October 18, 2011

Comets say good-bye to three years of frustration

More news about: Olivet
Mike Martin had two of his three touchdowns for the season in Saturday's win.
Olivet athletics photo 

Don't confuse the tears and hugs at Cutler Athletic Complex Saturday for consolation or sorrow.

Those were tears of joy. Tight embraces of emotion that celebrated Olivet's 14-10 homecoming win over Kalmazoo. It was exorcism of three-plus years of losing and the myriad of things that accompany it. Thirty-two straight games of frustration, disappointment and self-loothing.

Thirty-two games of futility spanning to the freshman year of Olivet's current senior class. Talk of building a different kind of streak is the focus now.

One of those seniors who lived through each and every one of those setbacks, Mike Martin, held a firm grip on the undertaker’s shovel. Rushing 134 yards and two touchdowns to toss dirt on the grave of the skid.

Ding, dong, the streak is dead.

It's been a long time coming,” Olivet coach Rich Hulkow said. “It's nice to be able see the fruits of your hard work. It's about the kids who stayed and kept working. They wanted to play football.”

Terms like validation, confirmation and stepping stones are now being tossed about in the locker room and on the practice field. The only difference, they say, is adding a whole number to the left column of the team win-loss record.

Hulkow knows plenty about how attitudes can affect play. As a high school coach at nearby Marshall (Mich.) High School his teams won two state titles and had a 20 game winning streak.

What should happen, eventually, is comfortability. Players will have an honest understanding of their skills and ability and be able to cast off self-defeating attitudes. Those notions that foster tentative play and players to second guess their instincts.

“It doesn't effect about how we feel about ourselves. I've liked our team the whole season. The kids we got are proven, hard-working players. Football matters to them and they want to be here,” the coach said.

They've been preaching to their squad that they were good enough to complete. Since arriving in 2010, Hulkow has been stressing the concept that difference between winning and losing wasn't so much about what happened on the field. It was more about what was happening in their head.

“We told them other schools might have a few more athletes, but physically our opponents aren't that much different,” Hulkow said.

It doesn't matter why the streak went on for so long. Hulkow won't talk about a meat grinder of a schedule during this time that sent them into home-and-home series games against national powers like Wheaton, North Central and Wittenberg.

National ranked non-conference opponents made regular appearances on the Comet schedule, and that doesn't tally the number of times Olivet accepted invitations to be the “main course” for homecomings and field dedications during the downward spiral.

Right now, it’s just a tiny step, a baby step Hulkow said. 'My biggest thing is making sure our players don't become content. We still have four games left. We can legimtely compete in them. We just need to play hard and embrace the fact we can win games.”

Hulkow says he is working on getting guys to step up and to develop a attitude that says “win or lose give me the ball, not let's not screw this up.”

Game notes

Thomas More held off St. Vincent 20-17. The Bearcats held Thomas More to just 58 yards of total passing.

Jared Barton ran for 148 yards to lead Trine to a 26-0 win over Alma.

Rocco Collavecchia rushed for 178 yards and two touchdowns in Geneva's 23-7 win over Grove City.

Mike Martin had two touchdowns and 134 yards rushing as Olivet scored a 14-10 comeback win over Kalamazoo.

C.J. Seitzinger talled 15 total tackes including one for loss in John Carroll's 33-14 win over Muskingum.

Bethany blanked Thiel 20-0. Kyle Arrington had 14 stops for Bethany. Thiel's Tim Taylor recorded 7 tackles for loss, including 5 for sacks. Taylor finished with 10 total tackles.

Clinton Orr rushed for 236 yards and Brian Spencer had 112 yards receiving on nine receptions as Albion edged Hope 12-3. Albion holds a half-game lead in the MIAA.

Jasper Collins snagged eight receptions for 159 yards and four touchdowns in Mount Unions 56-7 win over Heidleberg. Mount Union got 139 yards rushing from Jeremy Murray and the quarterback tandem of Neal Seaman and Matt Piloto combined to tally 245 yards and five TD passes

Allengheny edged Denison 31-28. Sam Fioroni rushed 26 times for 131 yards and two touchdowns for Denison. Jordon Fowler passed for three touchdowns and 312 yards for the Gators. Matt Griffth caught 10 passes for 113 yards and two scores.

Conner Warye rushed for 130 yard and a touchdown and teammate Ben Zoeller passed for 226 yards as Wittenberg squashed Kenyon 45-7.

Marietta topped Wilmington 31-6. Matt McFadden had 13 tackles, including a pass break up and on sack for in Wilmington.

Baldwin-Wallace beat Ohio Northern 20-6 to stay within a game of Mount Union in the Ohio Athletic Conference race. Ryan Dugan recorded 16 tackles, incluiding one for loss. Tyler Lohr rushed for 137 yards. Brett Thompson picked off an intereception in the first quarter and returned it 95 yards for a touchdown.

Great Lakes Region teams in D3football.com’s Top 25 poll this week
No 2 Mount Union – Same old story for the Purple Raiders steady at No. 2, with four first place votes.
No. 8 Thomas More – No change, set at No. 8.
No. 12 Wabash – Climbing one spot to 11.
Receiving votes: Wittenberg (NCAC), Adrian (MIAA), Trine (MIAA), Baldwin-Wallace (OAC).

Streaking

The last time DePauw lost four straight was 2000. That season the Tigers opened the seasobn 0-4.

W&J has lost three regular-season games this season, something that has not happened since 1998. The Presidents haven't had a losing season since 1983. The current 27-year streak ranks as the 10th-longest in NCAA Division III history and 16th among all divisions. Linfield (55 years), Ithaca (39) and Mount Union (33) own longer active streaks among Division III schools.

Games to Watch

Carnegie Mellon at Wittenberg, 1 p.m., ET: The Tartans (4-2) look for their 500th win against Division III football's winniest program. Wittenberg (5-1) is looking to get back in post-season form and back in the D3football.com Top 25. Edwards-Maurer Field isn't the most inviting place to begin with, toss in the homecoing fervor and this should be a good one.  

Case Western Reserve at Wooster, 1 p.m. ET: It's not really a great match up on paper. Case is 5-1, Wooster 2-4. The tradition makes it one of the classic games on the schedule every year. It’s known as the Baird Brothers Trophy for Bob and Bill who were economics profs at the two schools.

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Brian Lester

Brian Lester is a reporter in Findlay, Ohio. He has 14 years of experience at newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio, spending the last 10 at The Courier in Findlay. Lester also writes an Around the Region column for D3hoops.com. He is a graduate of Eastern Illinois.

2011 columnist: Dean Jackson
2007-10 columnist: Matt Florjancic

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