Hawks enjoying the adventure

More news about: Huntingdon
Linebacker Trey Hayes is the focal point of the Hawks' new-look defense
Huntington College Athletic

By Andrew Lovell

Huntingdon football head coach Mike Turk used one word on Tuesday to describe his team's season to date. Hint: it begins with an "a."

Amazing? Awesome? Astonishing? Well, not quite.

"It's been an adventure," Turk said.

The first seven weeks of the 2017 regular season have been anything but smooth for the Hawks, but you wouldn't be able to tell by looking at the USA South Conference standings. Huntingdon's 28-16 home win against Maryville this past Saturday marked its sixth straight victory, four of which have come against conference opponents.

Huntingdon (6-1, 4-0) leads Averett (3-3, 3-1), Ferrum (4-2, 2-2), and LaGrange (3-4, 2-2), and already has head-to-head wins against Averett and Ferrum in hand. The Hawks' final three regular-season games come against Greensboro, Methodist, and LaGrange, three teams with a combined record of 5-14.

Huntingdon controls its own destiny; win those final three games and the Hawks will clinch a third consecutive USA South conference title and the accompanying NCAA playoff berth. The Hawks are sitting pretty right now, but that was hardly the case following a 38-24 non-conference loss to Guilford in the season opener. At that point, little looked to be in the Hawks' favor.

"It's been a weird year, to be honest with you," Turk said. "But I'm really proud of how the guys have kept hanging in there."

Graduation hit Huntingdon's roster so hard, particularly on the defensive line and across the entire offense, that the coaching staff had to institute a major personnel shift in training camp. Huntingdon, traditionally a four-man defensive front during Turk's tenure, would switch to a three-man front out of necessity. Of the 12 defensive linemen the Hawks had available for last season's first-round NCAA playoff loss to Wheaton, only two are currently still playing for the team. Growing pains were inevitable.

"It really proved to be a lot more challenging than we initially thought it would be as far as learning how to play, learning how to coach it, learning how to scheme it, and learning how to adjust it during a game," Turk said.

The gravity of the Hawks' youthfulness hit Turk even harder during the team's first overnight road trip this season for a Sept. 23 matchup with Ferrum.

"Of the 65 players that we took, 42 of them were making their first road trip ever," Turk said.

Fortunately for Turk, the 23 players with prior road-trip experience have helped the younger Hawks grow up quickly. Senior defensive backs Anthony Wood and Austin Washington have anchored the secondary, while junior linebacker Trey Hayes stands out as one of the team's premier impact players.

"Trey Hayes is as good a football player as I've ever been around," Turk said.

The unsung hero, however, has been senior defensive end Parker Allen, one of the two returners along the line. Though he has just 12 tackles in seven games, Turk said he's excelled at mentoring his younger teammates. All told, it's led to steadily improved results from the defense. After allowing 38 points in each of their first two games, the Hawks have held opponents under 20 points in their last three contests.

On offense, the Hawks haven't produced at the same level as the 2016 team. Last season's offense averaged 45.3 points and 543.9 yards per game, totals that have dipped to 33.4 and 463.9, respectively. Though the offense has been less explosive, it's been able to grind out enough points when it counts.

Junior wide receiver Otis Porter, who leads the team in receptions (35), receiving yards (773), and touchdowns (nine), has emerged as the team's top playmaker.

"He's kind of the guy that, when you look at us on film, he sticks out as a guy that is a weapon," Turk said.

Porter might be the dangerous deep threat, but the grind-it-out, heart-and-soul role is reserved for senior quarterback Chip Taylor. After spending three years as a backup, Taylor stepped into the starting role this season. A shoulder injury sidelined him for a portion of the team's second game against Birmingham-Southern and the entirety of the third game against N.C. Wesleyan, but he's returned to battle through pain to lead the streaking Hawks.

Taylor, who has thrown for 1,337 yards, 11 touchdowns, and five interceptions on 56.9 percent passing, won't appear on any Gagliardi Award watch lists, but that doesn't matter to his teammates.

"His numbers won't wow you," Turk said. "He's not a guy that you look at and go, 'Oh, dear.' He's just a good athlete that is very, very competitive. Our football team believes in him and plays hard for him. He's a great story."

A battler at quarterback, a burner at wide receiver, studs at linebacker and in the secondary, and young players across the board; it's an uncommon formula for success that, at least through mid-October, has worked for Huntingdon.

"I've always looked at it as a year-to-year kind of deal because every team really is different in a lot of ways than the previous year, even if you have a lot of players back," Turk said.

The key now, of course, is finishing the regular season on a strong note. In 2014, Huntingdon carried a 5-2 record into a late October matchup against LaGrange. The Hawks were favored, yet came up short, 24-17, in a defeat that ultimately cost them the USAC title.

"All our guys have access to the internet, so they can look at the standings and know what kind of situation we're in," Turk said. "I try to use all the information that they have access to our benefit. I challenge them pretty regularly to pay attention to what goes on in college football every weekend."

Shenandoah leads tight ODAC race

Another week, another key conference win for Shenandoah.

Hayden Bauserman passed for 446 yards and five touchdowns -- to five different players, no less -- as the Eagles defeated Bridgewater 38-20 on Saturday. The win marked the third straight for Shenandoah after wins over ODAC opponents Randolph-Macon and Emory and Henry.

With four games remaining (three against ODAC foes), Shenandoah hasn't clinched anything yet. But the Hornets (5-1, 3-0) have put themselves at the head of a crowded conference race that also includes Hampden-Sydney (4-2, 2-0), Randolph-Macon (4-2, 2-1), and Washington and Lee (4-2, 1-1).

Shenandoah's final two games of the regular season come against Hampden-Sydney and Washington and Lee, so don't expect any clarity on this race until mid-November.

Gettysburg's Streeter to retire after 40-plus-year career

The 2017 season will be the last for longtime Gettysburg head coach Barry Streeter.

The Bullets coach took over the program as head coach in 1978 after a three-year stint as defensive coordinator. He helped guide Gettysburg to three consecutive Centennial Conference titles from 1983-85, as well as the program's lone NCAA postseason appearance in 1985.

Streeter, who is currently the longest-tenured coach in Division III, will retire at the end of the season as the program's all-time leader in wins (he currently ranks 28th in Division III history with 195 career wins).

Quick count

Alec Cobb passed for 304 yards and four touchdowns, including three to Cam Johnson to lead Hampden-Sydney past Apprentice 58-28. ... Brian Mann rushed for 254 yards and five touchdowns, while Rod Smith intercepted a pair of passes in Ferrum's 34-20 win over LaGrange. ... JP Redmond rushed for 156 yards and two touchdowns, and Eric Hoy added a pair of rushing scores in Randolph-Macon's 52-29 victory against Emory and Henry. ... O'Shay Carter tossed a pair of touchdowns to Bubba Craven and Xavier Brown returned a kickoff 76 yards for a touchdown as Brevard topped Methodist 41-17. ... Josh Breece rushed for 223 yards and four TDs, Collin Sherman rushed for 102 yards, and Andrew Frailer recorded a pair of sacks in Washington and Lee's 47-26 victory against Guilford. ... Donielle Totten tossed three touchdowns, including two to Trey Lancaster, and N.C. Wesleyan's defense held Greensboro to 106 yards of total offense in a lopsided 45-0 win. ... All 10 Centennial Conference teams had bye weeks this past weekend.

Top 25: Johns Hopkins moves up

Johns Hopkins climbed two spots to No. 22 in this week's D3football.com Top 25 poll without even playing a game. Losses by Alfred and Wabash allowed the Blue Jays to move up in the rankings.

Ursinus (one vote) joined Johns Hopkins as the only teams from the Centennial, ODAC, and USA South to draw votes this week.

Contact me

I'm always happy to hear from you, whether it’s questions, feedback or story ideas. Please reach out to me by email at andrew.lovell@d3sports.com and follow me on Twitter (@andrew_lovell).

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

Previous Columns

November 14, 2017
A familiar destination, an unfamiliar path
Johns Hopkins is back in the playoffs, but did not arrive via the program's usual Centennial...
November 8, 2017
Eyes on the prize
Washington and Lee has overcome unexpected adversity this season. The Generals enter Week 11 as the...
November 1, 2017
River Hawks receiver ready to run again
Tommy Bluj's final season was derailed by an injury, but he's determined to come back and play...
October 25, 2017
A grand opening
Franklin and Marshall played its first game at the new Shadek Stadium and the Diplomats' new home...
October 18, 2017
Hawks enjoying the adventure
Huntingdon has not followed a typical formula for success, but the Hawks have weathered early ups...
October 11, 2017
Shenandoah surpassing expectations
Underrated in the ODAC's preseason poll, the Hornets are playing with a chip on their shoulders and...
October 4, 2017
Here come the Bears
Ursinus finds itself in the driver's seat of the Centennial Conference. Now, the Bears must learn...
September 27, 2017
Be a man
The Cougars came so close to getting over the hump in Year Three under Cleive Adams. In Year Four,...
September 20, 2017
The little picture is the big thing
Mike Clark has taken Bridgewater to Division III's biggest stage, but these days he is focused on...
September 13, 2017
Starting from scratch
In their first year in Division III and with a new head coach, the Tornados are experiencing growing...
September 7, 2017
Business as usual for Blue Jays
Despite trailing on the road, Johns Hopkins remained cool and collected. The Blue Jays' come-from-be...
November 15, 2016
A proper send-off
Randolph-Macon's senior class is special. It's not just what they've accomplished on the field,...
November 9, 2016
Deja Mules
Cannonball! Muhlenberg hopes to make a big enough splash against Moravian to earn one of the six...
November 1, 2016
Uncharted territory
Shenandoah is led by a record-setting running back who can do it all and a record-setting quarterbac...
 • More Division III football news releases

Other Columnists