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Running for a milestone in Centennial

More news about: Dickinson
Cedric Madden has averaged nearly 120 yards per game.
Dickinson athletics photo by James Rasp

There is a proud tradition of running backs and dual-threat quarterbacks at Dickinson. The Red Devils led the Centennial Conference in rushing from 1988-1996 and again in 2000, 2001, 2008, and 2009. The team boasted a whopping 333.7 rushing yards per game in 1994. Yet, Cedric Madden has a chance to do something that has not been done at the school since 1992.

Through five games, the junior running back has amassed 106 carries for 596 yards and two touchdowns, and is second on the team with 12 receptions for 170 yards and a score. He leads the conference in rushing, by over 100 yards. Dickinson’s last 1,000-yard rusher was Alex Plomaritis in 1992. That is the longest drought in the conference. Only Franklin and Marshall (Andy Surtz, the program’s lone back to break the barrier, in 1996) comes close, as every other program has had at least one rusher eclipse the century mark since 2002.

“We expect our tailback to be a focal part of our offense,” said coach Darwin Breaux, who has coached several talented rushers – often at the same time – but has not yet coached a 1,000-yard rusher in his 21 years at Dickinson. “If it happens, it’s certainly something good for our offense.”

Until being contacted for this column, Madden was unaware of the program’s 21-year drought. He does know that he’s on track for 1,000 yards, a common goal for a starting running back. He last reached the mark in his senior season at Chestnut Hill Academy.

“It’s a goal that I’ve set for myself each year going back to high school,” said Madden. “It’s definitely a realistic goal now.”

This wasn’t supposed to be Madden’s breakout year. He was slated to again split carries with classmate Shawn Wilson, who led the team in rushing with 772 yards last season. Wilson went down with a knee injury in the spring and had surgery that will force him to miss the entire 2014 season. That shifted the burden to Madden, Wilson’s childhood teammate in Philadelphia.

“It’s not pressure, but it is a bigger responsibility,” said Madden. “I’m okay with that.”

The last Red Devil to lead the conference in rushing was Chris Hughes in 1995, with just 688 yards. Hughes was part of the 1994 backfield, along with Andrew Hinkel and quarterback John Tice, that amassed more than 3,000 rushing yards. Quarterback Ian Mitchell came close in 2009, finishing with 927 rushing yards.

This year, quarterback Cole Ahnell returned as the team’s leading rusher (517 yards in 2013, to Madden’s 340), and continues to be a running threat. He has carried for 301 yards and four touchdowns so far this season. His experience and ability opens things up for the rest of the offense. It is not unusual for the Red Devils to feature multiple players in the rushing attack.

“It’s a combination of a lot of things,” said Breaux. “We’ve had the same quarterback that has been an integral part of our running game. At times, our fullback has been part of our running game. We try to be very balanced offensively.”

The biggest key to Madden’s success has been the evolution of the offensive line, and the relationship between runner and blockers. Madden has spent more time in practices and film study with his linemen. They have learned each other’s tendencies, which they feel gives them an advantage on game day.

“I pay more attention in practice to what our offensive line is doing based on the defense,” said Madden. “It’s definitely a lot easier when you know what your offensive line is going to do before the snap.”

While the running back position is often reactive, Madden has taken a more proactive approach this season. In addition to getting bigger and stronger in the offseason, he also got smarter. He listens for the line’s calls and recognizes their pre-snap reads in addition to his own.

“We really feel that we work very well together and communicate with one another,” said tackle Josh Schwartz, a three-year starter. “We trust that he’s going to make the right read and the right cut. Everybody really trusts everybody.”

The offense has had to overcome the loss of starting center Kyle Santorine to injury. Madden’s all-around improvement has helped the offense. He is a better pass-catcher and blocker

The schedule is backloaded, with four of Dickinson’s final five contests against teams currently ahead of them in the conference. Those opponents boast a collective conference record of 14-2. Last year, the Red Devils also started the season 2-3, but dropped four of their final five games against the same opponents they will face down the stretch this year. With a new goal within reach, the Red Devils are motivated and focused on finishing strong.

“We are an experienced group and we feel that now we’re really clicking. We definitely have momentum on our side,” said Schwartz. “We want to get Ceddy over 1,000 yards and get Dickinson’s name back in the record books. We feel that we have a special group this year. We want to put Dickinson back on the map.”

The Red Devils will have a chance to shake up the conference at home on Friday night when they host Johns Hopkins. It is the Blue Jays’ first Friday night road game since 1996. Dickinson will need to spring at least a couple of upsets to improve on last season’s 3-7 mark. Madden would gladly sacrifice yards for wins.

“We’ve got to keep moving forward,” said Madden. “I could finish the year with 700 yards and be happy if we win these last five games.”

Senior quarterbacks? What senior quarterbacks?

Of course, the week this column features the senior quarterbacks of the USA South, they turn in their worst collective performance of the season. The conference’s senior quarterbacks went 1-4 this weekend, with the only win coming in the only meeting between two of the seniors. Even in victory, Methodist’s Max Reber turned in his most subpar performance of the year, passing for just 250 yards and tossing two interceptions.

Instead, it was an under-the-radar sophomore quarterback who announced his presence on Saturday. North Carolina Wesleyan’s Dustin Midgett passed for six touchdowns, tying a conference record. The Bishops notched an impressive road win at LaGrange.

Another sophomore quarterback outdueled a senior, as Luke Bailey passed for 371 yards and four touchdowns and rushed one in as Huntingdon handily handed Christopher Newport its first conference loss of the season. With every team having at least four more conference games on the schedule, every USA South team has at least one league loss.

Return of the ODACtion

The Red Swarm wasted no time attacking previously unbeaten Guilford. Shenandoah returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, then added a two-point conversion. That set the tone as the Hornets jumped out to a 22-0 lead en route to a 47-31 win over the Quakers. The Hornets intercepted Matt Pawlowski three times and returned two of them for touchdowns. Cedrick Delaney and Kye Hopkins combined to rush for 191 yards and two scores. It was a total team effort that shook up the ODAC standings.

The Quakers’ first loss of the season was a mild upset, but we all knew that another ODAC team would fall from the ranks of the unbeaten on Saturday. Emory and Henry traveled to Bridgewater with both teams a surprising 4-0. The Wasps earned the road win and are now the conference’s only unbeaten team at the midway point of the season. Emory and Henry rushed for over 200 yards. Tre’von Lightfoot had two of the Wasps’ three interceptions.

The Wasps travel to Farmville on Saturday to take on the only other team without an ODAC loss this season. Hampden-Sydney’s offense continued to roll, as the Tigers put up 55 points which was their lowest output in the past three games. Nash Nance had a day to remember, passing for three touchdowns, rushing for two more, and catching a touchdown pass tossed by wide receiver Holton Walker.

Looking ahead

As usual, the ODAC is up for grabs entering the second half of the season. Emory and Henry at Hampden-Sydney and Bridgewater at Guilford are all of a sudden two of the biggest games of the season. We definitely did not see that coming in August, when Week 7 looked like the least exciting week on the conference schedule.

Welcome back, Centennial Conference. We missed you. After the midseason bye week, the Centennial is back in action, highlighted by Gettysburg at Muhlenberg. The one-conference-loss teams must win to maintain any hope of sneaking up to the top of the standings. Johns Hopkins and Ursinus, the co-leaders, will have their hands full as each goes on the road to face a revitalized program. The Blue Jays play at Dickinson, while the Bears are at Juniata.

What did I miss?

Do you know about any upcoming milestones, big games or new names in the Mid-Atlantic? Please share them with me. If you have suggestions for next week's column, please reach out to me on Twitter at @adamturer or via email at adam.turer@d3sports.com.

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Andrew Lovell

Andrew Lovell is a writer based in Connecticut and a former online news editor for ESPN.com, as well as a former sports staff writer/editor for the New Britain Herald (Conn.). He has written feature stories for ESPN.com, currently contributes fantasy football content to RotoBaller.com, and has been a regular contributor to D3sports.com sites since 2007. Andrew has also written for a number of daily newspapers in New York, including the Poughkeepsie Journal, Ithaca Journal and Auburn Citizen. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2008 with B.A. in Sport Media and a minor in writing.

2012-2015 columnist: Adam Turer
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2003-2006: Pat Cummings
2000: Keith McMillan
1999: Pat Coleman

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