Hussey clicking on both ends for Pomona-Pitzer

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Duncan Hussey knows how to get to the ball regardles of which team is throwing it to him.
Pomona-Pitzer athletics photo 

When Duncan Hussey began playing wide receiver late last season in addition to his duties as a defensive back, he felt he could make a bigger impact for Pomona-Pitzer.

In just his second game as a wideout, Hussey showed what he was capable of, tying the Pomona-Pitzer record with three touchdown catches while hauling in 218 yards against Occidental. He also made five tackles, including a sack on defense.

This season, Hussey is putting more focus into offense in an effort to help the Sagehens move up the SCIAC standings after winning one conference game over the last two seasons. And in the Pomona-Pitzer’s non-conference season-opener versus MIT, he caught 11 passes for 145 yards and set a school record of four touchdown receptions.

“I’m still more frustrated than anything because I feel there are still more things I could have done to win that game,” Hussey said following his record-setting day. “We were so close to starting this season on a very positive note, and I think there are things I should have done better.”

That desire to be better helped spark his fourth quarter performance Saturday at Merritt Field. Upset with himself after dropping what could have been a touchdown in the third quarter, Hussey came alive in the final period. With his team trailing 19-7, he tipped a pass away from a defender and caught his own deflection at the 4-yard line for a 22-yard gain.

“I was very motivated to make it up to the team,” Hussey said. “Whatever, I could do – I wanted the ball and I wanted to make something happen. It ended up working out, just not quite enough to get the win.”

Hussey shook off a hard hit to catch his second touchdown of the game with 14:22 remaining. The receiver gave the Sagehens their first lead of the game, 20-19, when he caught his third score of the game on a fourth down play.

Down by eight in the final minutes of the game, Hussey secured the record-setting touchdown catch on another fourth down play – a 33-yard connection between he and quarterback Peter Ianelli.

“Pete and I are actually both from Seattle, so we’ve connected that way off the field,” Hussey said. “On the field, I think we have a great chemistry going.  He knows when we’re both feeling it. He knows how to get the ball in my hands when that needs to happen. But he also knows how to spread the ball out when I’m not open or when I’m getting more attention from the defense.”

However, the Sagehens were unable to convert the game-tying two-point conversion and lost the game.

Hussey, who lined up on offense as an undersized high school player, has enjoyed the move to his new position because he is involved in more plays.

“I was very frustrated last year a lot of the time because I felt like I wasn’t able to help the team as much as I could,” Hussey said. “I am having more fun right now, certainly, because I feel like I can have a bigger impact on the team and really help the team out.”

Coach Roger Caron was confident the fifth-year player could handle the transition and likes the potential he has this season.

“Duncan’s always had the skill to be a receiver. It was just always a question of when you use him (and) how to use him,” Caron said. “When he decided to come back for his fifth year, we decided to commit full-time to offense.”

Last season, the Sagehens’ receiving unit suffered a number of injuries. Because of Hussey’s speed, Caron asked the defensive back to play some offense to help the position’s depth.

“Being a defensive back for so long, in a lot of ways, really helped,” said Hussey, noting he will occasionally see some time on defense this season. “You know what gives you challenges and gives you issues as a DB. So I can try to emulate that as a wide receiver in terms of my route running and my cuts and stuff like that.

“So it’s been a really fun process. And it’s cool to sort of get to see things from the two different sides of the ball.”

Hussey completed his undergraduate degree in molecular biology this spring with a grade point average of 3.97 and scored in the 99.8th percentile on the MCATs. But he chose to put off medical school for a year to play one more season while taking graduate courses at Pomona.

“I absolutely wanted to come back and play football with the guys. The fact that I was able to take public health classes that will transfer well and also help me with my medical school applications is sort of a bonus,” said Hussey, who plans to become a medical doctor.

Hussey’s success in the classroom translates on to the field, according to his coach.

“He’s a tough-minded individual and he’s maybe one of the top students in the country,” Caron said. “It’s not only athletic skills but what’s between the ears with him that makes him a very impressive kid.”

Caron also respects Hussey’s leadership as he enters his third season as a captain.

“He doesn’t lead from behind. He leads from the front. He’s the best conditioned of anyone in the program,” Caron said. “He’s a role model for the younger kids. If anyone says they don’t have enough time between academics and football, I just point to Duncan and that usually ends the conversation.”

New digs

Crown College debuted its new venue, KleinBank Stadium.

The grand opening featured three sporting events Saturday – a cross country invitational, a men’s soccer game vs.  Rockford and the Storm’s football non-conference game with Macalester.

“This game day atmosphere was so much better than anything we've had in the past,” head coach Jon Auer said after the game. “When we think about an NCAA Division III facility, this fits for us perfectly. It fits for who we are.”

The $2.5 million project features a new turf field, press box and lighting as well as new concession and ticket offices. KleinBank Stadium features an official seating capacity of 1,329.

The structure was built by Mortenson, which also erected Target Field in nearby Minneapolis – home of the Twins.

The Storm lost their season opener with Macalester, 31-14, but Crown’s Ben Olson scored the first touchdown at KleinBank Stadium when he hauled in a 15-yard catch from Wes Safford early in the second quarter.

WIAC hopefuls rally

The last two teams to win the WIAC title found themselves down early Saturday. However, both UW-Oshkosh and UW-Whitewater – now ranked No. 10 and 14, respectively – rallied in the second half to win their season openers.

After trailing 17-0 at halftime, the Titans scored 24 straight points to take down host Central 24-20 at Schipper Stadium. UW-Oshkosh wide receiver Cory Wipperfurth caught a 67-yard touchdown pass to tie the game, and Cole Myhra added his second touchdown of the day to put the Titans ahead for good.

The Warhawks scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to defeat visiting Washington U. at Perkins Stadium, 17-7. Jake Kumerow caught a 30-yard touchdown pass to give UW-Whitewater a 10-7 lead and Dennis Moore added an insurance TD with a 28-yard run.


The rest of the West

The Gary Fasching era at St. John’s began with a comeback victory as the Johnnies scored 10 points in the final minute to top host UW-River Falls, 17-14, Friday night. Jake Essler tied the game with a 2-yard touchdown run, and Alexi Johnson’s 40-yard field goal 53 seconds later capped the victory. The win is Gary Fasching’s first as he takes over for John Gagliardi, who coached the Johnnies from 1953 to 2012. … Special teams played a key role in Willamette’s win over Hardin-Simmons at McCulloch Stadium on Friday. The 64-34 decision marked the program’s 500th victory. The Bearcats returned their first two kickoff returns for touchdowns as Terrell Malley ran the opening kick 94 yards and Tyson Giza took the second 85-yards to the house. Josh Dean passed for 342 yards and three touchdowns to bolster the Willamette attack. … Coe College’s season debut was delayed an hour and 15 minutes when one of its buses broke down on the way to Monmouth. The wait was worth it for the No. 22 Kohawks, who jumped out to a 17-7 lead at halftime and held on to win 23-22.


Rank ’em

At No. 2, St. Thomas is the highest ranked team in the West this week. The Tommies pick up an additional first place vote this week and are currently one point behind No. 1 Mount Union.

Eight other teams in the Region are ranked in the top-25: No. 3 Linfield (up from No. 4), No. 8 Bethel, No. 9 UW-Platteville (up from No. 11), No. 10 UW-Oshkosh (up from No. 12), No. 12 Pacific Lutheran (up from No. 13), No. 14 UW-Whitewater (dropping from No. 9), No. 18 Cal Lutheran and No. 22 Coe College (dropping from No. 21).

Number of the week

7 – as in 7-0, the MIAC’s record during its opening weekend. All seven teams opened the 2013 campaign with a victory with No. 2 St. Thomas serving as the highest scoring team, taking down UW-Eau Claire, 52-7. Augsburg topped Concordia (Wis.), 51-17.

Looking ahead

Redlands began its run through a gauntlet of ranked teams with a 31-13 loss to No. 3 Mary Hardin-Baylor (now No. 4). The Bulldogs face three ranked teams in the first four weeks of the season, including SCIAC rival Cal Lutheran in Week 4. Redlands will travel to No. 12 Pacific Lutheran this week.

Be heard

Do you have a story idea for the Around the West column? Contact me about approaching milestones, broken records, break-out players or any other storylines in the West. Or just drop me a note and let me know what you like or don’t about the column. All ideas and feedback are welcome. Email me at josh.smith@d3sports.com or follow me on Twitter at @DU_Josh_Smith.

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Josh Smith has covered Division III sports for more than five years. He writes for multiple publications, including D3football.com beginning in 2012. He has won multiple awards for reporting and photography and lives in southern Wisconsin near UW-Whitewater, where he graduated with a degree in print journalism.

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