|N.C. Wesleyan's football stadium was unplayable after the effects of Hurricane Matthew.
N.C. Wesleyan Athletics photo
Football players and coaches face adversity on a daily basis. In its simplest form, the game of football is played to see which team can better adapt and overcome the challenges posed by the opponent.
Coaches spend countless hours fine-tuning game plans, players spend dozens of hours each week practicing, and family and friends spend Saturdays watching the result of those hours of preparation. But sometimes the game of football takes a backseat to circumstances beyond our control, and it's during these times we're reminded that, no matter how much you prepare for the worst, it still hurts when you face it.
The effects of Hurricane Matthew, the deadliest tropical storm since 2005 and the costliest since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, are still being felt in North Carolina. Two USA South schools, Methodist in Fayetteville and North Carolina Wesleyan in Rocky Mount, were hit particularly hard.
"It puts everything in perspective in a hurry," N.C. Wesleyan coach Jeff Filkovski said.
The storm affected the large majority of the East Coast, but it was particularly damaging in the South. Methodist's campus was left without power for almost three days and closed for an entire week due to surrounding damage and flooding. N.C. Wesleyan's campus never lost power, but its football field was almost completely submerged in water from the rain-induced floods.
Methodist had to postpone back-to-back football games -- Oct. 8 at home against Averett and Oct. 15 on the road at N.C. Wesleyan. With the storm expected to hit Fayetteville the hardest on Friday, Oct. 7, Methodist's administration made the decision to close the campus that day, with the initial plan of moving the Methodist-Averett game back one day to Sunday.
That, of course, sounded reasonable when the forecast called for eight inches of rain -- Fayetteville ended up getting 16 inches of rain. Interim football coach Keven Williams learned Sunday morning that the campus had lost power. Other venues for the game were considered, as well as simply moving the game to Averett's campus in Danville, Va., but it wasn't feasible with the poor road conditions.
By Monday, the school's administration made the decision to close the campus for the entire week before reopening again on Monday, Oct. 17. That forced the postponement of the game against N.C. Wesleyan.
Williams said he, along with a handful of his coaches, had unimpeded travel paths to campus and were able to visit players during the power outage. However, the lack of power also meant an unusually high number of drained cell phones, so Williams' team-wide text messages didn't reach many players. This caused some confusion, particularly on Sunday, when a few players still showed up expecting a game to be played.
When they were able to, most of Methodist's players went home during the week of the campus' closure.
"By the time we came back this past Monday at practice, we went 11 days without practicing and 18 days without playing a football game," Williams said. "It was tough. ... It was almost like we started camp all over again."
Williams, in his first year as the Monarchs' head coach, admitted to being frustrated to lose consecutive games, but turned his focus to the larger picture.
"At the end of the day, even though how hard it was to miss two football games, it was nothing compared to what some people had to go through," Williams said. "And our players did a good job of realizing that, because they could have come back really disgruntled and really mad, but they didn't because they got that. They understood that this was completely out of our control."
Williams, along with many of his assistant coaches and players, has been active in the community, handing out water and food at local churches and the Salvation Army.
"For the most part, things are getting back to normal," Williams said, "but the hardest thing now is people recovering what they lost."
Filkovski said the true threat of the storm struck him the night of Saturday, Oct. 8, as the team drove back from Maryville, Tenn., through a driving rain. By the end of the weekend, N.C. Wesleyan's field was completely flooded.
"There are houses around the stadium," Filkovski said, "and you can only imagine what those people have had to go through."
Unlike Methodist, N.C. Wesleyan avoided any power outages or extended campus closures, but still faced the typical post-storm cleanup concerns. Filkovski said some of his players suffered water damage in their off-campus apartments, while a member of the school's administration suffered major damage to their house.
"Our guys handled it pretty well, I believe," Filkovski said. "We got out and about here on campus and tried to pick up the things that were torn down and branches, and just tried to clean up on campus throughout the week."
The Battling Bishops' field is back to normal, Filkovski said, and even recently had its grass cut. N.C. Wesleyan isn't scheduled to host a game again until Nov. 5 against LaGrange.
Methodist returned to action this past Saturday for its homecoming game against Huntingdon, and even a 47-14 defeat couldn't sully an otherwise great day. There is no official plan regarding the postponed games, but Williams said Methodist will attempt to make up one of them.
"Getting back to football was a great way to just say, 'You know what, things are back to normal, let's get things rolling again and get back on the right track,'" Williams said.
Washington and Lee registers statement win
Marshall Hollerith rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown, Evan Hinkle rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns, and Michael Shields (two interceptions) spearheaded a defense that forced six turnovers in Washington and Lee's impressive 52-7 win against ODAC rival Hampden-Sydney.
Washington and Lee's dominance was easy to see. The Generals piled up 31 first downs and 591 yards of offense, compared to just 14 and 216, respectively, for the Tigers. The win was the fourth straight for Washington and Lee, which improved to 5-2 overall.
The path to the ODAC title is now firmly in front of Washington and Lee. With three regular season games remaining (vs. Randolph-Macon, at Bridgewater, vs. Shenandoah), the Generals control their own destiny.
Muhlenberg continues playoff push
Nick Savant rushed for a school-record 277 yards and four touchdowns, Nick Palladino tossed a pair of touchdowns, and Kyle Wilczynski scored on a 60-yard pick-six as Muhlenberg routed Juniata 56-17.
The win marked the third straight for the Mules, who have now won 26 consecutive second-half games in the regular season (the Centennial Conference features a league-wide bye week after five games). Muhlenberg's only loss this season came in a 30-24 defeat against Johns Hopkins, the favorite to once again win the conference crown. But Muhlenberg, with three winnable games remaining, has put itself in position to contend for an NCAA tournament at-large bid.
Savant, who ranks 12th nationally in rushing yards per game (147.7), and Palladino, the Division III active leader in career passing yards (9,272) and total offense (10,635) power a potent offense that often overshadows a solid defense. The Mules have shut down Gettysburg and Juniata, two teams with above-average offenses, in the last two games, while allowing a combined 24 points over that span.
Muhlenberg faces Dickinson (0-7, 0-6) in Carlisle, Penn., this Saturday.
Ryan Cary rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns, Jonathan Germano passed for 242 yards and two touchdowns, and Jack Campbell tallied 12 tackles and an interception as Johns Hopkins rolled past Gettysburg 54-14. ... Elijah Crenier rushed for 232 yards and a touchdown, and Nick Myers tossed a pair of TDs as Maryville topped Averett 31-26 for its sixth straight win. ... Dom Kaopua rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown, and Randolph-Macon's defense limited Catholic's offense to just 126 total yards in a 21-0 shutout victory. ... Dave Shellhammer and Taalib Gerald both rushed for touchdowns in a 21-point second quarter as Franklin and Marshall knocked off Moravian 24-17. ... Luke Bailey passed for 244 yards and four touchdowns, including three to Zach Camp, and John Iwaniec rushed for 141 yards and a touchdown in Huntingdon's 47-14 win over Methodist. E'Montie Dears rushed for 172 yards in the loss. ... Cedrick Delaney rushed for 205 yards and a pair of TDs, and Deaquan Porter scored on an 18-yard punt return as Shenandoah defeated Guilford 33-28. ... Thomas Garlick accounted for 186 passing yards, 101 rushing yards and two total touchdowns, and Stacey Gardner added a pair of rushing TDs as Ursinus beat Susquehanna 31-24 for its first win of the season. ... Kendrick Kube, Dominic Dunnaville and Sam Wagner each rushed for touchdowns, and Davon Keith finished with 14 tackles and three sacks in Emory and Henry's 42-33 win over Bridgewater. ... Brian Mann ran for 254 yards and one of Ferrum's four rushing touchdowns in a 44-20 win against LaGrange. ... Will Koester tossed touchdown passes to Breon Herbert and Bamasa Bailor, and Andy Ullmann recorded a pair of sacks in McDaniel's 14-7 win over Dickinson.
Top 25: New teams receive votes
Maryville and Muhlenberg each drew votes in this week's D3football.com Top 25 poll.
Johns Hopkins held steady at No. 9 for yet another week, while Huntington continued to draw votes as well.
Randolph-Macon (6-1, 3-1) at Washington and Lee (5-2, 4-0), 1 p.m., Saturday: Every team in the ODAC is looking up at Washington and Lee in the conference standings, but Randolph-Macon can pull even with a win. The Generals won a close matchup, 21-17, last season.
Maryville (6-1, 4-0) at LaGrange (3-4, 1-3), 1 p.m., Saturday: The USA South conference title will likely be on the line when Maryville and Huntingdon meet next week, but the Scots would be wise not to look past the Panthers in this matchup.
Other games of note: Franklin and Marshall (6-1, 5-1) at Susquehanna (3-4, 3-3), 1 p.m., Saturday
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