'Out of my comfort zone'

More news about: Otterbein
Alana Gaither gave up soccer to concentrate solely on playing football at Otterbein, and she's had a successful season for the Cardinals.
Otterbein athletics photo 

Alana Gaither never planned to play football. Granted, competing with males wasn’t anything new. Gaither played on an all-boys soccer team as a child just because of the competition.

But her first love was always soccer, that is until the high school team at Akron Firestone needed a kicker.

“I didn’t think about playing football at all, but the opportunity came up and I decided to try out. I ended up liking it,” Gaither said.

Nearly eight years later, Gaither is still kicking balls through the uprights. She now plays at Otterbein and has fit in well with the Cardinals.

“She has earned her spot and has done a great job,” Otterbein head coach Tim Doup said. “There is nothing different just because she is a female. She is treated like everyone else on the team and has become a great leader. Playing football is no big deal to her.”

Gaither has nailed all seven of her field goal attempts this year, including a career-best 28-yarder, and is 25-of-28 on extra points. But it isn’t just football that has made the experience of being a kicker for the Cardinals an enjoyable one.

“I love Division III because everyone is out here because they love playing the game,” Gaither said. “I love the camaraderie that comes with playing on a football team.”

It’s been a long road to this point for Gaither, who set a national high school record for a field goal by a female kicker, nailing a 43-yard attempt. She remembers being dropped off by her mom on the first day of practice in high school as a freshman and how everyone turned around and stared at her.

But she soon adapted to the change while still playing soccer for her high school team.

It took time to adjust to college football as well --- there were nights she considered giving up on it --- but soon, she made friends and was made to feel like she was part of the team.

Perhaps the most valuable lesson to come out of the experience was that she learned how to step into uncomfortable positions.

“It definitely helped me step out of my comfort zone,” Gaither said. “I also learned to follow my intuition and have no fear of failure.”

Gaither didn’t plan to play football at Otterbein. She was only going to play soccer. The Cardinals offered her a chance to do both.

She wasn’t able to play either sport as a freshman after breaking an ankle and tearing a ligament in a soccer scrimmage that year. Gaither played soccer for the Cardinals as a sophomore but opted to only play football the next two years because she didn’t feel as if she was able to give 100 percent to both sports.

Being a kicker is one thing. Having success at it is even better.

“Every athlete wants to be successful,” Gaither said. “I’ve always had to prove myself to some people who question why I’m doing it, but the reason I play is because I love the game and being part of the team.”

Off the field, Gaither is a public relations major and has already been given several opportunities to gain real-life work experience, including one internship where she was able to work with the Will Allen Foundation. Allen is a former Ohio State standout and plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“It was a neat experience, and it’s something I believe I was able to get involved with because of football,” Gaither said. “I’d love to go into sports public relations and Otterbein has given me a lot of experiences that will benefit me in life.”

Gaither and the Cardinals are in a position to finish with a winning season. They are 5-3 overall and 5-2 in the Ohio Athletic Conference.

“We keep plugging away,” Doup said. “We are happy with where we are at and I really love coaching this football team. We still have a chance to have a winning season, and we are focused on having one. We want to send the seniors out right.”

Gaither is one of those seniors and while her football days will be behind her soon, she is thankful for the opportunity to play for the Cardinals.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity I had to play here,” Gaither said. “I’ve matured a lot and have made a lot of great friends. It’s been a tremendous experience.”

Moeglin shows off versatility

Tyler Moeglin turned in a stellar performance on Saturday against Capital, scoring touchdowns in three different ways as he helped Baldwin Wallace roll to a 48-14 Ohio Athletic Conference win.

Moeglin threw two touchdown passes rushed for a pair of scores and caught a 65-yard scoring strike as the Yellow Jackets churned out a season-best 570 yards. The junior signal completed 11 of his 15 passes for 172 yards and rushed for 37 yards.

Moeglin’s favorite target was Isaac Reed III, who caught 12 passes for a career-high 197 yards. He caught one touchdown pass as well as the Yellow Jackets won for the fourth time in their last five games.

In eight games this season, Moeglin has thrown for 1,260 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is the second-leading rusher as well, rushing for 436 yards and seven scores.

Still alive

Adrian stepped up in the second half and rallied for a 27-19 win over Hope in a pivotal Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association game.

The Bulldogs, down 13-3 at the half, dominated the second half to stay within a game of first-place Trine in the MIAA standings. The Thunder is lone league unbeaten at 4-0. Adrian, 3-1 in the MIAA, and Trine battle in two weeks in a game that will likely be for the league title.

Charles Fleck paved the way as he racked up 11 tackles. He also picked off a pass in the end zone. The Bulldogs forced Hope to go just 3-of-13 on third down. The Flying Dutchmen finished with 311 yards.

Damon Fuller racked up six tackles and came through a sack. He also recovered a fumble.

Fleck and King are the top two tacklers for a defense that is allowing only 244 yards per game. Fleck has come through with 59 tackles and is tied for the team lead in interceptions with three. King has racked up 50 tackles and has picked off one pass.

Brown shines for Big Red

DuShawn Brown caught seven passes for 126 yards and a touchdown as he helped lead Denison to a 34-7 win over Oberlin in North Coast Athletic Conference action.

Brown came through with his third 100-yard game of the season and already ranks third in receiving yards in a season with 928. The school record is 1,086, which was set by Ben Fortkamp in 1997. Brown is 36 yards away from moving into second for most yards in a season.

The junior wide receiver has caught 63 passes, including eight for touchdowns. In his first two seasons, Brown made a total of 44 catches for 788 yards and seven scores.

Dynamic duo

Ryan Radke and Marcus Johnson teamed up to lead Thiel to a 40-27 Presidents’ Athletic Conference win over Carnegie Mellon.

Radke completed 15 of his 24 passes for 256 yards. All three of his touchdown passes found the hands of Marcus Johnson. Radke also rushed for a pair of touchdowns as he helped the Tomcats snap a two-game losing streak.

Johnson finished with seven catches for 165 yards. Thiel rolled up 475 yards of offense en route to their third win of the year.

Radke has thrown for 1,656 yards and 15 touchdowns on the year while rushing for 698 yards and eight scores.

Johnson is second on the team in receptions (33) and leads the Tomcats in receiving yards (603). He has caught seven touchdown passes.

Poll points

Third-ranked Mount Union scored more than 50 points for the eighth consecutive game as it crushed Otterbein 66-7. The Purple Raiders cranked out 565 yards, including 180 by Bradley Mitchell, who also scored a career-high four touchdowns...No. 6 John Carroll forced five turnovers and turned all five into touchdowns as they rolled to a 66-14 win over Muskingum. The Blue Streaks came through with seven tackles for a loss and five sacks. Scott Ellerman racked up seven tackles to pave the way...Tyler Holmes rushed for 122 yards and touchdowns to help lead ninth-ranked Wabash to a 41-10 win over Hiram. The Little Giants finished with 310 rushing yards in all, setting up a showdown for the NCAC crown next week against Wittenberg...The Ye Olde Skull trophy remained in the hands of No. 14 Wittenberg for the seventh straight year as the Tigers topped Ohio Wesleyan 42-6. Zack Jenkins completed 29 of 38 passes for 401 yards and two scoring strikes. His completion total ranks third in program history while the yard total ranks fourth...No. 16 Washington & Jefferson rolled to a 51-12 win over Geneva, scoring 50 or more points for the fifth time and rolling up 500-plus yards (582) for the sixth time. Ryan Ruffing rushed for 100-plus yards for the eighth consecutive game, racking up 113, and he also scored two touchdowns. The Tigers can clinch at least a share of the PAC title next week.

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Joe Sager

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.

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