I played college football at Wabash College as a
freshman. Our team had something most D3 programs would die to
have, a roster of well over 100 players. In fact, my freshman class
had 52 players on it alone. As such during the weeks we had to find
a way to stay a part of the team and that is where the moniker of
the “Boom Squad,” the scout team offensive line, comes
Wittenberg and Wabash has become the
game in the NCAC and
the first big win for Wabash was 2002. During that week all of the
JV/scout team players decided we wanted to make practice as intense
and close to real as possible. Lead by Steve Smitka and John Maddox
we put “Witt” on our jerseys, we even turned our
W’s into the Wittenberg hook W with the aid of a little
colored electrical tape. For us, this was all we could do to help
our football team and to live up to the school motto Wabash Always
It started that week and lasted the whole season but the
“Boom Squad” was born during Witt week 2002. The scout
team would come out and try to push the starting defense by running
the Wittenberg plays as well as we could. It’s easier said
than done when players like Blair Hammer, Nick Fanelli, Stu
Johnson, and Nate Boulais are the guys you are blocking against.
The “Boom Squad” might “win” one out of
every five or six plays but every time we pushed the defense they
got better. Most of the time they knew the plays and were in the
perfect defense to combat our offense, most of the time they would
jump the snap, and most of the time they would destroy us, but if
that is what it took to win championships we were on board. .
As the Wabash v. Wittenberg game was at Wittenberg that year I
remember listening to the game on the radio, not being able to make
the trip due to homework. Every time something big happened my body
would tense up like I was taking or delivering a hit. It was
amazing. It felt not only like I was there, but like I was playing
every down. Every time Blair Hammer was in the backfield or chasing
a QB I couldn’t help but think it was partly my doing, and I
am sure that the rest of the guys felt the same way. In the end
Mark Server kicked the game winning field goal and all I remember
was the whole campus going crazy. It was amazing.
For those of us who didn’t necessarily get to see the field
in the varsity games, playing on the “Boom Squad” and
getting the opportunity to watch the guys we pushed everyday in
practice was pretty awesome. For us, it kept us involved every day
come wind, rain, shine, or worse. There is no greater feeling than
winning a championship even if I never played a varsity down. It
was an amazing experience being a part of that team even if it was
just as a member of the scout team. Every dynasty starts somewhere,
for Wabash in the NCAC it started in 2002, and for that team it
started at the bottom with constant effort and enthusiasm from the
guys who played their hearts out on scout team ... the “Boom
I do film for the Bethel football team and have a story to share.
It is from the 2007 season when we were in the West Region final
game against Central in Pella, Iowa. We came in as the No. 2 seed
in the region and they were the No. 1 seed. This game was such a
unique game. It was played during an ice storm and it was about
25-30 degrees and there were puddles on the sidelines and ice
accumulating on the field. Every person at the game was soaked to
the core and freezing. It definitely played to our advantage
because we were a running team and the weather we were playing in
made it very difficult to throw the ball in.
One thing I remember the most was during halftime it was extended
so the field could be cleared off and since everyone was soaked,
players turned on the showers and were jumping in the hot showers
with all their pads and gear on. The locker rooms are also right
next to each other and our players were singing songs during
halftime which the Central players had to be able to hear.
This was such a unique game to be a part of and something I will
never forget. I stood on the sideline for the game because I
couldn't film the tight view because everything was getting so wet.
I ended up getting minor frostbite on my toes and there several
players who also got frostbite. This is definitely one of those
games you had to be at to know the extent of it but it was
something I thought I would share with you guys that I thought was
good and could be mentioned in ATN.
Another thing that makes this story so good is going into the
playoffs we had never won a playoff game and we ended up beating
Central 27-14 and going to the national semifinals and played Mount
Union who we lost to and ended our season. That season was the best
season we have had which makes this story very unique.
Actually, David's story recalls one of my favorite D-III
memories as well. Adam Johnson, Ryan Coleman and I covered that
game for D3football.com and did an NCAA.com audio broadcast. Not
wanting to make the trip down and back from Minneapolis all on
Saturday, we drove to Des Moines, Iowa, and stayed overnight. But
by the time we got up the next morning, the promised storm was
already in progress. After the game, it took us nine hours to get
home, including doubling back after I-35 was closed in Minnesota
because it was a sheet of ice. People from the Bethel fan bus were
playing football in the middle of the road, with everyone stopped
around us. It was one of the few times I've accepted a rental car
company's offer of a free upgrade. The SUV came in handy.
Win No. 409 was really
Sitting on packed snow about six inches behind the end zone in
Collegeville watching an end-of-game goal line stand between two
undefeated teams for the conference championship. The air was
bitter cold and you saw a haze of steam rising from the players in
the box. Four plays later the crowd of 13,107 erupted in
It set a new all-time wins record for a certain head coach. It set
the stage for great season that ended with great game in Salem.
...or at least that is how I remember it.
St. John's Class of 1999
Keith, I have been an avid reader since my son was recruited by
Wesley in 1999. I thought you might be interested in the
perspective of a parent of a D-3 player who was NOT one of the
stars of his team.
My son, Ryan Woods, chose to play football as a freshman in high
school (Glen Burnie, Md.) with no prior experience in pee wee
league, etc. He struggled to make the team, but worked his butt off
for four years in high school. In his senior year, he became a
starter on the O-line, and all his hard work paid off for him, and
he started his senior season. Even though, his team went 0 for the
season, he had personal triumphs. He was recruited by several D-III
schools in the East region, but coach Mike Drass impressed him
sufficiently to go to Wesley College.
Keith, my son was not the best player on the squad. He never
started during his entire college career. Nevertheless, I never
missed a game (except one when I had open heart surgery), nor did
my wife, home or away. I can honestly say that both he and I will
cherish those games, and years, for the rest of our lives. All of
the young men with whom he played, did so for the love of the game.
None ever had visions of making millions after college, playing for
the Ravens, Cowboys, Steelers, or whomever. Ryan and his team were
fortunate enough to participate in one NCAA D-III playoff (Wesley
vs. Trinity, Texas) and receive two ACFC Conference Championship
rings, during his playing days.
During his career, he made many friends that he still stays in
contact with. His coaches and mentors were gentlemen that taught
him lessons that are today part of the fabric of his life. He
received an excellent education that has permitted him to become an
educator himself. He also gravitated into teaching and coaching
(all at his high school alma mater). Several of his teammates and
classmates are teachers and coaches, passing on the lessons learned
as D-III players to the next generation of TRUE
I guess what I’m trying to say is that D-III schools are
doing as advertised. They are turning out Scholar-athletes that are
a credit to their schools, their country, and their community.
D-III football, for the students, and for the parents, is about a
love for the game, and for the character that is built in those
young men that participate in the sport.
Lou Woods, very proud parent of
Ryan Woods, Wesley Class of 2004
Coming into the Bridgewater game during the Tigers 2007 ODAC
Championship season, you would not have been able to say that this
was the team that would win an ODAC Championship. Certainly, some
of the parts of that team were in place, but the defense was
learning a new scheme and there were still questions about how the
new quarterback, Corey Sedlar, would work out.
The Tigers started the season by dropping their opener to Johns
Hopkins, a decent team, but one against which they should probably
not have lost. That was followed by a series of wins in rapid
succession, including a blistering battle against Guilford that
ended up 56-49 the week before hosting Bridgewater College.
Bridgewater’s previous nine games against HSC ended in their
W-column, and Tiger head coach Marty Favret had yet to best this
one ODAC team. As it would turn out, this particular game would be
his first win over BC and it was the first real hint that the
Tigers might have something special going on.
While it’s not hard to recognize one game as a turning point
for a team on the way to a conference championship, it’s less
often that you can identify one play as the turning point for a
special season. But that was the case in this see-saw battle
between two of the ODAC’s top teams.
Both teams scored on their first four possessions, and the halftime
score, 24-24, reflected that success. Late in the third quarter
Bridgewater took a 31-24 lead, and the Tigers were trailing by the
same seven points going into the final quarter. HSC managed to
close the gap, however; when Josh Simpson scored from one-yard out
midway through the fourth quarter. But Sedlar’s attempt to
take the lead outright with a two-point conversion run failed,
leaving the score 31-30 Bridgewater. That left the Eagles with the
ball, a one-point lead, and 6:15 on the clock.
Showing what they had the ability to become, HSC’s defense
held at third-and-four from their own 41 when Andrew Sellers sacked
Jeff Highfill. The Eagles were forced to punt.
The Tigers took over at their own 10-yard line with 2:59 on the
clock. On the first play from scrimmage, Sedlar hooked up with
Dudley Award-winning, All-American, wideout Drew Smith for 13
yards. His next pass found Simpson for 7 yards, and Travis Wertz
hauled in a 12-yarder for a first down at the HSC 42-yard line.
After a Simpson 4-yard rush, Sedlar connected with tight end Josh
Baumgartner for a 21-yard gain to the BC 33.
Simpson picked up 13 yards on his next run, and hauled in a Sedlar
5-yard pass to put the ball on the BC 15. But the BC defense
corralled Simpson for a 7-yard loss on the next play, leaving the
Tigers with a third-and-12 from the BC 22-yard line.
Everyone in Everett Stadium knew the sure-handed Smith was going to
get the ball on the ensuing play, and they were right. Smith ran an
8-yard dig to the hash on the left side of the field. It seemed as
if the entire Bridgewater defensive backfield converged on the
lanky receiver to keep him from gaining any additional yards. But
just before the defense arrived, Smith pitched the ball to Simpson,
who was bolting around the left side. Simpson caught the pitch
in-stride, headed down the sideline, and never looked back as he
completed the hook-and-lateral for a 14-yard touchdown. His two
point conversion run stretched the lead to 38-31, and Kyle Booker
ended the Eagles’ chance by picking off a Highfill pass at
the HSC 37-yard line.
In reminiscing about that season, and looking over the vast array
of things that went right for the Tigers, Favret’s gutsy call
at that time of the game stands out. From that point on in 2007,
the Tigers played like a team of destiny.
Since it’s hard enough to keep track of the 238 teams and 28
conferences we follow, ATN keeps a watchful eye on Division
III’s record in out-of-classification competition:
vs. Division I, FCS (0-0 in Week 8; 2-6 in 2009)
vs. Division II (0-0 in Week 8, 6-10 in 2009)
UNC-Pembroke at Frostburg State
vs. NAIA (2-1 in Week 8; 24-11 in 2009)
Newport News at Webber International (independent)
Azusa Pacific (independent) at Trinity (Texas)
Games of the week
For a breakdown of this week’s national games to watch and
why, see Friday morning’s Triple Take
Ryan Tipps, Pat Coleman and, this week, Gordon Mann, field seven
questions regarding this Saturday’s schedule, and give you
three answers to each on our blog, The Daily
The press box
Readers: ATN is looking for particular feedback on best post-D3
careers and famous Division III alumni in three fields: players,
coaches and those who are recognizable for other reasons
(entertainers/politicians). Contribute on Post Patterns.
All season, ATN is seeking feedback on the Ten Best lists and
moments to remember for the year-in-review.
Around the Nation always encourages general opinions on the column.
Readers can best get a response by posting on Around the Nation's
running thread on Post Patterns (under general football). Send
e-mail to Keith@D3football.com or use our feedback form
Follow Around the Nation …
1. … When the column publishes on Thursdays.
2. … Throughout the week on Twitter. This is ATN’s
first season tweeting. Follow @D3Keith.
3. … Mondays, Pat Coleman and I wrap up the week that was in
our podcast. Download from iTunes or listen to it in the Daily
Dose’s media player.
4. … Whether ATN travels or observes from the home office,
Saturday’s Gameday post on The Daily Dose is where you can
find D3 staffers and fans from all over the country sharing
5. … Advance discussions raised here on Around the
Nation’s Post Patterns thread, at the top of the General
Sports Information Directors: To contact Keith McMillan, use
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