Offseason housefire welds team more tightly together

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Kenny Fryman, a senior linebacker and captain for Hampden-Sydney, played high school football with the two Tigers who were injured in a housefire early this year. "I feel like a big part of our success each year is due to how close our team is," he said.
Hampden-Sydney athletics photos

Marty Favret's phone rang at 4 a.m. That's never a good sign.

Two hours later and one mile away, a group of Tigers awoke to get in their morning workout. They could smell the smoke.

The early morning hours of Jan. 25, 2012, have given the Hampden-Sydney Tigers a different outlook on football and on life.

The fire that destroyed the TAC house on campus that day has been well-documented. And an Around the Mid-Atlantic column last year covered the friendship and bond shared by 2012 H-SC graduates Kirk Rohle and Ben Rogers.

With the 2012 football season in full throttle, the Tigers have not forgotten about the courage, bravery, and dedication that their former teammates displayed in the face of crisis.

"You realize that winning the ODAC's not as important. We could have lost those kids," said Favret. "It made me re-think my role as head coach and what is important. It makes you forget about football for a little bit."

Rohle suffered the most serious injuries when he went back into the house searching for his lifelong best friend, Rogers. The former Tigers running back was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Richmond. Within a few hours, more than 50 current and former players and coaches were at the hospital to show their support.

"I grew up with Kirk and Ben, and we have a lot of guys on our team from Hanover [High School]," said senior linebacker and captain Kenny Fryman. "It was really scary."

Both Rogers and Rohle have recovered and are doing well. Rohle is an account manager at a distributing company, while Rogers is a licensed real estate agent. Both live and work in Richmond. They were All-ODAC players for Hampden-Sydney, but their legacy extends far beyond the playing field.

"They are like sons to me," said Favret. "They are both ex-captains and have been really important to the program."

The players on this year's roster draw inspiration from the duo's leadership, commitment and fearlessness. Everyone on this year's roster wears a "Band of Brothers" wristband with Rohle's No. 9 displayed. Rohle's younger brother, sophomore safety Shreve, now wears the number nine jersey to honor his brother. Rohle and Rogers have attended both of Hampden-Sydney's games this season, cheering on their alma mater to a 2-0 start.

"Just seeing their presence at our games has done a lot for our program," said Fryman.

The TAC (Tiger Athletic Club) house was a sanctuary of sorts for the school's senior athletes. Nine young men lived in the house at the time of the fire. The school was able to provide a temporary house for the TAC near the school's fraternity houses. The former TAC house was a total loss.

"It was an emotional thing when the TAC house was razed," said Favret.

It was important for the players to maintain the club, and the school was quick to accommodate them.

"I think having the TAC house brings us camaraderie," said Fryman. "I feel like a big part of our success each year is due to how close our team is."

Everyone on this year's Tigers roster wears a "Band of Brothers" wristband that features the No. 9, which was Kirk Rohle's jersey number. Rohle suffered the worst injuries in the fire.

Led by captains and Hanover alums Fryman and junior safety Steven Fogleman, the 2012 Tigers are playing with a different sense of purpose. They are hungry to get back to the playoffs and earn the school's first playoff victory. At the same time, they now know not to take a single snap, in practice or in a game, for granted.

"It puts everything in perspective," said Fryman. "There is life after football."

It was not just the team that came together to support Rogers and Rohle. The entire Farmville and Virginia communities backed the Tigers. Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer, himself a burn victim, called to speak to Rogers and Rohle. Donations poured in to assist with the players' recovery as well as the rebuilding of the TAC house. Professors, counselors, and coaches on campus did everything they could to help the students get through a difficult spring semester.

"I am proud to be a part of a college town that rallies like that," said Favret. "The support was over the top. It was one of the coolest things I've been through and an incredible expression of what Division III football is all about."

Number(s) of the Week: 33. Percent of Washington and Lee quarterback Nick Lombardo's pass attempts that went for touchdowns to tight end Alex Evans. Lombardo completed five of six passes for 96 yards and two scores. Evans hauled in three receptions, two of which went for touchdowns. Evans bookended the Generals' scoring in an impressive 34-16 defeat of then- No. 23 Centre. The junior caught a 39-yard touchdown pass to cap the Generals' opening drive of the game. He scored again early in the fourth quarter from nine yards out to put W&L up 34-10.

The biggest game of the week came down to zero, the number of interceptions Wesley's highly-touted defense forced against Mary Hardin-Baylor. The Wolverines lost the turnover battle for the first time all year, recovering one fumble while giving the ball away twice. That difference was the key to the then- No. 4 Cru's road win at then-No. 3 Wesley. The Wolverines held UMHB's LiDarral Bailey to just 16-26 passing for 138 yards, but Bailey threw for two scores and was not picked off. Justin Sottilare passed for 294 yards and three touchdowns for the Wolverines, but the ground game was nonexistent. Wesley was held to minus-four total rushing yards. The Crusaders moved up to No. 2 in the latest Top 25 poll, while Wesley fell to No. 6.

Team(s) of the Week: Four teams head into their bye week with momentum. The aforementioned Generals earned a big win over a ranked opponent and have won two straight heading into ODAC play on Sept. 29. Guilford notched its first win of the season, outlasting Averett in a 45-35 shootout. Mike Williams rushed 13 times for 151 yards and a touchdown to lead the Quakers. Josh Williams added 72 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Freshman quarterback Matt Pawloski threw for 239 yards and three scores and ran for another as the Quakers used a balanced offensive attack (239 yards passing, 237 yards rushing) to defeat the Cougars. After a winless 2011, Greensboro heads into its bye week with a winning record. The Pride is 2-1 after defeating Apprentice School 20-13. Travis Welch led the defensive effort with 15 tackles. After opening the season with losses to the teams currently ranked No. 8 and No. 22 in the Top 25, Christopher Newport earned its first victory of the season. The Captains held Shenandoah to just 193 total yards of offense in a 20-7 win. The Hornets' defense was no slouch either, holding CNU to 213 total yards. Michael Ruckman's 47-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the third quarter was the difference for the Captains.

Looking Ahead: Wesley has lost just three regular season games since the beginning of the 2006 season. The cumulative final score of the three games following those losses: 141-9. Louisiana College might be in trouble when it faces an angry Wolverines squad this week. It will be another tough test for Wesley, as LC is close to cracking the Top 25. The Wildcats are eager to show that they can play with the top teams in Division III as they host the Wolverines in a night game. Expect Wesley to bounce back and take care of business on this long road trip.

With all of the USAC and all but three ODAC teams enjoying a bye (Bridgewater plays Shenandoah, Hampden-Sydney plays non-conference Huntingdon), all eyes should be on the Centennial Conference this week. If you like great defense, you really need to pay close attention to the CC race. The three teams tied atop the league — Muhlenberg, Gettysburg, and Johns Hopkins — boast three of the top defenses in the nation. The Mules have allowed just seven points through three games this year, leading all of Division III in scoring defense. After giving up a touchdown in the season opener, the Mules have scored 81 unanswered points. Gettysburg is not far behind, allowing just 14 points. Among teams that have played three games, the Bullets rank third in scoring defense. Johns Hopkins has allowed 35 points this season, good for 11th among teams that have played three games.

The Blue Jays face the Mules this weekend. The winner will have the inside track to the Centennial's automatic playoff berth. Muhlenberg will be hard pressed to maintain its top spot in scoring defense, facing a Blue Jays attack that piled up 582 yards and 49 points in its last game, a 34-point win over Moravian in which Johns Hopkins earned a whopping 40 first downs. Linebacker Kory Crichton leads the Muhlenberg defense with 31 tackles and two sacks, while seven different Mules have snagged an interception.

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 at @adamturer or adam.turer@d3sports.com. Enjoy Week 4!

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Andrew Lovell

Andrew Lovell is a writer based in Connecticut and a former online news editor for ESPN.com, as well as a former sports staff writer/editor for the New Britain Herald (Conn.). He has written feature stories for ESPN.com, currently contributes fantasy football content to RotoBaller.com, and has been a regular contributor to D3sports.com sites since 2007. Andrew has also written for a number of daily newspapers in New York, including the Poughkeepsie Journal, Ithaca Journal and Auburn Citizen. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2008 with B.A. in Sport Media and a minor in writing.

2012-2015 columnist: Adam Turer
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