BALTIMORE - Much has been made in Baltimore – and rightfully so – of the success the Ravens have experienced the last five years culminating with a Super Bowl win in February.
But, the Ravens are not the only successful football team in town. Long-known for its championship men's lacrosse program, the Johns Hopkins football team has quietly put together a fairly successful run of its own.
When the Blue Jays open their 2013 campaign at 1 p.m. Saturday at Randolph Macon, they will be looking to build upon last year's run in which they went 10-2 and won a fourth straight Centennial Conference title. More importantly, Hopkins won its first Division III home postseason game and advanced to the second round of the NCAA playoffs before losing to eventual national champion Mount Union (Ohio).
One of the main constant factors during this run has been longtime Head Coach Jim Margraff. Margraff has posted a 157-81-3 record since taking over at his alma mater in 1990. This includes going 46-12 over the last five seasons and firmly establishing the program as one of the top-25 Division III schools in the country.
"It's been exciting to watch this program grow and continue to get better," Margraff said. "We are still a lacrosse school, but we've shown there's more to our athletics program than just that sport. Plus, we have the advantage of being one of the top academic schools in the country and that attracts players from across the country; something we weren't always able to accomplish."
This season, Johns Hopkins returns 17 starters from last year's squad and expectations remain high to continue to build on past successes. However, the Blue Jays did lose several key players, including the Centennial Conference Offensive Player of the Year running back Jonathan Riguad and Defensive Player of the Year linebacker Taylor Maciow.
Margraff said while those losses are difficult for any team to overcome, he is confident other players will help step up to fill the void. This includes the return of quarterback Robbie Matey, who threw for 2,453 yards and 12 touchdowns and ran for another 276 yards and six scores.
"The great part of coaching at the Division III level is you're not going to lose players early to the NFL," Margraff said. "You truly get to build a program and watch players develop over time. We've had the luxury of having players come into their own and step in when called upon."
Among those players Margraff expects to play a large role this season include nose guard Joe DiTrolio (39 tackles, 3 sacks) and defensive lineman Michael Longo (44 tackles, 5.5 sacks). Each were key in helping Hopkins limit opposing offenses to just 102 rushing yards a game.
Also returning is senior receiver Dan Wodicka, who will go down as one of the greatest wideouts in school history. He enters 2013 with 216 career receptions for 2,642 yards and 11 touchdowns. His career receptions are the most of any returning Division III player this season.
Wodicka set a school record with 94 receptions last season and needs just 26 more catches to break the Centennial Conference record and 43 more to set the Blue Jays career mark.
"It's been great to come up with a group of guys together and experience the success we have had," Wodicka said. "At this level we all understand that after college, this is the end of the line for us when it comes to football. We want to appreciate every game and every opportunity presented to us because of that."