Business as usual for Blue Jays

More news about: Johns Hopkins
The Blue Jays celebrating a big win is a familiar sight, even when the outcome looks bleak in the earlygoing.
Johns Hopkins Athletics photo

By Andrew Lovell

Jim Margraff glanced up at the scoreboard. The view could have been better.

Washington and Lee 26, Johns Hopkins 16, 8:33 remaining, fourth quarter.

Margraff wasn't ready to push the panic button, but he certainly felt a sense of urgency. The Blue Jays head coach then surveyed the players and coaches sharing the Johns Hopkins sideline and saw a comforting sight: they too were confident and calm, not panicked.

"We've been in these situations before over the last several years," Margraff said. "Our guys stayed very focused."

Two long scoring drives later, the score showed 26-26 at the end of regulation. Eleven plays after that, sophomore quarterback David Tammaro, making his first career start, connected with junior wide receiver Luke McFadden for the game-winning 17-yard touchdown pass in overtime.

On their final drive of regulation, the Blue Jays got a key fourth-down conversion on a six-yard catch by Nick Fries, and a pivotal 15-yard catch from senior Brett Caggiano on a 3rd-and-17 to set up senior Jamie Sullivan's game-tying 42-yard field goal. Caggiano's catch, in particular, was highlight-worthy.

"Their defensive back caught the ball at the same time our receiver caught the ball," Margraff said. "There were four hands on the ball and our guy just wrestled it away."

On the next play, Sullivan calmly drilled his fourth field goal in a game in which he also recovered a second-half onside kick. That's never a bad day at the office for a kicker, but it's particularly true for Sullivan, who reported to training camp late because of an extension in his internship with Sony.

In overtime, Johns Hopkins held Washington and Lee to 18 yards on six carries and forced the Generals to settle for a 24-yard field goal. On Tammaro's fourth pass in the extra frame, he connected with McFadden on a quick post route, and McFadden did the rest, slicing his way into the end zone.

Tammaro's final numbers were eye-popping: 42-of-61 for 426 yards and two touchdowns. The 42 completions and 61 attempts set new program single-game records, while the 426 yards were the most ever in a season opener (and sixth-highest all-time). McFadden and Caggiano, the Blue Jays' primary weapons on the outside, finished with 10 catches for 141 yards and nine catches for 138 yards, respectively.

"We're a developing team," Margraff said. "We're not where we've been in the past, in some respects, but we've got some good kids and they're working hard."

Margraff is right; Johns Hopkins is far from a finished product. The Blue Jays substituted players liberally throughout the opener against Washington and Lee, particularly along the offensive line, in an effort to identify the best combinations for specific situations. To be able to do that and still defeat an upper-tier opponent like the Generals, who have won 16 games over the last two seasons, is certainly notable.

Johns Hopkins' goal, as it is every season, is to win the Centennial Conference. That isn't exactly breaking news at this point, but Margraff said the team has plenty to shore up in the coming weeks. While Tammaro found consistent success through the air, the Blue Jays' running game sputtered. Johns Hopkins managed just 58 yards on 32 carries, though Margraff admits he isn't overly concerned with game flow.

"I don't care about that stuff," Margraff said with a laugh. "We have enough guys that are good at their positions where if you try to take one thing away, then something else is going to open up. Once we had success passing, we just felt we could continue with it."

Johns Hopkins has become a staple of consistent success across the Division III football landscape. If you need proof, look no farther than the numbers. The Blue Jays have now 42 consecutive regular-season games, 28 consecutive games in September, and seven consecutive season openers. They've won at least 10 games in six straight seasons, and seven of their last eight overall. And you have to go back to 2008 to find the last season in which Johns Hopkins didn't earn at least a share of the Centennial Conference title.

"Sometimes I'm surprised when I read some of those things," Margraff admitted. "Long-term success comes from short-term focus."

Johns Hopkins' sustained success speaks to the Margraff's approach, which has permeated the program's culture. It can be seen early in the preseason when annual polls and rankings are released.

"When preseason rankings come out, that's great," Margraff said. "Do we get an extra touchdown? Do we get an extra field goal? Do we get an extra timeout? There's nothing to help us, so here it is. Let's move on to the things that are important and will help us win."

Short-term focus leads to long-term success. That's the way Margraff operates, and that's the attitude players buy into at Johns Hopkins. It allows the program to lose an All-American center (Chantz Anderson), standout wide receiver and former conference Offensive Player of the Year (Bradley Munday), and the winningest quarterback in program history (Jonathan Germano), yet remain a top-25 team. 

"It's not a matter of, 'It's my turn,'" Margraff said. "It's matter of, 'I really need to up my game to do what this guy before me did.' That's been a real positive for us as far as culture goes."

Johns Hopkins opens its conference schedule Saturday against Susquehanna, a team that finished 6-4 and turned some heads last season. For Margraff, there's simply no time to look at the bigger picture.

"Our guys stay very, very focused on the next game," Margraff said. "That's just the way we've gone about for a long time. I don't want them to worry about being the team that loses a game, or something like that. We just want to play well."

"There's a time to reflect on those things," Margraff added, "and now's not the time. We've got Susquehanna in a couple days."

Quick hits

Karsten Miller passed for 353 yards and four touchdowns, including two to Tyriek Russell, and De'Eric Bell piled up 145 yards and a touchdown from scrimmage in his return from a major knee injury in Guilford's 38-24 win against Huntingdon. ... Zack Clifford tossed the winning 20-yard touchdown to Johnny White in the final minute of regulation and Ferrum's defense tallied four sacks (three by Montel Lee) and forced three turnovers in a 13-8 victory against Emory and Henry. ... Nick Savant rushed for 271 yards and four touchdowns as Muhlenberg routed Wilkes 62-19. ... Tanner Erisman passed for 212 yards and four touchdowns, including a pair to K.J. Pretty, and added 55 yards and another score on the ground in Franklin & Marshall's 48-7 win over Lebanon Valley. ... Cam Johnson caught 12 passes for 130 yards and Alec Cobb tossed a pair of touchdowns as Hampden-Sydney held off Averett 20-17. ... Tre Frederick rushed for 97 yards and two TDs and Randolph-Macon's defense forced three turnovers in its 41-6 win over Dickinson. ... Cameron Ott rushed for 129 yards and Diamente Holloway caught the game's only touchdown in Susquehanna's 7-6 win over Lycoming. ... Hayden Bauserman passed for 394 yards and four touchdowns as Shenandoah topped Gallaudet 40-14. ... Corey Jochim scored the game-winning, 65-yard touchdown on a pass from backup quarterback Brendon Maturey to give Bridgewater a come-from-behind 27-24 win over Gettysburg. ... Austin Montgomery passed for 333 yards and four touchdowns as Juniata topped Grove City 42-31. ... Stacey Gardner rushed for 197 yards and a touchdown, and Thomas Garlick tossed three touchdowns as Ursinus defeated Bethany 35-13. ... Perry Stefanelli (146 yards) and Matt Cathey (136) sparked a 317-yard rushing performance by McDaniel in its 30-10 win over Catholic.

Top 25: Johns Hopkins moves down

Despite its season-opening win, Johns Hopkins dropped three spots to No. 16 in this week's D3football.com Top 25 poll. Centennial Conference rival Muhlenberg also received votes in this week's poll.

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

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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.

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