UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Ohio -- The John Carroll football team just keeps winning.
After losing their opening game of the season, 33-14, at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the Blue Streaks have rattled off 10 straight victories and find themselves in the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs for the second time in three years after a 37-12 win over Olivet College at Don Shula Stadium last Saturday.
Heading into the Olivet game, much was made of the potential hangover after a 31-28 win over the top-ranked team in the country, the Mount Union Purple Raiders, a victory more than 20 years in the making. However, the Blue Streaks jumped out to an early lead and never looked back.
“That was something that really wasn’t a concern for anybody within our program,” John Carroll coach Tom Arth said. “That was really an external concern that certainly was asked a lot. Everybody I spoke to asked me about that.
“That’s what people on the outside do. People in this program, we knew what our opportunities are and what we needed to do to get ready to play, and we handled it very well. I’m very proud of our players.”
According to those in uniform, the reason for the dominant performance against Olivet came as a result of John Carroll’s confident approach to game days.
“We knew going into that Mount game that they were just another team, another opponent for us, so we didn’t put them on a pedestal or anything like that,” senior wide receiver Nico James said. “We went into that game and prepared for it just like we did any other week.
“We believed we were going to win that game regardless. We knew the outsiders thought differently. We were the underdog to the outsiders. It was a meaningful game. It meant a lot to us, but we knew we had to just come out and play the game that we had to play, and next week, we had to treat it the same way.”
And the Blue Streaks are going to need that confidence when they host Wesley College in second-round play at home Saturday.
On their way to a 9-2 record, the Wolverines averaged 39.9 points, 207.6 rushing yards and 262.2 passing yards per game, and they bring an eight-game winning streak into the matchup.
“We’re excited for the matchup,” James said. “Having home-field advantage is huge for us. We love our home stadium, our home fans. This opponent’s very balanced. They’re a very good team, so I think every opponent we face from here on out is going to be a good team, and we know they’re going to have athletes. We know we’re going to match up well with them.”
Arth added, “Wesley’s an excellent football team. They’re a very complete team. They’re solid at every team, offense, defense, special teams. They’re talented, as good of athletes running around on the field as we have seen, especially at the wide out position, in their secondary, their running back, their defensive line.
“They’re just very, very talented, very, very athletic group. They play fast, and I think that’s going to be the big thing for us, to make sure we continue to improve, to make sure we do the things that we’ve done to get to this point to get out there and go compete against a good football team.”