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Football season preview

Hampden-Sydney College embarks upon its 127th season of football during 2021, looking for a return to near normalcy on Fulton Field at Lewis C. Everett Stadium. The Tigers were able to play an abbreviated five-game schedule during the spring of 2021, after the traditional 2020 fall season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. H-SC finished 4-1 overall, including 3-1 in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC), winning the third-place game of the ODAC’s first-ever Football Championship Weekend, and based upon winning percentage (4-1, .800)-it was the finest season for the program since 2010 (9-2, .818).

Veteran 22nd-year head coach Marty Favret returns 74 lettermen among the 114-man roster this fall, including 13 starters, while the roster includes 40 newcomers to the program, as well. The Tigers have amassed 15 winning seasons and an overall record of 135-76 over the past 21 seasons under the direction of Coach Favret-a five-time ODAC Coach of the Year-including 86-46 in the ODAC, while earning five ODAC Championships and making six NCAA Division III Football Championship playoff appearances. Coach Favret is the second winningest coach in H-SC football history behind only the legendary J. Stokeley Fulton, who compiled a record of 143-99-5 from 1960-84.

“I feel positive energy every day with this staff and team,” said Favret. “We look forward to the task ahead knowing it will take a special effort to accomplish our goal this fall.”

DEFENSE

H-SC returns eight starters from a defense that ranked eighth in Division III total defense (236.8) in the spring, while 11th nationally in turnovers gained (11), 12th in scoring defense (12.2) and rushing defense (65.2), 14th in fumbles recovered (5), 17th in fewest penalty yards per game (36.20), 18th in turnover margin (1.00), 19th in fewest penalties per game (4.40) and 20th in passes intercepted (6). The Tigers won their first three games of the spring by a combined score of 90-12, including two-straight shutouts to open the season, the first time the program has posted back-to-back shutouts since 1989.

LINEBACKERS

The Tigers will be anchored defensively by the linebacker position that features fifth-year standout Brendan Weinberg (Apex, North Carolina), along with seniors Stephen Cash (Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina) and Peyton Carneal (Hayes)-each returning starters. Weinberg, a team captain, has 219 total career tackles (6.8), including 120 solo and 99 assists, with 24 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, four interceptions and six pass breakups. He had 31 total tackles (6.2) this spring, including 11 solo and 20 assists, with 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery, and ranked 11th in the ODAC in tackles, tied for 13th in tackles for loss and 15th in tackles per game-named First Team All-ODAC. Cash has 81 total career tackles (5.4), including 35 solo and 46 assists, six career tackles for loss and two career sacks. Carneal has 26 total career tackles, including 10 solo and 16 assists, two career tackles for loss, one career sack, one career interception, one career quarterback hurry, one career forced fumble and one career fumble recovery. Immediate depth at linebacker is expected from senior Garrett Robinson (Culpeper) as well as sophomores Dalton Collins (Midlothian) and Dorian Green (Axton).

SECONDARY

Plenty of depth returns, as well, including sophomore and reigning ODAC Rookie of the Year and First Team All-ODAC selection Will Pickren (Mt Pleasant, South Carolina). A returning starter, he had a team-high 39 total tackles (7.6) in the spring, including 20 solo and 19 assists, four tackles for loss, one interception and two pass breakups-tying for sixth in the ODAC in interceptions, while seventh in tackles and tackles per game and tied for 14th in pass breakups.

In addition to Pickren, H-SC returns seniors Jordan Fields (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), Cody Howard (Culpeper) and Dallas Robinson (Lorton), juniors Jabril Lewis (Virginia Beach) and Will Shulleeta (Henrico), along with sophomores Tobias Lafayette (Charleston, South Carolina), James-Ryan Salvi (Troutville) and Ricky Walker (Chesapeake). Freshmen AJ Hoggard (Virginia Beach) and Joseph Pierre (Mobile, Alabama) are also expected to push for playing time. Fields, a returning starter, has 38 total career tackles, including 21 solo and 17 assists, two career interceptions and one career PAT/interception return for two points. He was named Second Team All-ODAC in the spring. Shulleeta, a returning starter, has 25 total career tackles, including 14 solo and 11 assists, 0.5 career tackles for loss, one career interception and one career blocked kick (punt). Lafayette, a returning starter, has nine total career tackles, including seven solo and two assists, and two career pass breakups. Robinson has 34 total career tackles, including 22 solo and 12 assists, 2.5 career tackles for loss and four career pass breakups. Lewis has 31 total career tackles, including 18 solo and 13 assists, 1.5 career tackles for loss, four career pass breakups and one career blocked kick.

DEFENSIVE LINE

The defensive line is expected to be led by a rotation of seniors Michael Harris (St. Stephens Church), Brendan Dudding (McLean) and Adam Lovelace (Greensboro, North Carolina), sophomores Kevin Gholson (Montpelier) and Joe Ambrosi (Charlottesville), along with freshman Jordan Akerson (Roanoke). Harris, a returning starter, has 43 total career tackles, including 20 solo and 23 assists, 4.5 career tackles for loss and 0.5 career sacks. Gholson started two games in the spring with 10 total tackles, including four solo and six assists, 1.5 tackles for loss and one interception.

OFFENSE

H-SC ranked 17th nationally in the spring in fewest penalty yards per game (36.20), 18th in turnover margin (1.00), 19th in fewest penalties per game (4.40) and 3rd down conversion percentage (.455), as well as 20th in first down offense (100) and completion percentage (.600).

QUARTERBACK

The Tigers return senior quarterback and team captain Tanner Bernard (Lynchburg) who was named Second Team All-ODAC following the spring season after transferring to H-SC in January 2021 from UVA Wise. Bernard completed 72-119 passes (60.5) for 933 yards and eight touchdowns with four interceptions thrown, and ranked second in the ODAC in passing yards, passing touchdowns and passing efficiency (141.8), third in yards per game (186.6) and fourth in completion percentage, adding 38 yards rushing while leading the team in total offense (971). Depth at the position is expected to come from sophomore Andrew Puccinelli (Glen Allen) and freshman Coult Fussell (Burlington, North Carolina).

RUNNING BACK

H-SC is talented at the running back position, led by senior Kaleb Smith (Rocky Mount)-a three-time All-ODAC selection who has rushed for 1,155 career yards on 281 carries with 12 rushing touchdowns, adding 116 career receptions for 1,052 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns. Smith rushed for season-highs of 82 yards and three touchdowns against Ferrum in the third-place game of the ODAC’s Championship Weekend at Everett Stadium. He was the 2018 ODAC Rookie of the Year. Experienced depth at the position is expected to be provided by sophomores Melik Frost (Hardeeville, South Carolina) and Josh Jones (South Hill). Frost rushed for 215 yards on 63 carries with a team-high five rushing touchdowns in the spring, adding two, two-point conversions, while Jones rushed for 67 yards on 19 carries with one rushing touchdown.

H-BACK/TIGHT END

The H-Back or tight end spot features fifth-year and returning D3football.com Second Team All-American Ed Newman (Farmville), a local standout from the Fuqua School who has 59 career receptions for 834 yards and six touchdowns. A team captain, as well, Newman had a team-high 19 receptions for a team-high 281 yards and two touchdowns in the spring to rank fourth in the ODAC in receiving yards, tied for sixth in receptions and tied for eighth in receiving touchdowns. He was a First Team All-ODAC and First Team VaSID All-State selection. Expected to provide depth are junior David Byler (Virginia Beach) and freshman Sutton Lasso (Raleigh, North Carolina).

WIDE RECEIVER/SLOT RECEIVER

H-SC has veteran talent and depth at the wide receiver and slot receiver positions, including the fifth-year duo of Dillon Costello (Haymarket) and Nick Kallivokas (Purcellville), seniors Slater Gammon (Providence Forge) and David Haiss (Nokesville), junior Talen Smith (Ruther Glen), as well as sophomores Braeden Bowling (Cary, North Carolina), Iceysis Lewis (Radiant) and Brice Wilson (Lovingston). Costello, a returning starter at wide receiver, is serving as a team captain for the second consecutive season and has 114 career receptions for 1,089 yards and 13 touchdowns. He had 16 receptions for 183 yards and three touchdowns in the spring, ranking in a tie for third in the ODAC in receiving touchdowns, 10th in receptions and 11th in receiving yards. Kallivokas, a returning starter at slot receiver, has 34 career receptions for 293 yards and one touchdown. Gammon, Haiss, Bowling and Lewis are each wide receivers, while Smith and Wilson play at the slot receiver position. Bowling had five receptions for 106 yards in the spring.

OFFENSIVE LINE

The Tigers are replacing their entire offensive line this fall, though not without several individuals who played significantly in the spring and even started some games. They’re expected to be led by senior Josh Baker (Wilson, North Carolina), along with sophomores TJ Minter (Chester), Jason Southern (Reva), David Haley (Norfolk) and John Mill (Chesterfield). Initial depth is probable from senior Jacob McCarty (Herndon), sophomores Blake Barker (Cartersville), Junior Barrera-Mondragon (Raleigh, North Carolina) and Jack Reno (Clifton), as well as freshman George Jackson (Danville). Minter started two of three games in the spring, while Southern started one of three games. Mill (three games), Haley (two games) and Baker (one game) each saw action in the spring, as well.

KICKING SPECIALISTS

Junior placekicker Jack Breedlove (Atlanta, Georgia) and sophomore punter George Langhammer (Roanoke) return from the spring and are again expected to handle the two duties, respectively. Breedlove was 13-15 on PATs (87%), 0-1 on field goals and averaged 42.5 yards on 24 kickoffs, while Langhammer, who is left-footed, averaged 38.7 yards on 13 punts with a career-best of 63 yards, including three downed inside the 20 and six fair catches. H-SC ranked 15th nationally in the spring in net punting (36.7).

RETURN SPECIALISTS

Iceysis Lewis, Josh Jones and Braeden Bowling are once-again expected to handle the kick return duties. Lewis had five kick returns for 147 yards (29.4), including a long return of 57 yards in the spring. Jones had five kick returns for 83 yards (16.6), including a long return of 30 yards. Bowling had two kick returns for 41 yards (20.5), including a long return of 23 yards. Tobias Lafayette and Will Pickren should handle the punt return duties.

H-SC has been picked second in the ODAC Preseason Poll, the highest since 2016, and the expectations are lofty for 2021. The schedule includes six ODAC games-four to be played at home-and the Tigers play 10 overall contests, including five games scheduled at home and five on the road-ironically rotating home and away throughout the campaign.

It all begins on the Hill against Baldwin Wallace University (Ohio) on Saturday, Sept. 4, at 1 p.m. in a nonconference game at Everett Stadium.