In a preseason meeting with Hobart Head Coach Mike Cragg, one statement spoke volumes about how far the program has come and where they expect to go.
“To be able to sit here and say that our seniors [the Class of 2008] made the NCAA playoffs all four years, I can’t tell you how proud that makes me,” Cragg said. “They were a part of very good teams, they were very consistent. I shy away from saying we were great. If we were a great team, we would have gotten deeper in the playoffs.”
In 101 seasons prior to Cragg’s promotion to head coach, the Statesmen had never played a postseason game. Thanks to his tutelage, Hobart has earned seven postseason bids since 2000, including six trips to the NCAA Tournament. The Statesmen have posted 11 consecutive winning seasons, an unparalleled string of success in the history of Hobart football.
While the program’s dramatic turnaround is impressive, the real excitement lies ahead. The Statesmen have come to expect success and demand more of themselves.
The 2007 season was no exception. Hobart got off to an ominous start, winning just once in the first three weeks. The Statesmen recovered from the slow start and rattled off seven consecutive wins, earning a share of their fifth Liberty League championship in the past six seasons and a spot in the NCAA field. In fact, Hobart is one of only two teams in the East Region to make the NCAAs in each of the past four seasons.
That level of success was richly rewarded when the Liberty League’s postseason awards were announced. The conference coaches voted quarterback Andrew Strom ’08, cornerback James Alexander ’09, and kicker Dominick Ancona ’08 the League’s Offensive, Defensive, and Special Teams Players of the Year, respectively. It’s the first time that those three awards have all been sent to the same campus.
Strom was very consistent in ’07, ranking sixth in the nation in passing efficiency (a Hobart record 159.47) and leading the Liberty League in passing yards (2,742), passing touchdowns (27), completion percentage (65.1) and yards of total offense (3,171). Exceptionally smart with the football, the Californian threw just three interceptions in 332 attempts. No other passer in the League threw fewer interceptions, and none that threw at least 200 passes had less than eight picks.
Alexander made 57 tackles and led the conference with eight interceptions (one shy of the Hobart record) and 13 pass break ups. The leader of the Statesmen secondary was tabbed a third team All-American by D3football.com.
Ancona broke the Hobart records for PATs made (48) and points by a kicker (78) and led the conference in punting average (39.0 yds/p), field goals made (10), and points by a kicker. In fact, only two players (both running backs) in the entire conference outscored Ancona.
In all, 17 Statesmen earned 18 All-Liberty League awards, including nine first team, three second team, and six honorable mention.
The bad news from all of this success? The Liberty League’s reigning triumvirate as well as defensive end Jim Drury (All-Liberty League honorable mention), wide receivers Ryan LiDrazzah (first team) and James Wright (first team), and offensive tackle Phill Perkins (first team) will not be in the lineup in 2008.
The good news is 10 All-Liberty League picks return, five on offense and five on defense.