Snap Judgments: Hellos and goodbyes

The Bruins finished above .500 in the third season of the program's rebirth.
Photo courtesy George Fox Athletics 

Congratulations to the 25 teams who clinched their conference's automatic bid, and to Mary Hardin-Baylor, a sure lock for the lone Pool B bid. There are about ten teams realistically sweating out this evening's announcement of the Pool C berths. There are plenty of places to research and speculate who those six will be.

The final week of the regular season is a good time for hellos and goodbyes. A few young programs announced themselves as here to stay in 2016. A few legendary coaches said goodbye on Saturday.

George Fox secured a winning season in the program's third year since the school reinstated football. The Bruins finished 5-4, winning five of their final six games.

Southwestern completed a perfect SCAC campaign in the program's fourth season. After a 1-3 start, the Pirates reeled off six straight wins. The program won just three games total through its first three seasons.

Berry finished 9-1 in the program's fourth season. It looks like that might not be enough to earn the Vikings their first playoff berth. Berry shared the SAA title with Washington U., but the Bears' head-to-head win on October 1 gives Wash U. the automatic bid.

These programs are clearly on the rise. Another recent startup got over the hump this season, as Stevenson earned its first playoff berth in the program's sixth season.

Pomona-Pitzer had won just seven games this decade entering the 2016 season. Head coach Roger Caron announced that this was going to be his final season after 21 years at the helm. The Sagehens finished 6-3, sending their coach off on a high note and leaving the program with momentum. It was Pomona-Pitzer's best season since 1999.

Christopher Newport bounced back from an uncharacteristic 4-6 season to finish 7-3 in head coach Matt Kelchner's final campaign. Kelchner led the program for all of its 16 seasons. He finishes with 109 victories and 10 playoff appearances.

Ithaca won its final home game last week, but fell in the Cortaca Jug game, Mike Welch's final game as head coach of the Bombers. Ithaca finished 5-5 this season, winning all of its home games, but losing all of its road games. Welch finishes his 23-year run with 169 career victories.

Misericordia avoided a winless season by defeating FDU-Florham, 40-36, in its finale. Those seniors endured a long, difficult season (for the fourth straight year), but get to go out on a victorious note.

Trinity (Conn.)'s seniors went out on the best note, capping off a perfect 8-0 NESCAC season. The Bantams dominated the conference this season to claim their first title since 2012. Defense led the way for Trinity this season, as the Bantams allowed just 12.6 points per game. There are many folks around the country who would love to see what this team could do in the playoffs.

How about this for a final play of your football career? Aurora senior Justin Gibbons blocked a point after try in overtime, securing the victory and a share of the NACC title for the Spartans. What a way to go out, arguably better than getting to the playoffs and getting blown out in the opening round.

There will be some very good teams left home. Seniors at Frostburg State, Muhlenberg, UW-Platteville, and the other teams on the bubble have to put blinders on and try to go about their Sunday afternoon business a usual. Guilford was in the same position last year, finishing 9-1 and expecting to earn an at-large bid and keep playing. That bid never came, and those Quakers seniors were left stunned on Selection Sunday. For those left out and disappointed this year, it will take some time to sink in. It will hurt.

There are hundreds of seniors who played their final football game on Saturday. We spent a lot of time this season talking to players and coaches from around the nation about why they love football and what Division III football means to them. Today is going to be an emotional day, especially for those players who don't yet know if their football career is over. Some seniors might be happy that their season is over. Others will need some time to figure out what to do next. Some unsolicited advice from a former player: do not continue eating like a football player; do continue working out even though you'll want to take a break from lifting weights; stay involved, if you love football, either through writing or coaching.

Thank those who helped you on this journey. Thank your parents, every coach who ever taught you anything, every teammate who pushed you, every opponent who made you better, every patient friend who supported you. Thank your Division III school for affording you the opportunity to play the game you love for a few extra years. Thank your athletic trainers for keeping you healthy or for helping you recover from injury. Thank your professors for their support. Most of all, look back on your D-III football experience with pride. You put in the extra time and effort, not for money or fanfare or future opportunity. You did it for yourself and for those parents and coaches who got you to this point. Whether you ended on a win or a loss--and you'll always remember the losses more than the wins--I hope you can look back on your football memories with happiness. Today is going to be bittersweet. Go give a teammate a hug.

On tap

Some people think that D-III football season is now over. But we're just getting started. Over the next five weeks, we are going to bring you comprehensive playoff coverage. It will start with tonight's selection show and the unveiling of the playoff bracket. We'll release the final regular season Top 25 poll of 2016. Tomorrow will feature the Around the Nation podcast, essential listening especially this time of year. We'll have final Around the Region columns highlighting playoff teams coming Tuesday and Wednesday.

Around the Nation will have a panel giving you our surprises, disappointments, and predicted winners of each playoff region. On Friday, Quick Hits kicks it up a notch in the postseason, as we pick winners from each game as well as predict the scores of each game. Saturday, the Road to Salem gets real. Sixteen more teams will play their final game of 2016. Stay tuned as we provide you with all the information you need taking you through the Stagg Bowl on December 16.

Adam Turer

Adam Turer graduated in 2006 from Washington and Lee University, where he was a two-year starter at free safety. He lives in Cincinnati and covers area high school sports in addition to his full-time job as an attorney. Adam has contributed to D3football.com since 2007 and is in his second season writing Around the Nation after spending four seasons writing Around the Mid-Atlantic.

2014-2015 columnist: Ryan Tipps.
2001-2013 columnist: Keith McMillan.

Previous Columns

December 22, 2017
2017 Year in Review
This was a bittersweet year, Adam Turer writes. Despite players who didn't finish the season, to an...
November 16, 2017
Playoff picks, surprises and disappointments
Who are the teams that will surprise in this year's playoffs? Who will be the disappointments? And...
November 12, 2017
Playing up to expectations
Our projections and predictions were impressive. Let's take a look back at the teams we thought...
November 9, 2017
End of a long road
Barry Streeter ends his 39-year head-coaching career with his final game on Saturday, and Regis...
November 5, 2017
Going out on a high note
Dozens of seniors played their final college football game yesterday. Many had to balance the sting...
November 2, 2017
Cru's success is infectious
Mary Hardin-Baylor's 2016 national title may well have lit a fire under the rest of the Crusaders'...
October 29, 2017
Built for the stretch run
Some programs had backloaded schedules this year. These final few weeks are their time to prove...
October 26, 2017
Surviving the quick change
There were quite a few late-season coaching changes, and it meant an end to one program as well as a...
October 22, 2017
Let's have a breakdown together
Three games on Saturday provided clarity in the playoff picture. There is still much to be decided...
October 19, 2017
No longer beasts, East trying to break back through
No East Region team has finished the season in Salem since 1999, and it has been 10 years since an...
October 15, 2017
Occidental not giving up yet
The Tigers cancelled yet another home game, this time on homecoming weekend. Emotions are running...
October 12, 2017
Bruins' long road to respect
Seven-plus years of planning, four-plus years of practice and three-plus years of competition have...
October 8, 2017
Picks and polls
Interceptions won some games and clinched others across Division III this weekend. Adam Turer looks...
October 5, 2017
Re-ranking the conferences in 2017
When conference memberships shift as much as they have this year, ranking the conferences becomes an...
October 1, 2017
Through the eyes of the quarterback
What is it like to pass for over 500 yards in a game, or over 1,400 yards through four games? Few...
September 28, 2017
Hot starts create unlikely unbeatens
As we head into the final weekend of the season’s first month, 39 teams sit at either 3-0 or...
September 24, 2017
An emotional week
Loss, scandal, history, and catharsis. This week had everything. From Wooster honoring their...
September 21, 2017
Rivalry showdown takes center field
Don't let the unique location or record-breaking attendance numbers distract you. The Tommie-Johnnie...
September 17, 2017
Feeding the beasts
Several teams remained undefeated by following a familiar formula: get the ball in your best...
September 14, 2017
Back from hiatus
Three former All-Region players spent 2016 on the sidelines. One was actually on the sidelines after...
September 10, 2017
How to pull off an upset
It takes aggression. Fourth downs, fake punts, and two-point conversions all factored into the...
September 7, 2017
Digging in for Duke
Muhlenberg head coach Mike Donnelly has been forced to the sidelines this year as he fights acute...
September 3, 2017
Remembering how to win again
Week One did not disappoint. Snap Judgments returns, getting you caught up on the Top 25 upsets,...
August 31, 2017
This season signifies one last shot at Salem
If you've never been to Salem for the Stagg Bowl, 2017 will be your last chance, at least for a...
December 20, 2016
Year in review: The year everything changed
We had a brand-new Division III national champion for the first time since 2007. Mount Union lost a...
November 17, 2016
Playoff picks, surprises, disappointments
Around the Nation has assembled a team of prognosticators for an annual look at who might surprise...
November 13, 2016
Snap Judgments: Hellos and goodbyes
Today is going to be bittersweet for many. We take a look at the teams that announced their arrival...
November 10, 2016
Out of the darkness, light
Sometimes, things don’t go your way. Sometimes, your highest expectations are crushed by...
 • More Division III football news releases

Other Columnists