October 30, 2012

Hollis is NCWC's game-changer

More news about: N.C. Wesleyan
Even though North Carolina Wesleyan's Dwayne Hollis is a defender, his teammates have gotten used to him having the ball. Eleven career inceptions will do that.
North Carolina Wesleyan athletics photo

Few would expect a Division III cornerback to have much in common with a 17th-century English poet. North Carolina Wesleyan senior Dwayne Hollis certainly would not agree with John Donne's famous line, "No man is an island." Hollis relishes being alone on an island on the field. Whether he is isolated as the deep man on punt and kickoff returns, or matched up one-on-one with his opponent's top receiver, the man who calls himself "@hollis_island" on Twitter has the ability to change a game with one big play every time he steps on the field.

"Having a guy like Dwayne who can flip the field position for us on one play is definitely a blessing," said Battling Bishops head coach Mark Henninger.

Players, especially those who only see the field on defense and special teams, dream about the kind of game Hollis had against Greensboro on Oct. 20. In fact, Hollis played as close to a perfect quarter as any player can. He started the third quarter by returning the opening kickoff of the second half 90 yards for a touchdown. What was once a 17-0 Greensboro lead was now just 17-14. The Bishops tied the game on a Hampus Lithen field goal with 7:42 to play in the quarter. North Carolina Wesleyan's next two offensive plays went for touchdowns of 70 and 90 yards, respectively. Then, Hollis put the game out of reach.

"We took their best blow in the first half, but we didn't panic," said Hollis. "That was the craziest quarter ever."

On defense, Hollis shadowed Pride receiver Antwan Thorpe, the top receiver in the USA South and one of the nation's leaders in receiving yards per game. When the Pride tried to get the ball in their top playmaker's hands after falling behind in the third quarter, the Bishops' All-Conference cornerback had other plans. Hollis picked off a Ryan Throndset pass and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown. The Bishops led 38-17 with sixteen seconds to play in the third quarter. Hollis was not finished, and the Pride did not learn their lesson. On Greensboro's next snap, Throndset again looked for Thorpe. Again, Hollis was there to make a play, nabbing his second interception of the game. On the next snap — the final play of the third quarter — Jamias Williams took a John Jackson pass 59 yards for a score. The Bishops outscored the Pride 39-0 in the third quarter. Several big plays were made, but no player made more of them than Hollis.

"It is pretty rare to see that many big plays in one game, let alone in one quarter," said Henninger. "Dwayne's play provided the spark. He really rose to the occasion and had a great week."

As explosive a playmaker as he can be, Hollis understands that he has to catch some breaks in order to make an impact. Often, teams will throw away from him. On special teams, opponents will find Hollis and kick or punt the ball in the opposite direction.

"It can be very frustrating," says the All-Region cornerback. "I feel like I can't help my team when [opponents] kickoff away and throw away from me."

Rather than let his frustration get the best of him, Hollis has become a leader. The senior leads the team with four interceptions and four pass breakups on the season.

"Dwayne is somebody who everybody looks to for guidance and leadership," said Henninger. "He is as hard-working a player as I've ever been around."

In the offseason, Hollis worked to complement his speed with added strength. He put on 15 to 20 pounds to prepare for weekly battles against his opponents' No. 1 receiver.

"He takes his craft seriously," said Henninger. "He worked really hard to get stronger. He is a great leader."

As a member of the Bishops' only veteran position group, Hollis had learned about his own game while teaching his young teammates how to prepare. Henninger calls this squad his youngest since his initial roster in 2004. Having a senior like Hollis who leads both on and off the field will help the program as this year's newcomers develop over the next four years.

"I'm playing with a lot of freshmen, and I'm trying to help them learn the importance of discipline," said Hollis. "You have to both be athletic and watch tons of film."

After the storm

After a tumultuous week of seeking shelter and canceled classes, it appears that the region is ready to get back to normal this weekend. Several marquee football matchups should help restore campuses to a sense of normalcy. Food and clothing drives at many games will boost recovery efforts for those in the area who were most affected by the super storm. If you are attending a game this weekend, please do your part to contribute in any way possible.

Playing from behind, all the way back to the playoffs

No. 5 Wesley has fallen behind early in six of its eight games this season. For the fifth time this year, the Wolverines rallied to victory. Heading into the final week of the season against Apprentice School, Wesley has likely locked up the Pool B playoff berth awarded to an independent team. It was no easy task, as the Wolverines fell behind 14-0 to then-No. 16 Huntingdon, the Wolverines' biggest challenger for the Pool B bid. The Wesley secondary continued its impressive season, picking off Neal Posey three times to bring the Wolverines' season total to 18 interceptions. Justin Sottilare tossed two touchdown passes, including a 51-yarder to track star Matt Bundy who scored for the second straight week while filling in for the injured Steve Koudossou. Wesley scored the final 21 points in the 31-21 victory. It was the Wolverines' 200th win as a Division III program. Having survived a grueling Division III schedule this season, the Wolverines will use Saturday's game as a tune-up for the playoffs. Wesley has reached the national semifinals each of the past three seasons, but has been unable to break through to the Stagg Bowl.

Captains back in control

Christopher Newport withstood a strong defensive effort from North Carolina Wesleyan to avoid the upset and hold on for a 17-10 win. Paul Dukes rushed for 113 yards and a late touchdown to seal the win. Mason Studer made a field goal and punted five times for the Captains; none of his punts were returned. Christopher Newport picked off three John Jackson passes, mitigating the 334 yards and a score that Jackson produced through the air.

The Captains are back in control of the USA South thanks to the leg of Methodist's Cody Ausherman. The Monarchs kicker was a perfect 4-4 on field goals, including a 45-yarder as time expired to tie the game and force overtime. His 23-yard field goal in overtime gave the Monarchs a 26-23 road victory over LaGrange. A sack by Keltcey Richardson on third down forced the Panthers into a 51-yard field goal attempt in their overtime possession. The kick was no good and Methodist quickly put itself in position to win, as John Flanagan rushed 17 yards to set up Ausherman's chip shot.

Ferrum defeated Greensboro 35-12 behind four touchdowns (two rushing, two passing) from quarterback Tim Reynolds. The Panthers are tied with Christopher Newport at 4-1 in conference play, but the Captains have the head-to-head win. CNU closes the season at home against Greensboro and Methodist, while Ferrum finishes at home against LaGrange and Maryville.

Offensive fireworks

I think that as I typed this, Muhlenberg and Hampden-Sydney each scored another touchdown. The Mules put up 61 points against Dickinson, the most Muhlenberg has scored in a game since posting 68 against Franklin and Marshall in 2002. The Tigers scored on their first nine possessions and 10 of their eleven overall in a 68-24 throttling of Guilford. It was the most Hampden-Sydney has scored in a game since putting up 82 on Maryville in 2003.

With an overwhelming team performance comes some impressive individual totals. Muhlenberg's Dan Deighan passed for 325 yards and two touchdowns. Terrence Dandridge rushed for 112 yards and three scores. Isaiah Vaughn caught five passes for 149 yards and a touchdown. Tim Vogel had interceptions on consecutive Dickinson possessions, the first of which he returned 91 yards to the Dickinson two yard line. The Mules' defense forced six turnovers. Hampden-Sydney's Nash Nance passed for 309 yards and five touchdowns. Holton Walker caught 10 passes for 170 yards and two scores. Evan King rushed for two touchdowns and caught another. You may want to put on sunglasses before you look at those box scores for yourself.

Looking ahead

Johns Hopkins at Franklin and Marshall. This was supposed to be a de facto Centennial Conference title game. Instead the Diplomats were surprised by Susquehanna on Oct. 27, falling 24-17. Mike Ritter caught 10 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Crusaders' upset. Now, the Blue Jays can clinch the conference's automatic playoff bid with a win on Saturday in Lancaster. Johns Hopkins handled Ursinus, a team that has given the Blue Jays all they can handle in recent years, behind a banner day for running back Jonathan Rigaud. Rigaud rushed 21 times for 238 yards (11.3 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. The Diplomats will have their hands full trying to stop Rigaud and prevent the Blue Jays from celebrating on their field.

Hampden-Sydney at Washington and Lee. I would call this a de facto title game, but I've learned my lesson about throwing that term around. The Tigers and Generals are tied atop the ODAC at 4-1. Washington and Lee wraps up the regular season on Nov. 10 at home against Shenandoah, the only team winless in the ODAC. The Tigers, of course, end the season with rival Randolph-Macon in The Game. The Generals are coming off of a 41-14 pasting of Catholic in which Luke Heinsohn became the school's career rushing leader. He also was the fourth-leading rusher of the game, as the nation's top rushing attack piled up 442 yards on the ground. The Generals' defense stepped up with one of its best performances to date, holding the Cardinals to 278 yards of total offense. The defense will need to take it to another level this week, as Nash Nance and the Hampden-Sydney offense continue to roll. The Tigers have not punted since the first quarter of their Oct. 20 win over Shenandoah. Hampden-Sydney has scored 15 touchdowns in the seven quarters since. This ODAC matchup may be mildly entertaining.

What Did I Miss? Do you know about any upcoming milestones, big games or new names in the Mid-Atlantic? Please share them with me. If you have suggestions for next week's column, please reach out to me on Twitter at @adamturer or via email at adam.turer@d3sports.com. Enjoy Week 10!

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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 year as Around the Mid-Atlantic columnist.

2007-2011 columnist: Ryan Tipps
2003-2006: Pat Cummings
2000: Keith McMillan
1999: Pat Coleman 

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