Centre seniors 'deserve' win, share of SCAC title

November 14, 2003|MIKE MARSEE

As far as Andy Frye is concerned, there would be no better sendoff for the Centre College football seniors than to get one more victory.

A win here Saturday in the season finale against Rose-Hulman would give Centre at least a share of a conference title, their 12th overall and their first since 1995.

"The seniors deserve it. They've put a lot of effort into what we've done so far," Frye said.

Frye said the coaches haven't talked much to the players about the championship that will be on the line for Centre (7-2, 4-1 Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference).

"We've talked more specifically about what we have to do," he said. "They're adults, so they know what's riding on this. The big thing we have to do is keep their intensity focused on what we do."


Standing in the way is Rose-Hulman (5-4, 3-2), a team with goals of its own as it shakes its reputation as an SCAC doormat.

The Engineers won only one game last year, but now they stand one victory away from their first winning season since 1995 thanks to a renaissance led by first-year coach Ted Karras Jr., an all-Big Ten Conference defensive lineman at Northwestern in the mid 1980s.

"The new coaching staff has given them an enthusiasm," Frye said. "They play with more passion than any Rose-Hulman team I've seen play. And the coaches reflect that passion. They're just as involved with the game as the players are."

Frye said Centre's seniors have also displayed a passion that has rubbed off on the rest of the team and made them the best kind of leaders.

"This senior class was very good; they did an outstanding job of just leading," he said. "When they went to practice, they enjoyed themselves, and that let the other kids have fun. The younger kids see that it's fun to play, and they have a blast playing."

But this is the seniors' last chance to get a championship.

"I think their expectation was to win the conference," Frye said.

Spot in the playoffs a longshot

Their other expectation was to earn a spot in the NCAA Division III playoffs. Centre can entertain some hope of getting a postseason berth, but not much.

Centre is tied for first place with Trinity, which would earn the SCAC's automatic bid based on its Oct. 25 victory over Centre. The chances of a team with two losses earning an at-large bid are virtually nil, so the Colonels' best hope is for a Trinity loss at home to 1-8 Millsaps.

But even if the Colonels don't make the playoffs, Frye said this team will have taken the program one step closer to its long-term goals.

"The mark of a good football program is when you graduate seniors and you say, 'How are we going to improve on those guys?'" he said. "If you're in that situation every year and you're able to replace them, that's good."

Several Centre seniors appear among the conference leaders, including running back Lorenzo Engleman, who ranks first in all-purpose yards (1,653), receptions (67) and points (74) and second in rushing yards (858).

John Jennings is tied for the league lead in punting (36.7 yards per kick), and Jon Ortega is second in tackles (99).

Rose-Hulman's success has been due in part to the improvement of freshman quarterback Cameron Hummel, who was named the SCAC offensive player of the week after rushing for 128 yards and throwing for 235 - both career highs - to help the Engineers beat DePauw for the first time since 1995.

The Engineers also have the league's leading rusher in sophomore Charlie Key, who has run for 920 yards and nine touchdowns and is second in the league in all-purpose yards with 156 per game.

While Rose-Hulman was taking advantage of five turnovers to beat DePauw, Centre was taking advantage of an open date after its overtime win at DePauw two weeks ago.

"That's helped us," Frye said. "It's given (quarterback) Brian Behrendt time to heal up a little bit, and we had three or four kids who are starters with big bumps and bruises."

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