Around the Region
Denison breaking through
|Denison is happy to be on top in the North Coast Athletic Conference, although DePauw and Wabash will be gunning for the Big Red the next two weeks.
Denison athletics photo
When looking at the NCAC standings, it might seem strange to see a team other than Wabash or Wittenberg at the top.
Annually, those two programs rule the conference. This year, Denison is in first.
While that may be surprising to some, it’s not to the Big Red. The squad is off to its best start in more than three decades and it has won 17 of its last 21 games dating back to 2014.
“There have been big wins, but no big wins like over Wabash or Wittenberg,” Denison coach Jake Hatem said. “It’s been a constant process to the point where we finally got one of those games.”
Two weeks ago, the Big Red let everyone know it was ready for a breakthrough with a 24-21 win over Wittenberg. While Denison is currently at the top of the NCAC mountain, it faces a formidable challenge of remaining there as it closes the regular season at DePauw, home against Wabash and at Kenyon.
“Every game is tough one for us. But, we have a really tough stretch coming up,” Hatem said. “We’re really excited about (the start). Honestly, we’re still awfully young. On offense, we’re really only playing two seniors. It’ll be key to see how we handle the success. It’s been a lot of fun, though.”
Sophomore dual-threat quarterback Canaan Gebele has sparked the Big Red’s offense this year. Even though he missed Saturday’s 42-28 win over Allegheny with an injury sustained in the win over Wittenberg – the program’s first over the Tigers since 1989 – he is second in the NCAC with 604 yards rushing and fifth with 1,592 passing yards. Gebele saw time in all of the team’s games last season, but took over the starting duties this year.
“There’s no doubt he is more comfortable. It’s still a jump from high school to college football. It’s a whole new step mentally and he is doing a great job. He is a super smart kid,” Hatem said. “He is just in a little different place now as a sophomore. He is a great athlete and is very mature. He has worked tirelessly with our offensive coordinator.”
While Denison lacks a “superstar” like receiver DuShawn Brown, who graduated as the NCAC’s second-leading receiver, the Big Red has been effective through the air and on the ground. The team ranks second in NCAC total offense and defense.
“Last year, we could...
Joe Sager is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh. He has written about sports since 1996 for a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites. He first covered D-III football in 2000 with the New Castle (Pa.) News.
2012-14 columnist: Brian Lester
2011 columnist: Dean Jackson
2007-10 columnist: Matt Florjancic
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