October 27, 2009

There's more to Juniata than win No. 1

More news about: Juniata

Juniata's Carmen Felus earned his first win as a head coach, beating Moravian 10-3 on Saturday.
Juniata athletics photo

In December 2008, coach Carmen Felus inherited a Juniata team that had won just five games in the previous five seasons. It’s a tall mountain to climb for any head coach, a journey that is marked by milestones along the way.

Felus and the Eagles players reached one of the biggest milestones of the year on Saturday, winning their first game of the season. The 10-3 victory over conference opponent Moravian came, as Felus notes, amid a perfect blend of offense, defensive and special teams performances by the Eagles. Juniata put all their points on the board in the first quarter, capitalizing on the ability to quickly move the ball down the field and stringing together several strong gains.

The 10-0 score for the next 32 minutes, as well as the win, fell then on the defense’s shoulders. Moravian’s only points came on a drive that started inside the red zone. Juniata’s defense tightened up as the ball moved inside the 10, and the Greyhounds had to settle for the uprights. The overall efforts on defense were led by cornerback Kyle McKechnie, who had 13 tackles and an interception, and linebacker Chris Stephens, who had 10 tackles and a sack.

Felus, a Pennsylvania native who has previous coaching experience at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, talked about the task of taking on the Eagles team and the kinds of things he has learned.

D3football.com: I was looking through your online bio, and it appears this past weekend was your first win as a collegiate head coach. What was that like for you?
Felus: I was more happy for our players and coaches than what I was for myself. I thought our guys did a great job. There was a lot of adversity during the game. Our guys hung in there. It was a total team effort -- all three phases: offense, defense and special teams. Playing on the road, as you know, it’s always tough to pick up a victory. Offensively, we didn’t turn the ball over; we ran it effectively. That was great to see. We took advantage of some big pass plays, and then defensively, we did a great job of playing assignment football. We tackled well. For me, I know it was my first win as a head coach, but I was more excited for our players and for our coaches. You know, it’s been a long year; we started 0-7. Our guys have done a great job of being resilient, having a lot of perseverance. I was more excited for those guys than I was for myself.D3: You mentioned that you started 0-7. Overall, has your team performed and jelled like you had hoped they would back in the preseason?
CF: To be honest with you, we finally put it all together in Week 8 against Moravian. What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to instill that process here of what it takes to be successful. We don’t necessarily talk about winning or losing football games. We’re trying to teach our philosophy here and our expectations of the program. Control what you can control; you really don’t play an opponent. We’re doing what we do, and we’re doing it well. And what we can control, we’re going to control. We talk to our guys about competing every play and not worrying about any outside distractions and not worrying about things we can’t control. And on Saturday, our guys did that. Our guys went out and played every play, and we did it in all three phases of the game. That was very good to see. I’m hoping what we’re teaching them, what we’re trying to do, they’re starting to see that now. And hopefully, they’ll believe now.

D3: When you came to Juniata after being an assistant at Division I-FCS and Division III schools, what was the biggest change for you entering the Division III landscape?
CF: That’s a great question, but football is football. When I first took this job, I came in here and told our kids in our first meeting, ‘We run this like a Division I football program.’ I had experience doing that. Really, my mentor was at IUP, Frank Cignetti Sr. We’re trying to do the same things we did at IUP. We were a national powerhouse in Division II at IUP. So we’re running it like anybody would run an organization. We’re trying to do everything first-class. There’s definitely a philosophy or a mission statement within our program. The difference really isn’t the football. Other than doing it on TV or a little bit more exposure, it’s been the same. When we were at Chattanooga, we were covered every day by local papers or TV; at IUP, we were covered every day. That’s the only difference, you’re not playing in front of 30,000 people now like we were in I-AA, we might be playing in front of three. [laughs] It’s still football, though. In Division III, especially in our conference, the Centennial, there’s some outstanding coaches and there’s some good football players.

D3: One of the things that coaches have told me in the past is that when they move from an assistant post to head coach, as an assistant coach, your duties are very compartmentalized. And as a head coach, you’re looking at the bigger picture, not just on the field, but off the field in terms of tasks and organization. Did you come across that, and was that a shock for you?
CF: No, not really, and I’ll tell you why. Coach Cignetti and also my boss who I worked with at Chattanooga, coach Rodney Allison, they’re both Bowden disciples. Coach Cignetti was Bobby Bowden’s offensive coordinator at West Virginia. … And I learned from both those guys, from Frank Cignetti and from Rodney Allison, and what they did when I was an assistant, I had a lot of the administrative head coaching duties. And I was able during my young coaching career to get a taste of what you have to do administratively, academically and with fundraising. … Everything that had to do with being a head coach, I was fortunate enough under those two guys that they had given me some responsibilities to do all those things. If that’s your goal to be a head coach, you’re always constantly preparing as an assistant, so it didn’t really feel different other than your name’s on it now. If I don’t get it done, I’m the one getting fired. I’ve got nobody else to blame. …

D3: You said you came in with a lot of training and you were obviously very well prepared. When you were hired last year, it’s now been almost a year since you worked at the school. What’s the single biggest thing that you have learned in that time?
CF: We tell our guys, we all make mistakes. Football is not a game of perfect, it’s a game of people. Really, the biggest thing that I think I have learned … when you’re a head coach, now I’m not just an offensive coordinator, not just worried about the guys on offense. I’ve got to worry about offense, defense, special teams. So I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned is how you deal with different types of personalities. On a daily basis, I’ve got to be able to handle my players and deal with all the problems with those players. And you may have to meet with administrators, you may have to go out and fundraise. Probably the biggest thing is getting to understand people. … I’ve learned a lot about myself, too, how I handle adversity. You always talk to your players about going to face some adversity. Life’s not easy, football’s not easy. Play the next play, don’t worry about what’s happened in the past. When it’s your name on the program, you’ve got to do those things, too, because if not, the kids will see. …

Entrance into the Century Club

As one Bridgewater fan posted on my Facebook page: It “used to be said that in order to win 100 at BC you would have to coach for 200 years.”

Coach Mike Clark achieved that feat in 15 years.

To earn their 38-34 win over Emory and Henry on Saturday, the Eagles had to fend off a big day by Wasps rusher Caleb Jennings, who had three touchdowns and 192 yards. But Bridgewater had its own breakout on the ground with Thomas Tate’s 185-yard, two-touchdown performance.

On Clark’s football blog, the coach shares the credit for the 100-win milestone, pointing to it as a community achievement more than a personal one. “I have tried to state all along that the wrong pronoun is used when describing this event. It is not ‘my’ or ‘his’ but rather ‘we’ or ‘ours,’” Clark wrote. “The real value in those games is that they are shared events that will have great value to a lot of individuals on a lot of levels.”

The blitz package

Salisbury needed a late-game field goal to get past Union 19-16 after the Gulls saw their entire lead dissipate in the third quarter. Defensive lineman Paul Cynewski was crucial with big plays, including a fourth-down stop among his four and a half tackles for loss on Saturday.

Dickinson needed a rally of its own in the second half against Gettysburg, pulling out the 38-28 win to keep the Little Brown Bucket for the fourth consecutive year. Red Devils quarterback Ian Mitchell connected with three different receivers for touchdowns. For Gettysburg, Tim Widdoes and Wes Taylor had 13 and 12 total tackles, respectively.

Averett and N.C. Wesleyan each had no problem continuing to raise the stakes in the USA South, as both teams won easily over their opposition on Saturday. Christopher Newport, too, won a more narrow 14-7 game against Greensboro to remain in the hunt. A three-way tie (each having one conference loss) is still possible if the chips fall just right.

Contact me

I would be happy to hear from anyone who has questions or feedback regarding the Around the Mid-Atlantic column or Division III football in general. Please write to me at ryan.tipps@d3football.com. I’m sure that I missed some highlights in the region. I invite you to talk about players and performances on the message board’s Around the Mid-Atlantic thread. Additionally, if there is an idea you’d like to see me write about, post it there or email me.

 

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Adam Turer

Adam Turer graduated in 2006 from Washington and Lee University, where he was a two-year starter at free safety. He lives in Cincinnati and covers area high school sports in addition to his full-time job as an attorney. Adam has contributed to D3football.com since 2007 and is in his second year as Around the Mid-Atlantic columnist.

2007-2011 columnist: Ryan Tipps
2003-2006: Pat Cummings
2000: Keith McMillan
1999: Pat Coleman 

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