Division-III Football Playoffs: John Carroll University vs. Centre College
Match-up: On Saturday at noon Eastern Time the John Carroll Blue Streaks (Ohio Athletic Conference, 9-1, 8-1) will welcome the Centre College Colonels (Southern Athletic Association, 10-0, 6-0) to University Heights, OH for the first round of the Division-III football playoffs. This is one of the marquee match-ups of the weekend as both are ranked in the latest D3Football poll, John Carroll at No. 6 and Centre at No. 18. Centre enters the contest undefeated, while the Blue Streaks only loss was last weekend against No. 3 ranked Mount Union.
Coaches: Tom Arth is in his second season at the helm of John Carroll. The Former NFL quarterback and John Carroll alum has taken the program to a new level. The school was one of the top programs in the country during his time as a student (1999-2003), but played well below the expectations for the Blue Streaks, posting only five winning seasons since he graduated. Since Arth’s arrival the team has gone 18-3, and this is their second straight playoff appearance.
Andy Frye has been the coach at Centre College since 1998. Frye has an outstanding career mark of 110-60, and the Colonels have eight straight winning seasons. Centre College had never made the playoffs prior to his arrival as head coach, and that streak came to an end in 2011 when the team was selected and won their first playoff game in school history. This will be his second trip to the NCAA playoffs.
The John Carroll Blue Streaks are unlike most teams in the country, in that they have an incredible quarterback and a great running back to complement their passing game. Senior Mark Myers is 6-5, 220 pounds, and has the look and poise you want in a quarterback. He is No. 1 in the country in passer efficiency at 187.4, and has thrown for 2573 yards and 32 touchdowns. What makes him so impressive is that in in 265 attempts he has thrown just three picks.
Myers stands behind a bruising offensive line that gives him time to throw and Tommy Michals plenty of space to run. At 5-9, 175 Michals is not your prototypical running back, but he is quick, elusive and intelligent, plus he can take a hit. The senior ran for 1198 yards this season with 16 rushing touchdowns (tied for 10th). He is averaging 6.6 yards per carry, and has the speed to outrun any defensive back.
Seven different players caught double digit passes from Myers this season. Marshall Howell was the leader with 52 catches for 838 yards and 11 touchdowns. Aramis Greenwood was not far behind, recording 44 catches for 806 yards, 9 touchdowns and a very gaudy 18.3 yards per catch average. Greenwood also adds the dimension of being a top flight kickoff returner. He has a 25.5 average and 2 touchdowns in 11 returns. These two are quick and are also great route runners with good hands.
It’s hard to single out any one player on a defense that is averaging just 9.1 points allowed per game. Needless to say, this whole group is good. Linebacker Jimmy King leads the Blue Streaks in tackles with 62, and he also recorded a sack, an interception and two forced fumbles. Those are impressive numbers for the senior, considering he often played no more than three quarters of games.
The player to watch will be Michael Hollins. He only made 17 tackles on the season, but that is because everyone is afraid to throw his way. The sophomore had 13 pass defenses and 13 pass breakups. You’ve heard of “Revis Island?” Well in Ohio it’s “Hollins Island.” He cuts the field in half for his defense.
John Carroll’s defense finished with 26 sacks to go along with 13 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries. They do not get a lot of takeaways, but it is hard to get those when offenses only get around 50 plays a game. This defense is the king of the three-n-0ut.
While John Carroll has a dynamic pairing on offense, so does the Centre College Colonels. Sophmore Nolan Coulter fell 73 yards short of Michals’ total, but he is actually having a better season. Coulter has to share the touches with three other players who all gained at least 287 yards, so he isn’t the only featured back. Despite this he still ran for 1123 yards and 12 TDs. Two other sophomores carry the ball as well. Casey Bradley had 413 yards and 4 scores, and Amoh Kumengisa has run for 287 yards and 5 touchdowns.
The quarterback for Centre is senior Heath Haden and he is a duel threat every time he takes a snap. The senior threw for 1865 yards and 21 touchdowns, while only throwing 4 interceptions. He has a 64.1 completion percentage, and is very poised in the pocket. He is also a quick and smart runner, gaining 565 yards on the ground with six touchdowns.
While four players caught double digit passes, Max Mazza is clearly Haden’s favorite target. The sophomore caught 56 passes, 30 more than any other player on the team, and he added 8 touchdowns and 991 yards receiving. He is quick and elusive, averaging 17.7 yards per catch.
The Colonels defense has a very active and skilled back seven, led by linebacker Nate Letton and defensive backs Alex Mattingly and Sam Spees. Mattingly led the team with 67 tackles, plus he had three interceptions and a fumble recovery. Letton made 65 tackles and is great in coverage. Spees added 63 tackles, an interception, a fumble recovery and 4.5 tackles for losses.
Up front the Colonels have two outstanding defensive ends who are relentless in their pursuit of the quarterback. Senior Devon Freeman led the team with 6.5 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss. Fellow senior Paul Megilligan had four sacks and 9 tackles for a loss.
Overall the Colonels recorded 19 sacks, 12 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries.
Centre: 446.6 yards per game. 38.3 points per game
John Carroll: 512.3 yards per game, 52.1 points per game
Centre: 341.2 yards per game, 15.3 points allowed per game
John Carroll: 214.1 yards per game, 9.8 points allowed per game
Outlook: The John Carroll Blue Streaks are just beasts. They have an outstanding offense that can score a variety of ways, and they have a defense that is relentless in their pursuit of the ball. The Centre College Colonels have a great deal of talent and should be able to play solid against the pass of the Blue Streaks. They have an outstanding running attack and a quality quarterback who can win big games. Centre is filled with young talent and they will be a team to beat next year, but not this one. Take John Carroll 34-24.
Tomorrow’s Previews on the Minor League Sports Report will look at:
Wisconsin-Whitewater vs. Macalester
Wabash vs. Franklin
St. John’s vs. St. Scholastica
Warburg vs. St. Thomas
By Robert Pannier