September 14, 2010

Coming out of nowhere

More news about: Hampden-Sydney | N.C. Wesleyan
Bill Doody breaks up a pass
Bill Doody, who led the nation in interceptions in 2009, narrowly misses picking off a pass against N.C. Wesleyan on Saturday.
Courtesy Axionfoto

HAMPDEN-SYDNEY, Va. -- Ahead of the 2008 football season, Bill Doody was hoping for little more than a place on Hampden-Sydney’s roster and, if things really worked out, a chance to travel with the team.

Fast-forward to 2010, where the free safety from south Florida has grown into one of the premier defenders in the country.

It’s an unlikely rise from his high school days as an athlete who battled injury and saw little playing time -- let alone starting time -- before college. You won’t find his name in Cardinal Gibbons High School’s record book. He even got bounced around on defense, playing a lot of time at linebacker as well as defensive back.

“I had absolutely no dream of playing college football,” Doody said Saturday after Hampden-Sydney’s win against North Carolina Wesleyan.

In high school, Doody was perhaps a better wrestler than football player. But he injured his elbow as a junior, leaving him unable to play sports that year. After graduating, he went to community college for two years and didn’t participate in any sports during that time -- “I was hardly even studying,” he said with a grin.

His hope was to end up at the University of Florida, but instead of an acceptance letter, he received a deferment.

It was then that his friend, Joey Fitzgerald, a backup quarterback at H-SC, talked him into applying to the small school in the northern reaches of the South.

Could he actually get on the team to play for the Tigers?

“We sort of rolled our eyes,” H-SC coach Marty Favret said, remembering the first time he heard about Doody. Hampden-Sydney was on the cusp of becoming an annual playoff contender. With a returning starter at free safety as well as a recruit in the mix, it was questionable where a walk-on with little playing experience -- let alone dating to before his community college days -- was going to fit into the system.

It was June when Doody decided he wanted to attend H-SC, and the Tigers already had much of their roster worked out.

He said he came in at fifth-string and without his own locker. “I had a hook,” Doody said.

In 2008, another safety’s trouble became Doody’s treasure. The Floridian got his chance to play in the second game of the season; he hasn’t looked back since.

“He fell out of the sky for us,” Favret said.

Doody has developed into an All-America athlete and last year led the nation in interceptions. He keenly follows the quarterback’s eyes, and when he steps in front of a pass, it almost looks as if he were the intended target -- though I suspect the opposing quarterbacks would disagree.

All this from a student who was “hoping I was just going to travel” with the team.

“He runs very well, he’s got great vertical leaps,” Favret said of Doody. “He’s kind of a Division I athlete playing at our level. He’s got that kind of range to him that we generally don’t see here. And you add in some really good ball skills to that, and you’ve got a guy that’s able to lead the nation in interceptions.”

Doody has improved year after year. He admits that “when I first came here, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was lucky to even get five interceptions and make some tackles.”

But going into the 2009 season, he said it really hit him as to the level he was playing at. He wasn’t just living the dream of playing college football, he was excelling at it.

“He has fun playing football; it’s not a chore for him,” his coach notes.

Doody dealt well with the culture shock of moving from Florida to Virginia. The now 23-year-old said he was awed by the niceness and politeness of the people at Hamden-Sydney. He has strong support from his family, who travel from Florida to see him. He also has a familiar face with him on the team, his cousin, linebacker Matt Maloney.

Bill Doody, with 954 and AP written on his taped-up wrists.
Bill Doody carries reminders of his home with him on the field.
Photo by Ryan Tipps, D3sports.com

Close to his heart, too, is his friend, Anthony Purcell, who was paralyzed after diving into deceptively shallow water. The athletic tape around Doody’s wrists is marked with two things: 954, his home area code; and A.P., Purcell’s initials.

After being at the top of the national stats and earning other honors, it’s tough to still find room to move up. Doody said that, despite being such a disruption for opposing offenses, he won’t be totally satisfied until he is able to return a pick for a score. The safety has also started to draw some attention from pro scouts, though he said he is trying to keep that away from the front of his mind. He did put in a lot of effort over the summer to try to work out some of his shortcomings, namely balancing his strength with speed a little better.

Whether he finds a place at the next level or not, the arc he has traveled from second-thought to standout is impressive. He credits the coaches at Hampden-Sydney who gave him a chance.

“I guess they just trusted me.”

Big day for big ‘D’
It was a day dominated by defense between Hampden-Sydney and N.C. Wesleyan. And while the stat sheets mete out the tangible numbers from the game, what’s more impressive (and more difficult to convey) were the intangible moments -- big defensive maneuvers that killed drives and turned the tide of the game repeatedly.

Even when the score was 21-6 at halftime, there was no clear “better” team. H-SC had the advantage and was moving the ball better than NCWC, but because of the defensive playing, the Bishops never felt out of the game.

Dwayne Hollis on defense
N.C. Wesleyan's Dwayne Hollis battles for an incoming ball with a Hampden-Sydney receiver. Hollis intercepted the pass, one of two he snagged Saturday.
Photo by Ryan Tipps, D3sports.com

Twelve points on Saturday came off of interceptions: one a tipped pass that H-SC’s All-America defensive end Will Riggenbach brought down in the end zone; and the other a 21-yard return that NCWC’s Desmond Joyner nabbed.

But the points tell just one piece of the story. Both quarterbacks were under pressure all day, helping to force some poor choices. The Bishops gave up piecemeal yards on long Tiger drives, but H-SC was often kept out of the end zone thanks, in part to five interceptions that NCWC hauled in. Among the most notable athletes on the Bishops defense was sophomore defensive back Dwayne Hollis. Hollis was an aggressive, hard-hitting defender who caught two of his team’s interceptions and had six solo tackles. He was all over the field and had the presence of a playmaker. I can only imagine how good this impressive defender will be when he matures further and becomes experienced into his senior year.

The Tigers had their own shining stars on Saturday. Their defense overall muffled the opposing Bishops, logging eight tackles for loss. The Bishops tried often to mix up the bruising run with some finesse plays, though rarely were the Tigers caught significantly off guard or unprepared. August Berling had a breakout day at linebacker with 12 total tackles, while Trevor Ikwild led the team with 15. But it was Bill Doody, with four pass breakups and two interceptions, including one inside the Tigers’ own 10-yard line, that most helped define the pace of the game.

While the spotlight was heavily on the defensive performances on Saturday, there was one player on offense of particular note: H-SC running back Kirk Rohle. The junior ran over and through the defense much of the game, racking up 118 yards. What that stat doesn’t reveal was how many of those yards came after contact. Seeing how tough Rohle played, I suspect it was at least three-quarters of them.

Low scoring for Centennial contenders
In one of the biggest Centennial games of the year, Ursinus used a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to lift themselves over Franklin and Marshall 10-7. Bears coach Peter Gallagher also became the school’s all-time wins coach with the victory. The Ursinus defense held the Diplomats to just 72 yards of offense in the second half, though F&M did have 193 yards passing on the day from John Harrison, including 118 yards to Jay Ridinger. Defensively, F&M lineman C.T. Marsh had four tackles for loss, including two sacks. Ursinus was able to respond by downing Harrison four times.

Methodist downs the Quakers
Again the USA South earned just one win over a weekend, this time coming thanks to Methodist, which toppled Guilford on the road 26-21. Quarterback Travis Murphy found four different receivers for scores on Saturday while the Monarchs defense brought consistent pressure on the Quakers’ signal-caller. The young Methodist squad jumped out to the lead in the second quarter and led the rest of the game, save for a brief time in the fourth.

Macon throws for last-minute glory
Randolph-Macon lined up against defending Centennial champs Johns Hopkins and went on to a 41-37 victory as Austin Faulkner connected with Michael Atkinso in the end zone with just 33 seconds left in the game. That throw capped a high-passing game on both sides, totaling 686 yards. But big plays helped put a lot of points on the board. Athletes crossed the goal lines after runs of 44, 48 and 56 yards and pass plays of 27 and 64 yards. Rusher Thaddeus Scruggs reached pay dirt three times, while on defense, R-MC’s Scott Shope had 11 tackles and an interception.

The blitz package
Salisbury jumped out to a 35-3 halftime lead before finishing 58-10 against Christopher Newport. Six Sea Gull rushers found the end zone Saturday, including quarterback Dan Griffin, who had three scores.

Catholic and Newport News Apprentice each had over 300 more than passing, but it was CUA’s Alonzo Cooke who was perhaps the game-changing receiver, with 211 yards and a trio of touchdowns. Catholic won 42-32.

McDaniel is 2-0 for the first time in a half a decade thanks, in part, to the placekicking of Jake Nichols. The 13-10 win over Moravian also featured 14 tackles for loss, three interceptions and three sacks by the Green Terror.

Bridgewater won its second close one of the year, this time against Shenandoah. The teams scored three times in the final 3:30 of the game, including one an interception returned to the end zone by Scottie Littles.

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@d3sports.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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