What was a record-setting Hopkins football season ended in a disappointing fashion in a 23-12 loss to St. John's Fisher in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. The Blue Jays kept it close for much of the game, but they could not overcome the toll of five costly turnovers.
The game began auspiciously for the Hopkins defense, after having held the Cardinals to three points at the end of the first quarter, despite holding the ball for nearly fourteen out of the fifteen minutes of the quarter.
A field goal by St. John's kicker Chad Monheim capped a 16-play, 60-yard drive that ate eight minutes off the clock. He tacked on a 28-yarder to gives the Cardinals a 6-0 advantage two plays into the second quarter, but Hopkins would respond with an remarkable, 13-play 60-yard drive, made even more impressive by the fact that the Jays lost 19 yards on the first play of the drive.
Senior quarterback Hewitt Tomlin would find senior Tyler Porco in the seam with a 30-yard strike to convert a daunting third-and-25, which put the Jay rolling. The drive seemed stalled as the Jays faced a fourth-and-goal from the 6-yard line — however, the Jays would take a gamble and it would pay off, as Tomlin would connect with sophomore Dan Wodicka for the score to nod things up at 6 apiece with nine minutes left to go in the half (the extra point try by Richie Carbone would be blocked, leaving the score tied).
The Jays' next two drives would end in interceptions, the first of which the Cardinals would take advantage of, driving down the field on a 9-play, 57 yard march to pull ahead 13-6, on a seven yard pass from Ahmed Hassenien with just over three minutes left to go in the first half.
A huge takeaway for the Jays allowed them to wrest the momentum back from the Cardinals as junior P.J. Caufield recovered a fumble to give the Jays new life at their own 13-yard line.
The Jays would then embark on a well-balanced, methodical 12-play, 87 yard drive, highlighted by combined 46 yards rushing by junior Jonathon Rigaud and Porco and ending in a one-yard plunge from junior Scott Barletta to bring the Jays to within one. However, they would not tie, as the extra point attempt was missed again, this time sailing wide right, leaving the score at 13-12 with 6:35 left in the third quarter.
The Cardinals displayed mental fortitude and did not seem shaken by the drastic turn of events, answering the Jays' touchdown with an impressive scoring drive of their own, marching 75 yards in just under three minutes, going up 20-12 on a 2-yard Cody Miller dash.
The next 15 minutes would prove frustrating for the Jays, as every subsequent drive would end either by turnover-on-downs or interception.
A promising, 10-play, 58-yard march seemed to be headed for a possible tying score, but Tomlin would be unable to connect with senior halfback Nick Fazoon on a swing route, on a fourth-and-six play, turning possession over to the Cardinals on their own 11-yard line with 14 minutes to go in the game.
St. John's Fisher would tack on a field goal to give themselves a two-possession lead, a deficit Hopkins would not be able to overcome in the final minutes of the game.
While the season ended abruptly for Jays fans, there was much to reflect upon, on what was by many accounts the greatest season of Hopkins football ever.
Gagliardi Trophy-finalist Hewitt Tomlin led a vaunted Blue Jays attack that was ranked second in the nation (the Gagliardi trophy is the Division III College Football Player of the Year award), and the 10th-ranked Hopkins defense constantly stifled the opposition, on the way to a spotless 10-0 regular season mark that was the best in school history.
The team deserves plenty of praise for their efforts this year, as they faced a wide variety of opponents and managed to stay on course for a perfect season. This year will be remembered for years to come, but hopefully the team shall use it as inspiration to further themselves in future endevours.
There was a lot of talent on the squad this year, from the quarterback to the safeties, everyone did their part and played at a high level just about all season.
It's likely we get to see some great new things on the team next season, so watch carefully to see how the coming year turns out. If you get the chance, pat those guys on the back.