Centre earns share of conference title

November 17, 2003|JILL ERWIN

Lorenzo Engleman walked up and put the black cap on Centre College coach Andy Frye's head, and the smile on the senior running back's face showed his joy at what the hat said.

There, perched on Frye's head, was a cap emblazoned with the words "SCAC Champs."

Centre reached its goal, grabbing its first Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship since 1995 by beating Rose-Hulman 21-19 Saturday at Farris Stadium.

The Colonels share the conference title - their 12th in the SCAC and its predecessor, the College Athletic Conference - with Trinity. Trinity, which defeated Millsaps 42-14, gets the SCAC's automatic playoff berth by virtue of its 52-7 win over Centre earlier this season.

But the taste of a co-championship is just as sweet to Centre.

"In the offseason, we were in the weight room three hours a day, going through everything you have to go through, sweating, bleeding and everything," said junior receiver David Crowley, who finished with seven catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns.


"If you ever wonder back then, this is what you have to look forward to. This is what it's all for."

"This is a dream come true," senior safety John Ortega said. "After we lost to Trinity, we almost lost hope. I think the team showed a lot of courage and bounced back. I want to thank God for everything he's given this team this year."

Interception, long drive propel Centre

Those two players, along with junior quarterback Brian Behrendt, combined for the biggest turnaround in the game. Centre led 14-12 when Rose-Hulman drove 62 yards to the Centre 5-yard line.

Engineers quarterback Cameron Hummel dropped back to pass, but his throw was picked off by Ortega on the goal line. Ortega brought it back out to the 5, and Centre began a drive of its own.

Over the next 5 minutes, 23 seconds, the Colonels overcame two penalties to move 48 yards to the Rose-Hulman 47. Then, Behrendt found a streaking Crowley going down the right sideline and hit him with a perfectly placed pass for a 21-12 lead.

"It all came down to doing the simple things," Crowley said. "Our line held up the rush, I got a good step on the DB and Behrendt threw me a great ball. All I had to do was just run. I could have held out my hands with my eyes closed. It comes from working at it, going hard in practice and repping it where you can do it in your sleep."

That possible 14-point turnaround loomed even larger when Rose-Hulman broke off a big scoring play on its next possession. Jason Dickey took the handoff, then lobbed the ball down the left side of the field.

Centre's Nathan Fell was defending Charlie Key, but Key made the catch and outran everyone for an 82-yard score that cut the Centre lead to 21-19 with 12:41 to play.

Rose-Hulman's last chance came with 3:32 on the clock and with three timeouts left. From their own 20, the Engineers moved to their own 41.

Facing a fourth-and-12 from the 44-yard line, Hummel rolled right, scrambling, and tried to throw the ball downfield. However, he was whistled for stepping out of bounds and Centre took over with 2:02 to play.

"We blitzed on that fourth-down play," Frye said. "I think we only blitzed twice in the whole game."

One first down later, Centre was able to run the clock out and earn a share of the conference title.

Centre finished with 321 yards to Rose-Hulman's 303, and both teams converted more than half of their third-down opportunities. However, Centre scored two out of three times inside the Engineers' 20, while Rose-Hulman was just 1-for-4.

Behrendt was 14-of-26 for 168 yards with three touchdown passes.

"I don't think it's really sunk in yet," Behrendt said. "I think I'm still in game mode. Hopefully soon I'll get to sit and reflect on the season."

Frye now will lose his hair

Any reflecting Frye does in the near future will be done with a freshly shaven head. He told the team before the season that he would shave his head if the Colonels won the conference.

But even before the season, Frye didn't know exactly what he had with his team. His lines were full of new faces and familiar faces in unfamiliar positions, and the Colonels were full of questions.

Frye said two things sold him on the fact his team was a championship contender.

"I thought when we won the Rhodes game (32-31 on Sept. 20), because I was surprised at how our kids just scratched and clawed," Frye said. "Then we got ahead and it looked like we were the better team. They came back, and our kids still stuck with it.

"Then, after we lost the Washington and Lee game (23-17 on Sept. 27), our kids rebounded well and played so well in the next two games and I thought, 'We might have a shot at this.' And we did."

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