Springfield College Triangle Magazine "Running For Daylight" Feature Story Writing

This feature told the story of Springfield College’s 2000 football team which finished with the most wins in the College’s history. The team was also the first to break the Division III 4000 yard rushing mark thanks to a talented four man backfield who were interviewed for this story.

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Running for Daylight

by Chris Gregor

Balance is a virtue for tightrope walkers and dietitians, but not necessarily for a college football offense. Witness the 2000 edition of the Springfield College Pride; during the regular season they ran the ball 614 times while throwing only 54 passes. But if one thinks Coach Mike DeLong’s squad wasn’t diversified enough to succeed, think again. While capturing enough territory to bring tears to an infantry commander’s eyes, they finished with an 11-2 record - the most wins in Springfield College history. Racking up 4,275 yards in 10 regular season games for an NCAA Division III record, they also were the first team to break the 4000-yard rushing mark in Division III, while averaging 427.5 rushing yards a game. "Most of the time, when we call passing plays we’re not doing well," deadpanned Coach DeLong. Fueled by Offensive Coordinator Chris McKenney’s triple option offense, the nearly unstoppable ground game also took the Pride the furthest a New England team has ever gone in the Division III playoffs. Who needs balance?
So who were the names behind all these numbers? Notre Dame had the "Four Horseman." At Fordham it was the "Seven Blocks of Granite." For Springfield, the record-breaking running attack was the achievement of a low key, tightly knit group we’ll just call "Four Guys Who Like To Run A Lot" - Kevin Cahill, Jason Miller, Demetrius Dunn and Bob Sedlor. The four were a lunch-pail crew of dependable laborers, relying on a solid work ethic to get the job done. Eschewing pomp and circumstance, their idea of a wild end zone celebration after scoring was calmly walking over and politely handing the ball to the referee. Considering their 45 rushing touchdowns, the understated behavior makes sense from an energy-conservation standpoint.
After rushing for 836 yards (83.6 per game) and 11 touchdowns and adding 537 yards and 8 touchdowns passing, senior quarterback and co-captain Kevin Cahill (New York Mills, NY) was named the Freedom Football Conference (FFC) Offensive Player of the Year. He is also the school’s all-time leader in rushing yards (3,209), touchdowns (44) and points (276). Occupying himself in the springtime as the ace pitcher on the Springfield College baseball team, Cahill didn’t have to worry about developing a sore pitching arm throwing a football last fall.
As a kid, Fullback Jason Miller grew up on hockey in Marlboro, Massachusetts and later decided it was more fun to run over people than skate around them. He was named to the 2000 Hewlett Packard Division III All-America Football Team and a first-team All-FFC selection after setting single season school records with 1345 yards rushing, 22 touchdowns and 136 points. Miller, a senior, finished the regular season ranked second nationally in scoring (13.6 points per game) and 22nd in rushing.
A youth football coach once instructed senior Halfback Demetrius Dunn (Brick, NJ) "Always keep your legs moving and run away from everybody on the field," that advice should be the motto of this whole group. That said, Dunn who rushed for 627 yards and 3 touchdowns was one of the more versatile of the four tying with Bob Sedlor for the team lead in pass receptions with 5 for the season (two of which were touchdowns).
Sedlor, a junior halfback from Yonkers, NY was named an FFC first-team selection after finishing the season with 1,433 all-purpose yards and scoring 11 touchdowns (9 rushing), including 940 yards rushing. He has the unenviable task of planning a strategy to rush for over 4000 yards all by himself next year when the rest of the quartet graduates.
How is it that the Pride could be so successful rushing the football when the opposition knew Springfield would run 90% of the time? The answer is the triple option offense and the flexibility that it gives the play caller. "Every play we run has three different possibilities, and even the best defense can only stop two of them on a given down," said Cahill.
In the fifth game of the year on October 6th that offensive philosophy showed its potency. Jay Miller highlighted a memorable 43-36 win against a very strong Western Connecticut team by running for 188 yards and two touchdowns. "No one was giving us much of a chance in that game, it was definitely a turning point for the year" said Sedlor, "Once we had that game we knew we were in the drivers seat for the NCAA tournament," he added.
Each of the backfield members is quick to point out that success was a team effort. The smallish but fierce offensive line was anchored by Springfield's other Division III All-American, senior Matt Sallila (Fitchburg, MA). "They’re the biggest bunch of little guys you’ll ever meet, they moved people for us all year," noted Jay Miller. Along with Cahill, senior co-captains Tim Hanley, a split end (South Attleboro, MA) and Tom Ryan, a defensive end (Rockland, MA) were a source of leadership. Defensive stalwarts were senior defensive end Rich Moran (Hartford, CT) who led the team with 84 tackles; sophomore linebacker Jesse Baker (Rutland, VT) with 68 tackles and two interceptions; and junior defensive back Jason Perkins (Peabody, MA) with 65 tackles and a team-high five interceptions.
Having won the right to extend their "Dream Season" in the 28-team NCAA Division III Championship Tournament, the 9-1 Pride went to work in the first round against a tough Montclair State University team at Benedum Field on November 18, 2000. The offense was held to a season low 238 yards on the ground but still won 31-29 thanks to strong special teams and defense. The victory gave the Pride its first ten win season. In the second round the following week the Pride traveled to Brockport, NY to take on number-one seed SUNY Brockport. On a wet field that neutralized the speed of both teams, Springfield won 13-9 with Miller scoring twice in the first quarter and the defense again stepping up to smother the Brockport offense. That impressive performance propelled the Pride into an "Elite Eight" match-up against national powerhouse Widener on December 2nd at Benedum Field. For the Pride though, 442 yards on the ground wasn’t enough and one of the greatest seasons in Springfield College football history ended in a 61-27 defeat. "This is a season I will look back on for years to come," said Dunn. Demetrius won’t be the only one left with great memories to look back on.

 

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