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2018 D3football.com Year in Review

It was all smiles after the Stagg Bowl for the Fredenburg family, for more than one reason.
Photo by Joe Fusco, d3photography.com
 

By Adam Turer
D3sports.com

I opened this season by asking why we do this. Throughout the 2018 season, I was consistently reminded of the reasons.

Every game we attended, every phone call we made, every email we sent, we received gratitude in return. That’s what keeps our D3football.com crew energized and motivated to continue bringing you the best, most comprehensive Division III football coverage each and every season.

The Division III football brotherhood is everywhere. I was standing outside Rothenberg Elementary School in August, welcoming children to the new school year when I struck up a conversation with the man standing next to me. Turns out he was a former Mount Union linebacker and we spent most of the morning talking OAC football. I was at a United Way event last month watching my girlfriend’s team deliver a presentation, when I learned that the husband of one of her teammates is a former Ohio Northern football player and track athlete. We formed an instant bond over D-III football.

As you seniors prepare to graduate and head into the real word, leverage those D-III football connections. One of my highlights of covering the Stagg Bowl in Texas last week was discovering that another Washington and Lee football grad, now a sports anchor in central Texas, was also covering the game. We are everywhere, and we have a shared humility that comes from our experience of playing for the love of the game.

That essence of humility and gratitude begins with the coaches. Every time I think I’m ready to step away from this role, I am drawn back in by fantastic, moving, and memorable conversations with men who make me want to be a better man.

I mentioned this in ATN podcast 233, but what I took away from this season are the conversations that will stick with me for a lifetime.

Don Morel, Kyle McAtee, and Chuck Hansen opened up about the suicide of Evan Hansen and how the loss of the senior captain shook the Wabash program to its core, and how the family and program rallied together to make the most out of a tragic loss. Glenn and Rachael Caruso shared with me how Rachael’s battle with cancer affected the St. Thomas coach and his players. Capital wide receiver Wyatt Pertuset became the first openly gay college football player to score a touchdown, and the program set a standard of acceptance. Oberlin’s Khalid McCalla and I had an eye-opening conversation about the changing views of masculinity in football. We even learned why D-III officials work long weekends, and how their love of the game is not much different from that of the players and coaches they officiate.

I really can’t think of any conversation I’ve had with a D-III coach this season that didn’t leave me feeling better that day. There is a wide spectrum of coaching styles in the division, but there is a commonality that all seem to share. They understand that the games are just that, and that their real objective is to prepare hundreds, sometimes thousands, of young men for real life; to equip them with the tools they will need to be a successful husband, father, coach, or employee someday.

I wrote about Pete Fredenburg’s daughter, Kori, and her kidney transplant the week of the national semifinals. Fredenburg was so moved that he read the story through tears and insisted on giving me a hug following his Stagg Bowl championship press conference. Gratitude. Jim Catanzaro made sure I was treated to a Lake Forest tailgate when I was in the area for the Foresters season opener, and the Lake Forest family did not disappoint. Gratitude. Glenn Caruso offered to give me a ride to the Houston airport at 5:00 a.m. the morning after the Stagg Bowl, and we spent the drive talking about life just as much as football. Gratitude. I was having a really rough morning when I called Larry Kindbom to talk about the challenges of entering the CCIW at the beginning of this season. The Wash U. coached asked me how I was doing and thanked me for the work I put in to covering D-III football, and it made a bigger difference in my day and in my life than he will ever realize. Gratitude.

When our crew set out for Shenandoah, we were not sure what to expect. We were familiar with and comfortable in Salem. We knew the staff and the people in Salem appreciated our efforts and would take great care of us. We had some natural hesitation as to whether we would receive the same warm welcome in Texas. We were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and kind words from everyone who traveled to the first Stagg Bowl held in Texas. We received so many kind words from alumni, families, friends, coaches, and players, exhibiting that gratitude and humility that is the common thread throughout D-III football.

This is my annual opportunity to reciprocate that gratitude. I plan on reducing my role on the site next year, and at one point thought I’d be stepping away altogether. If it wasn’t for the phenomenal conversations I had with so many coaches this season, the decision would be easy. But I am excited to continue the conversations, to get to know even more coaches, and to share their stories both on and off the field.

So thank you to everyone who shared their story with me this season, everyone who read and shared our content, and everyone who devoted time and energy to Division III football in 2018. The football was fantastic, capped by one of the most exciting Stagg Bowls in recent memory. I’m already looking forward to returning to Shenandoah for Stagg Bowl XLVII, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

What did we know? Did we know things? Let’s find out!

Every year in Kickoff, our panel makes predictions for the upcoming season. Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan, Ryan Tipps, Logan Hansen, Frank Rossi, Greg Thomas, and I each made our best educated guesses on how the 2018 season would play out. Now, I get to look back on our prognostications and let the rest of the D-III world know how much (or little) we knew back in August.

Which will be the last team chosen in Pool C, and what will their record be?

Since the committee doesn’t officially tell us who the last team chosen was, we can give credit to both Logan (John Carroll) and Keith (Hardin-Simmons) for accurately predicting these 9-1 Pool C teams.

Which team will be the most surprising playoff entry?

Only Logan selected a team that actually made it in, so I guess we have to consider John Carroll a surprising playoff entry even if the Blue Streaks are a regular playoff participant.  

Does Team Canton or Team Shenandoah return to the Stagg Bowl?

Everybody correctly said yes to this one. But, only Greg, Ryan, Frank, and I specified that both would make it back. Conjunctions are tricky like that.

Will a non-purple team play in the Stagg Bowl?

On this count, Everybody answered correctly.

Who will reach the national semifinals?

Everybody correctly included the two Stagg Bowl teams. Nobody guessed Johns Hopkins. Surprisingly, nobody predicted UW-Whitewater, either. So this one results in a tie, as well. St. Thomas and Brockport were popular picks.

Who will win the national title?

Ryan and Frank accurately foresaw a home state title for the Cru.

Which 2017 playoff team will have the worst fall-off, record-wise?

I was closest with my prediction of Lakeland. The Muskies fell from 8-3 to 4-6. But the biggest drop-off was Huntingdon, which plummeted from 9-2 to 4-5.

Which team will have the best improvement over its 2017 record?

Pat was closest, as Wilkes improved from 0-10 to 5-5. But it was the Colonels’ MAC foe Misericordia that made the biggest leap. The Cougars had one of the most impressive turnarounds in recent memory, improving from 1-9 to 8-3.

Who will be the D3football.com offensive & defensive players of the year?

Joe Germinerio was a popular pick for OPOY, but nobody saw Jackson Erdmann’s dominant season coming.  Similarly, our preseason DPOY picks leaned toward the front seven, neglecting to consider Mount Union cornerback Louis Berry.

Which quarterback who was on Mount Union’s roster will throw for the most yards per game in 2018?

With two high-profile transfers vying for playing time on playoff contenders, this was a creative question. But Wabash’s Jake Reid was 17 yards per game behind Mount Union’s D’Angelo Fulford. UMHB’s Luke Poorman never won the starting job and missed significant time with injury. Points to Greg, Logan, Ryan, and Keith for choosing the Purple Raiders incumbent.

How many kickoff returns for touchdowns will the Division III leader have this season?

Jeffrey Barnett from Trine led the nation with three. Logan, Keith, and I guessed this one right. Only 11 other players in the country had more than one kickoff return score.  

Who will win the HCAC?

Do we give partial credit for this conference’s three-way tie? Franklin, Mount St. Joseph, and Hanover each earned a share of the crown. But nobody foresaw the Panthers earning the HCAC’s automatic playoff berth. The rest of us were split between the Grizzlies and Lions, so let’s deduct a point from Pat for predicting Rose-Hulman.  

What's Occidental's biggest accomplishment this season?

The Tigers’ 2017 season was shut down prematurely. While they didn’t win a game in 2018, they played all eight on their schedule and were only shut out twice. Ryan, Frank, Keith, Pat, and I all earn points for this one.  

Which team leaves Division III on the highest note?

Frostburg State took a step back, upset in the second round by Johns Hopkins. But the Bobcats made the playoffs in their final season before moving up to Division II. Thomas More impressed at 7-3 while playing a grueling schedule, but fell short of earning a playoff bid. Points to all but Pat for picking the Bobcats.

Will an East Region team make the national semifinals?

Johns Hopkins is technically a South Region team, despite calling Baltimore home. No East Region team made the semifinals, a year after Brockport broke a long drought for the region. Points to Logan and Keith.  

How many New Jersey schools will finish in the top half of the New Jersey Athletic Conference?

What’s funny is that even though the question didn’t ask us to, we each specified which team(s) we thought would finish in the upper half of the NJAC. Only one New Jersey team did, but it wasn’t the one that any of us thought. Congrats to Rick Giancola and Montclair State for surprising us all.

What will be the most surprising upset of the season?

No correct guesses here. I came close, predicting Wash U to knock off one of the premier CCIW teams in the Bears’ first season in the league. But they came up just short against Illinois Wesleyan, 27-21.  

Congrats to Keith and Logan, who led the way with eight points each. Although I’m sure they approached their predictions in very different ways.

D3football never sleeps

And neither do we. While coaches hit the road to recruit, and players get back in the weight room, we will continue to bring you content throughout the offseason. Pat and Keith’s Around the Nation podcast will go monthly in the offseason, but with more guests. We’ll continue to keep you apprised of coaching changes as the carousel turns. We’ll keep an eye on the NFL draft and free agency, following D-III prospects who are continuing their football journey. And you might even see a feature or two about Division III football’s impact at other levels of the game.

Now that the season is over and you have more free time, feel free to scroll back through this season’s columns to read up on some great stories you might have missed during the grind of the season.

We will spend the next few months getting ready for the 2019 season. Feel free to chime in with your predictions or let us know what you’d like to see differently on this site next season. We are always welcome to your feedback. It’s the great players, coaches, administrators, and fans who make this site work.

Finally, another big thank you to every coach and player who took time out of their busy schedules this season to be interviewed for the numerous columns, stories, and podcasts that we delivered this year. A huge thank you to all of the Sports Information Directors who helped set them up, too. We love shining a light on the players and coaches in Division III who truly do it for the love of the game.

What other memorable moments stood out to you in 2018? Tweet me at @adamturer and I’ll share your memories with the rest of #d3fb nation. Thanks for reading and see you in 2019!

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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 third season writing Around the Nation after spending four seasons writing Around the Mid-Atlantic.

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

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