The Stevenson Mustangs football team went 9-1 this season, claiming the title of Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) champions and receiving an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Football Championship.
After losing to MAC opponent Wilkes University on Nov. 5, the Mustangs came back “focused and mentally prepared” in the game against Lycoming College, said head coach Ed Hottle. The 28-10 win featured strong second and third quarters offensively and a stingy defense that allowed only one touchdown and a field goal for Wilkes. Quarterback Dan Williams finished 12-20 with 190 yards passing and two touchdowns without an interception on the day, and wide receiver Devonte Williams carried 19 times for 108 yards. Sophomore Ashton Leschke had 13 tackles for the Mustangs and was subsequently named the MAC defensive player of the week.
Stevenson ended the regular season with an average of 36.7 points/game and only 17.1 points allowed/game. With 17 seniors graduating after this season, the team will lose some key players including Devonte Williams, who leads the team in rushing with 549 yards; kicker Tim Sternfeld, with 69 points under his belt; wide receiver Tyler Cherigo, with 65 catches; and defensive back Austin Tennessee, who has 41 tackles and 12 assists.
The team has grown dramatically since its first developmental season in 2010. The Mustangs did not have a football stadium or a field, and they practiced on the Greenspring campus daily at 6:30 a.m.
“It was tough, but I think the guys that made it through that really helped us to lay the foundation of what we are right now and what we’re going to be in the future,” said Hottle.
The Mustangs garnered several post-season awards. Williams was named the MAC’s Offensive Player of the Year, and senior defensive back Austin Tennesseeas named Defensive Player of the Year. Hottle was named the MAC’s Coach of the Year. Seventeen other Mustangs were named as All-Conference selections.
The Mustangs are preparing for their first post-season game against Wesley College in Dover, Delaware, on Nov. 19 at noon. The NCAA Division III Championship includes 32 teams, made up of 25 automatic qualifiers and 7 at-large bids from across the United States.
The Wesley Wolverines played in the NCAA postseason games for the last 12 years, compared to Stevenson’s third straight post-season appearance as of 2016.
“I expect it to be a game that’s going to take four quarters to win, and we’re going to have to play well,” said Hottle.
One of the proudest wins for Stevenson was against the then-defending MAC champions Albright College early in the season and has propelled the team forward, said junior running back Jainard Crawley-Lambert. That game included three interceptions and a defensive stand that held off a late rally in the Mustangs’ 31-26 victory.
The team will be able to stay ahead in the postseason “as long as we keep that mentality that Coach Hottle [has] been talking about, focusing on each week and not getting ahead of ourselves. Gotta be able to block out pain, gotta be able to block out outside noise, gotta be able to block out your emotions, and you gotta be able to channel everything into being a champion [sic],” said Crawley-Lambert.
The game against Wesley will be the inaugural meeting between the two teams, though Wesley lost 21-14 earlier in the season to Delaware Valley, a team that the Mustangs shut out 19-0.