn off my bone," Hayden said.

At that point, the rug had been pulled from under Hayden, who, as a sophomore a year earlier, had been named the PAC’s Player of the Year.

"It was tough to have my season end so quickly. I was expecting to have another good year, and what made things even tougher was that I couldn't be out on the field helping my teammates."

Hayden worked hard to get himself ready to get back on the field. By spring football, he was back to full speed. He hasn't missed a beat this season as the Saints have rolled through their first three games and have risen into the poll at No. 25.

Hayden has carried the ball 62 times for 547 yards and four touchdowns and appears to be back in the form he was in two years ago. He is also still very humble.

"It's a good feeling to be one of the better players in the league, but I am more about the team," Hayden said. "I have goals for myself, but my main goal is to do what I can to help our team win."

Thomas More head coach Jim Hilvert said losing Hayden a year ago forced his team to make some big adjustments to soften the blow of the loss. Thomas More managed to win its final six games after starting out 1-3.

"He brings so much energy to our team and is a great leader," Hilvert said. "His work ethic is strong, and he goes out and gets the job done every week. The thing about Domonique is that he doesn't let any of the success go to his head. He is a very humble player."

Hayden said he has embraced his role as one of the team leaders and also worked hard in the offseason to make himself a better player on the field.

"I feel like I've gotten faster and my focus on the field is a lot better," Hayden said. "I go hard on every play, and I also think my experience has made a big difference this year. I'm a junior now, so I know what to expect and how to handle different situations."

Yet, Hayden is quick to note that his success wouldn't be possible without the aid of his offensive line. During an interview, Hayden took the time to list the starters on the line. Kevin Morrison, Jake McBee, Jake Henderson, Kevin Henderson and Danny Mohs have all played a pivotal role in Hayden's ability to be effective running the football.

"My success wouldn't be possible without those guys," Hayden said. "They go out and get the job done every week. All I have to do is run the ball. Those guys do all the work and make me look good."

Hayden has been making an impact since his freshman season when he started 10 games and rushed for 1,195 yards en route to being named an All-PAC first-team selection. A year later, he was the league's player of the year as he scored a team-best 19 touchdowns.

"The biggest transition for me was getting used to the speed of the game," Hayden said. "As a freshman, I had to spend a lot of extra time studying the playbook and having good focus. Being focused in the classroom has been important as well. You can't be successful on the field if you aren't successful in class. I've learned to balance both school and football."

For the Saints, the expectations are high. Thomas More is counting on contending for the PAC championship and earning a trip to the NCAA playoffs. But Hilvert reminds his team each week that the focus must remain on the challenge in front of it.

"Our motto is to go 1-0 every week," Hilvert said. "We have to take it one game at a time. We have played well so far, but we still have improvements we can make in every aspect of the game. We have high expectations, but the guys understand that we can only worry about the next game. It's the only one that matters."

Hayden doesn't hide the fact that he wants to play for a national title this year. Yet, while that is the ultimate goal, it's a goal that can't be achieved if the Saints don't take care of business each week.

"We set a lot of goals for ourselves, and one of them is to make it to the national championship game," Hayden said. "But we know it's a long journey, and we have to take it one week at a time. We feel like we have a good football team, and if we can all stay focused and play as a team, we will have a chance to achieve our goals."

One thing is for sure, Hayden feels great being back on the field instead of being forced to watch games from the sidelines.

"We're off to a good start and I'm glad I can be back out there helping my team," Hayden said. "We want to continue to work hard to be successful."

In the poll

Kevin Burke turned in another spectacular performance, tying his career-high in touchdown passes with five as he led top-ranked Mount Union to a 84-14 drubbing of Marietta on Saturday night.

Burke was 22-of-30 for 336 yards as the Purple Raiders matched the OAC record for points in a game while extending the nation's longest win streak to 18 games. It was Mount Union's 76th consecutive win in the regular season and 69th in a row at home.

Brian Gainer caught seven passes for 112 yards, the first 100-yard game of his career, and highlighted the effort with a pair of touchdown catches. The Purple Raiders (3-0, 2-0) rolled up 690 yards and allowed 276.

Points weren't in short supply for No. 13 Heidelberg, which scored on eight of its first nine possessions and rolled to a 66-12 win over Wilmington on Saturday. The 66 points in the OAC victory is the most since the Student Princes (3-0, 2-0) hung 69 on Otterbein in 1972.

Heidelberg churned out 505 yards, averaging 7.7 yards per play, and the Student Princes forced four turnovers, including picking off three passes inside the 20. Michael Mees threw for 231 yards and four touchdowns while Dontae Dye caught six passes for 131 yards and two scores. Will Lance racked up a team-best 10 tackles while Larry Massey, Chase Bauer and Scott Gwisdalla all came up with interceptions.

Running the football was the mode of attack for No. 17 Wabash in its 65-0 NCAC win over Allegheny on Saturday. The Little Giants (3-0, 2-0) churned out 385 yards on the ground, the fourth highest total in school history, while limiting the Gators to 3 rushing yards.

Mason Zurek stepped up in place of the injured Tyler Holmes and rushed for 158 yards and two touchdowns, while Andy Walsh threw for 96 yards and a score.

Wabash scored three of its touchdowns off mistakes. Cody Buresh scored on a 2-yard fumble return, Delon Pettiford returned an interception 25 yards to the end zone, and Brock Smith scooped up a blocked punt and ran 26 yards for a touchdown.

Scoring against 18th-ranked Wittenberg has been impossible lately. The Tigers blanked their second consecutive opponent on Saturday, pounding NCAC foe Oberlin 59-0, and have yet to allow a point against a Division III team this season.

The Tigers (2-1, 2-0) torched the Yeomen for a school-record 716 yards, including 362 on the ground, and have outscored their opponents 104-0 in their last two games. Oberlin hasn't beaten Wittenberg since 1951.

Reed Florence was a razor-sharp 16-of-18 through the air, throwing for 271 yards. Ten receivers caught passes, with Brandon Cunningham catching four passes for 143 yards. He caught one touchdown pass.

The defense, coming off back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 2009, was led by Nick Gibson's nine-tackle effort. The Tigers allowed only 115 yards.

For the first time since 2003, No. 24 John Carroll is off to a 3-0 start. The Blue Streaks (3-0, 2-0) rolled to a 28-0 OAC win over Otterbein on Saturday. It was the second shutout of the year for the Blue Streaks, who have beaten two of the teams picked ahead of them in the OAC poll.

Marshall Howell shined one more time as he turned in his third consecutive 100-yard game. The freshman star ran for 124 yards and two scores.

Mark Myers was 23-of-40 for 226 yards and two touchdowns while Matt Feeney and Mitch Krotz anchored an aggressive defensive attack with nine tackles apiece. John Caroll finished with seven sacks and 13 tackles for a loss.

No. 25 Thomas More dominated Waynesburg in its home opener Saturday, winning the PAC showdown 49-28 to remain unbeaten on the season.

The Saints (3-0, 2-0) were paced by Domonique Hayden, who rushed for 212 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a touchdown pass in the victory. The scoring strike was one of three thrown by Jensen Gephardt, who was 12-of-20 for 236 yards.

Goose Cohorn caught five passes for 111 yards and a score as the Saints rolled up 469 yards.

Waynesburg managed to tally 439 yards of offense against the Saints, who were led defensively by Kyle Fuller. Fuller tallied seven tackles and returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown. Dylan Ruter came through with seven tackles and a sack.

Inside the OAC

Nolan Sordyl rushed for a career-high 99 yards on 20 carries to lead Baldwin Wallace to a 23-13 win over Muskingum on Saturday.

The Yellow Jackets led 13-0 at the half and got three field goals from Chris Mohler in the victory. Mohler also connected on his two extra-point attempts.

David Flegal anchored the defensive effort for Baldwin Wallace (2-1, 1-1), tallying 11 tackles as helped the defense force two turnovers. The Muskies (0-3, 0-2) were led by C.J. Snider, who threw for 164 yards.

Devon Price made his presence felt for Ohio Northern in the Polar Bears' 38-24 road win over Capital on Saturday. Price blocked a punt that led to a touchdown and also caught an 80-yard scoring strike.

Matt Deter, making his debut after being out with an injury, broke the school record for longest field goal as he drilled a 52-yard kick in the victory. The old record of 50 yards was set in 2009.

The Polar Bears (2-1, 1-1) rolled up 378 yards behind a 233-yard performance by Patrick Angle, who threw for 233 yards and three touchdowns. William Bodden rushed for 130 yards and a score while Dillon Kwiat came through with a career-high 15 tackles.

Chase Longwell led Capital (1-2, 1-1) with 138 yards through the air and 86 on the ground.

Inside the MIAA

Adrian showed no mercy against Carthage when it came to defending the run as the Bulldogs held the Red Men to minus 22 yards on 33 carries in a 28-14 nonconference win on Saturday. It is believed to be a school record for rushing yards allowed by Adrian (3-1).

Part of the defensive success is linked to the play of Jack Carter, who played well on the defensive front, racking up nine tackles, including five for a loss. He rang up one sack. Deontae Bridgeman picked off a pass and came through with six tackles. He also recovered a fumble in the win.

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, cranked out 181 yards on the ground, with Damon Brown rushing for 156 yards and a touchdown. Aaron Tenney threw for 112 yards.

Olivet is still unbeaten after knocking off North Park 14-10 on Saturday in Chicago in its final nonconference game of the season.

The Comets came through with 468 yard of offense. Damorria Lilly rushed for 168 yards while Javier Lara came through with 66 yards on the ground. Braden Black, who was 17-of-28 for 151 yards, also rushed for 48 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Black's 5-yard touchdown run in the second half gave the Comets (4-0) the lead for good at 14-10.

Nate Roberts anchored the defense for Olivet, tallying seven tackles. The Comets limited the Vikings to 172 yards.

Inside the PAC

Westminster ended a five-game losing streak dating back to last season with a 28-21 win over St. Vincent on Saturday.

Dak Brit led the way as he threw for 328 yards, marking the first time since 2008 that a Titans quarterback has throw for more than 300 yards in a game. Collin Wallace benefited from the stellar performance as he caught eight passes for 165 yards.

Toby Bonitz racked up a career-high 102 receiving yards on six catches and the Titans (1-2, 1-1) stepped up on defense by allowing only 239 yards, including just 31 on the ground. The Titans finished with 454 yards.

Nate Moot paced the defense with eight tackles while Dave Buzzaco tallied seven tackles for a defense that forced four turnovers.

Matt Deakins led St. Vincent (0-3, 0-2) as he threw for 96 yards and a touchdown pass.

Washington and Jefferson turned up the heat on defense and forced three turnovers to help the Presidents roll past Thiel 39-19 on Saturday.

Sam Comly and B.J. Monacelli each picked off a pass while Shane Smith forced and recovered a fumble. The three turnovers led to 14 points for the Presidents (3-1, 2-0).

Pete Coughlin started in the place of the injured Matt Bliss and was 16-of-23 for 169 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 54 yards and a score. Dion Wiegand entered the game as the leading scorer in Division III and pushed his season touchdown total to 10 with a 1-yard run.

Jared Pratt racked up 12 tackles and Anthony Tutino tallied eight tackles.

Thiel (0-4, 0-2) managed 321 yards of offense and got 93 yards and a touchdown from Josh Potter. Andrew Smith was 20-of-39 for 229 yards and threw a touchdown pass.

Inside the NCAC

Denison came through with a statement win on Saturday night, knocking off Ohio Wesleyan 47-41 in a wild double-overtime thriller on the road. It's the first time since 1985 that the Big Red has won at Ohio Wesleyan, which won a share of the NCAC championship last season.

Colin Morris secured the win for Denison, rushing 13 yards for the game-winning touchdown as the Big Red rallied for the victory after trailing 27-17 with 2:12 left in the third quarter.

Denison converted on third down 50 percent of the time and held the ball for more than 40 minutes on a night when it rolled up 531 yards. Brandon Sklenar threw for 205 yards and rushed for 164 yards while throwing for a touchdown and running for two scores. Morris finished with 120 yards and scored twice.

Andrew Baird anchored the defense with 10 tackles for the Big Red (3-1, 2-1). Mason Espinosa threw for 473 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Bishops (2-1, 1-1).

Blake Calcei scored a pair of touchdowns, pushing his total to a team-best five on the year, to help Kenyon hold off DePauw 28-26 on Saturday. Calcei caught a touchdown pass and ran for a score to pace the Lords.

Jack Bates threw for 187 yards and rushed for 48, highlighting his effort with two touchdowns as Kenyon (2-2, 2-1)  rolled up 398 yards and survived a close call against the Tigers (0-3, 0-2). The two teams were tied at 14-14 at the half.

Reed Franklin tallied 10 tackles to lead the way for the Lords while Cam Ventling came through with a recovered fumble on DePauw's final drive to seal the win.

Kenyon was led by Niko Sansone, who rushed for 103 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Lords had three plays cover 50 or more yards. Adam Folta tallied 14 tackles.

Quick look at Tartans and Spartans

Max Reinertsen scored on a 6-yard touchdown run in the second overtime to lift Carnegie Mellon to a 41-34 win over Geneva on Saturday.

It was the final highlight of a big day for Reinertsen, who caught a pair of touchdown passes as well. His 3-yard touchdown catch came in the first overtime to tie the score at 34-34. He rushed for 85 yards and caught five passes for 27 yards as the Tartans (2-2) handed Geneva its first loss.

Rob Kalkstein was 14-of-22 for 156 yards. He threw four touchdown passes and Vince Demarchi played well defensively as he tallied 12 tackles. Malcom Guya, Aaryn Watson, Akwasi Brefo and Alex D'Angelo came through with nine tackles apiece.

Case Western Reserve is 1-3 for the first time since 2001 after being blanked 45-0 by No. 2 Linfield on Saturday in Cleveland. It was the first time the Spartans have been shutout since falling 14-0 to Alfred in 2005.

Linfeild was averaging a nation's best 658 yards per game, but the Spartans managed to hold them to 428 yards. Case also forced two turnovers.

The problem was the Spartans couldn't match the offensive production of the Wildcats, tallying only 89 yards. They trailed 24-0 at halftime. Billy Beacher threw for 58 yards and rushed for 11 while Aaron Weisberg and Gavin Sandidge tallied 12 and 11 tackles, respectively. Everett Dishong added 10 tackles and a sack.

Notes: Brandon Arehart and Jeremy Duncan had career days for Wilmington in its 66-12 loss to Heidelberg. Arehart threw for a career-best 409 yards on 27-of-54 passing while Duncan caught 11 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns...Six turnovers hurt Kalamazoo in a 31-17 loss to unbeaten Chicago. Despite the loss, Justin Danzy was 41-of-62 for 333 yards and two touchdowns as Kalamazoo out-gained the Maroons 412-299....Eric Blinn caught 10 passes for 163 yards to help Bethany edge Grove City 34-31 on Saturday for its first win of the year. Blinn has 46 catches and 463 yards in four games for the Bison....John Battaglia racked up 12 tackles and was the leading tackler for the first time in his career as Wooster knocked off Hiram 38-24. It was the second consecutive win for the Fighting Scots.

Contact Me: I always love hearing from the readers. Feel free to comment on a column or shoot me a story idea. You can also follow me on Twitter @BLester1993.

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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