Monday, September 02, 2013
- by B.B. Branton
During the week, Curtis Johnson is a successful college art major and co-owner of t-shirt design company.
But on Saturday’s the Atlanta native sets aside his high-tech designs and sketches to take on the title of CEO of an 11-man corporation known to many as a college football offensive unit.
The University of the South quarterback and his teammates have a sense of urgency to put the 2013 season in the black, something the NCAA D–III Tigers have not done since 2000.
Season Opener: The first step to a possible winning season comes this Saturday as Sewanee hosts DePauw Univ. (Ind.) in a non-conference contest at McGee Field with a 2 p.m. EDT kickoff.
Once a conference foe, DePauw owns a 12-2 advantage in a rivalry which started in 1998. Sewanee’s two wins in the series have come at home in 1999 and 2011.
“I have been playing organized football since I was five, have played on several championship youth teams and not to have won at the college level has been frustrating,” said Johnson who completed 60% of his passes in 2012 with 383 passing yards and three touchdown tosses and 510 rushing yards and seven trips to the opponents end zone.
“But we have worked hard in the pre-season and look forward to our opening game this Saturday with the goal of a winning season once again on the mountain.”
Looking For Change: Sewanee – 1-9, 5-5, 3-7 in Johnson’s first three seasons - was in several close games the past two years, but did not always finish, something the players and coaches agree must change.
“Dedication, hard work and expecting to win is so vital this season,” Johnson stated. “We must find a way to win the close games.”
Third year head coach Tommy Laurendine notes that of the Tigers 12 losses the past two years, they held leads in the fourth quarter in six of those contests.
“We were in six of those games in the last quarter and we have to find a way to close it out when we are up,” said the Oak Ridge, Tenn. native.
While some of the close ones have eluded the Tigers, coach Laurendine has built a foundation for winning as the Purple, Gold and White have won season openers the past two years, posted road wins in Alabama, Texas and Washington and won three of the final four in 2011 for a 5-5 mark.
Johnson was a key player in two wins in 2011, rushing for a pair of touchdowns in a 34-23 win at Puget Sound (Tacoma, Wash.) and throwing and catching touchdown passes in the 27-13 Austin victory in the season finale.
“Curtis is one of our captains and leaders, he is a tough competitor and one who leads by example,” Laurendine stated.
Strong Gridiron History: Long known for its rich football tradition - 49 unbeaten seasons, three players in the College Football Hall of Fame and the famous train ride with five shutout road wins in six days - Sewanee’s superb past shows close wins and those not so close.
2005: 25-22 OT Homecoming win against Rhodes
2002: three blocked punts-turned touchdowns in 36-31 Homecoming win also against Rhodes in national-attention grabbing “Punt Rhodes Punt” game
2000: 4 Overtime 27-24 triumph against Stillman (Ala.) on a fogging Saturday on the mountain
1983: Hail Mary Pass to spoil Homecoming at Rhodes on the game’s last play to win 19-13
1916: 107-0 win against Cumberland Univ. (Tenn.)
1907: 54-6 win against Alabama in Tuscaloosa
1899: 54-0 blanking of U. of Tennessee (12-0 season, Southern champs)
Although, Johnson and teammates won’t face the likes of the aforementioned great train victory ride of 1899 (“5 wins in 6 days and on the 7th day they rested”), by seasons’ end they want to enjoy the memories of no less than six wins in a span of 10 fall Saturday afternoons.
contact B.B. Branton at firstname.lastname@example.org