TIGER FOOTBALL TEAM GOES UNDEFEATED
FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1971
by Sports Information Officer Davis Yake '08 and Editor John Dudley '95
Expectations were high for the 2009 football Tigers, who nearly won the 2008 ODAC Championship and were picked to finish first in the pre-season coaches' poll. Head coach Marty Favret and crew did not disappoint, becoming just the second team in program history, and first since the 1971 team, to put together a perfect 10-0 regular season while winning the ODAC Championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament.
THE SEASON STARTED out at home with a match up against North Carolina Wesleyan, who had earned a no. 18 preseason ranking according to Lindy's poll. The Tigers came out with a bang, winning the game 55-23, while quarterback Corey Sedlar threw for over 400 yards, with four touchdowns in the first half.
Sedlar and the Tigers continued to show off their touted offensive with a 46-43 overtime victory over Gettysburg College. Sedlar again had a big day, breaking J.D. Ricca's single-game passing record throwing for 522 yards. Senior cornerback Boaz Young-el, however, had the Plays of the Day, blocking two field goal attempts, including the would-be game winner with time expiring in regulation.
That day also marked the beginning of a new Hampden-Sydney College tradition: President Howard's lucky hat. Despite falling out of season, Dr. Howard continued wearing his white hat to all of the Tiger football games. He says, "I knew the hat was my lucky charm when we defeated Gettysburg College in OT." He must have been right. The hat took the Tigers through some close match-ups for a conference title.
With two wins under its belt, Hampden-Sydney notched its first road win of the season with a convincing 51-7 win over Sewanee. The Tigers then began ODAC play, visiting Guilford College in the fourth week of the season. Though Hampden-Sydney was only up 10-6 at halftime, the offense began to roll, scoring 21 unanswered points in the second half to claim the 31-6 victory.
Hampden-Sydney returned home for Family Weekend to face ODAC-rival Bridgewater College. The Tiger defense had one of its best outings in recent history, holding the talented Eagle offense to just 159 yards while keeping them out of the end zone in the 19-0 victory.
The defense kept its momentum up heading to Emory, Virginia, to face the Wasps of Emory & Henry College. After a 23-12 road win, the Tigers returned to the friendly confines of Lewis C. Everett Stadium to defeat Washington & Lee in a 38-31 Homecoming game.
The Tigers nearly stumbled in the eighth week, as the #23 Tigers trailed 7-0 to Catholic at halftime. Sophomore Sean Cavanagh tied the game at seven with a 43-yard dash to the end zone, and the fourth quarter belonged to Tiger running back Kirk Rohle. The sophomore had two touchdowns in the final stanza with a one-yard scamper, and a 50-yard run to put the game out of reach at 21-7. Head coach Marty Favret says the possibility of going 10-0 on the season did not really click until the victory over Catholic. "We didn't go into this season with the thought of going 10-0. Two years ago we were at 8-0, so we knew what that was like. We knew we had two more tough teams-including Macon- so our slogan became 'Win November'. We still had a bitter taste in our mouth after losing to Macon in '09 and we wanted to make up for it."
Hampden-Sydney played its final home game against a tough Salisbury opponent, but with a big 31-0 lead in the first quarter, the #17 Tigers cruised to a 59-14 victory, while maintaining their unblemished 9-0 record going into the final game of the regular season against Randolph-Macon. "Going into the season," adds Favret, "we expected Salisbury and North Carolina Wesleyan to be the toughest teams on the schedule, but we blew out both of them. We also knew beating Emory & Henry in Emory would be tough. That win was huge for us."
For the third consecutive year, "the Game" has been more than just a rivalry with the winner being crowned ODAC Champions. On top of that, the #15 Tigers had a perfect season on the line facing the Yellow Jackets in Ashland. "We play in a tough conference. We have six conference teams and the only way to make sure you win the conference is to win all six games," says Favret. "I have been 5-1 three or four times in my ten years here when we've not won the conference. It was all coming down to the Macon game."
The game was a back-and-forth thriller, and Randolph-Macon took a 27-26 fourth-quarter lead with 12:47 remaining in the game. The lead was shortlived, however, as freshman Steven Fogleman returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for the final touchdownof the game. With the 34-27 victory, Hampden-Sydney was crowned ODAC Champions while completing a perfect 10-0 regular season.
The memory of that victory over Randolph-Macon on a mud-soaked field in front of huge crowd will stay with Coach Favret for rest of his life. "The kickoff return for a touchdown to put us ahead, the mud, the drama, the back-and-forth, clinching the game with 20 seconds left and knowing that we had reached our goal-I will never forget that game."
Quarterback Corey Sedlar agrees saying, "Standing there covered in mud on Macon's field after the game was surreal. You set goals. You work hard. Then when it all comes to fruition, it's amazing. Not that we needed any extra boost, but it was great beating Macon on their field to win the ODAC title and to go undefeated. They were a really good team, and we had to go over to their place and take it from them. And we did."
Hampden-Sydney ended the regular season as the 14th ranked team in the nation according to the AFCA while advancing to the NCAA Playoffs. Because of their record, the Tigers hosted a first-round game against touted Johns Hopkins University. The Tigers fought hard but fell 23-7.
With their outstanding season, the Tigers had a bevy of post-season accolades that started on the conference level and rose to the national stage. Twelve players were selected to All-ODAC teams, includ-ing First Team selections Corey Sedlar, Andrew Sellers, Josh Miller, Will Riggenbach, Bill Doody, Sean Cavanagh and Ben Rogers. Will Riggenbach was named the ODAC's Defensive Player of the Year, Josh Miller was named the Co-Farm Bureau Scholar Athlete of the Year, and Marty Favret was named the Coach of the Year.
Sedlar, Sellers, Doody, Riggenbach and Rogers were also named VaSID First Team All-State while Favret was named the VaSID Coach of the Year. Riggenbach and Doody went on to earn d3football.com First Team All-Region accolades while Sellers and Sedlar were named to the Second and Third Team respectively.
Doody was also named a First Team All-American by d3football.com. The junior free safety had an ODAC-high nine interceptions which also tied the Hampden-Sydney single season record. Riggenbach and Sellers were also named Honorable Mention All-Americans. Riggenbach had a monster junior campaign leading the nation with 14.5 sacks while breaking Hampden-Sydney's record. Sellers registered 83 tackles, 7.0 sacks and 17.0 tackles-for-loss.
Miller was named an ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Second Team Academic All-American for his outstanding performance both on the field and in the classroom (see page 10).
While the players racked up the accolades, Sedlar points out how much the coaching staff contributed to the incredible season. "All of our five full-time coaches all came back this season, which hadn't happened in the past three seasons. That was huge. Coach [Wes] Dodson was great. We hadn't had a tenured defensive coordinator in years and having that continuity is really important. In off-season, we can go in and talk with them, get to know them, and get really comfortable with them. You can see the results; our defense is the best we've had in four years. That's all about coaches like Coach Dodson and, of course, Coach Favret."
The amazing 2009 season has set the bar even higher for 2010, but coming off such a successful year will only make the team hungry for more success.