EMORY, Va.---Guilford College earned a share of first place in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) football standings for the first time since 1997 with Saturday afternoon's 52-28 victory over Emory & Henry College.
The victory caps the Quakers' best season since the same year when Guilford also finished 8-2. Their 5-2 ODAC record matches the school standard for league wins in a season. The Quakers shared the top spot with Emory & Henry, Bridgewater College and Hampden-Sydney College, which claimed the league title and NCAA playoff bid based on league tiebreaking policy.
The Quakers jumped on the Wasps (8-2, 5-2 ODAC) thanks to Matt Pawlowski's first-quarter touchdown passes to C.J. Hobbs and Chad Christopher, which staked the guests to an early 14-0 lead.
Tre'von Lightfoot returned a Quakers' fumble 71 yards for a touchdown in the 2nd quarter and Emory & Henry later pulled to within 14-13 on Chris Thompson's 28-yard touchdown run. Guilford answered with a 10-play, 72-yard drive culminating in Josh Schow's one-yard touchdown score.
Tyler Hunt's 43-yard field goal on the first half's final play sent Guilford into halftime with a 24-13 lead. Emory & Henry opened the second half with a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive that trimmed their deficit back to three.
The Quakers countered on the ensuing possession as Pawlowski hooked up with Austen Thompson from three yards out. After trading punts for a few series, Guilford pulled away down the stretch and outscored the Wasps 28-7 over the last quarter and a half. De'Eric Bell's five-yard rushing touchdown with 1:45 left capped the scoring and sealed the win.
The Quakers finished the day with 493 yards of total offense, including 389 passing yards by Pawlowski. The junior completed 38-of-48 pass attempts and threw five touchdowns, one shy of his career high. The junior quarterback also added a team-high 43 rushing yards. The Quakers' offense dominated the time-of-possession battle over Emory & Henry, 42:40 to 17:20. Guilford converted on 11 of its 17 third-down situations, bolstering its lead among NCAA Division III leaders in third-down conversion percentage.
Thompson caught a career-high three touchdown passes, all in the second half, and made 10 receptions for 71 yards. Hobbs finished with eight grabs for a team-leading 108 yards.
The Quakers' defense forced three Wasps' turnovers and held the Emory & Henry's offense to 327 total yards. The Wasps converted just four third-down plays in 13 tries. Satiir Stevenson finished his Guilford career with a team-high nine tackles. Jordan Farmer finished his career with two of Guilford's four sacks. Jaylan Martin and Daytwyn Rascoe each hauled down an interception. Hunter Hoots totaled seven tackles, one sack, and a fumble recovery.
By virtue of the ODAC's football tiebreaking procedures, Hampden-Sydney earned the official ODAC Championship and the league's automatic NCAA Division III Football Championship berth. Guilford finished in a four-way tie with the Tigers, the Wasps, and Bridgewater College, with a 5-2 conference. To determine the champion, the tied teams' records against each other were compared. Guilford and Hampden-Sydney both went 2-1 among the co-leaders, while Emory & Henry and Bridgewater were 1-2. Hampden-Sydney's 35-28 overtime win over Guilford Nov. 8 broke the next deadlock and sealed the Tigers' title and playoff berth.
Saturday's win cements Guilford's back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since the 2006 and 2007, when the Quakers finished 6-4 after each year.