The Johns Hopkins football team has enjoyed unprecedented success under coach Jim Margraff and is aiming for another benchmark.
A win against Juniata this Saturday would give the Blue Jays -- ranked No. 14 in the latest American Football Coaches Association Division III Coaches poll -- their third consecutive 5-0 start and sixth under Margraff, who also led the 2002, 2003 and 2005 squads to 5-0 starts.
The positive starts are important, but Margraff tried not to make too much of the numbers.
“It really is cliché, but it’s one game at a time,” he said Thursday morning. “The good thing is we’ve started off strong. The first game to me is truly a preseason game. We played well against a good team. The last three weeks, we’ve done good things, but we’ve only gotten off to a fast start once. So our focus is on the fact that it’s an away game, it’s an overnight trip [to Juniata]. They’ve shown to be a very good team to this point, and we had some trouble with them in the first half last year. So it’s a challenge, and our guys are pretty focused. In our conference, every week is a championship week.”
Margraff did concede that the strong starts offer at least one benefit to the team.
“From a confidence standpoint, success breeds more success,” he said. “There’s a higher level of expectation. As long as the guys continue to put hard work in, there is a sense of confidence in reserves. The key is the preparation each week, and nothing’s waned so far. We’ve been as focused this week as we were from the very first week. So on that point, I’m very pleased.”
At 4-0 overall and 3-0 in the Centennial Conference, Johns Hopkins is tied with Ursinus (4-0, 3-0) for the league lead. Juniata (3-1, 2-1) is just one game behind, which makes the Eagles a dangerous opponent and an obvious focus for the Blue Jays.
One thing, however, that the team won’t discuss is preserving a perfect record, according to Margraff.
“They really don’t talk about it,” he said. “They know I don’t talk about it. We’re always looking at the next game, and I think our guys follow the example of our staff. The big thing we had to address this week is we have a bye week right after this, and there could be that sense of ‘Ok, let’s just get through this one. We’ve got a chance to relax a little bit and heal up.’ When you hit Game 5 of the season, there’s a lot of guys that need to heal up. So the focus has been that every week is a championship week, and I’ve been really pleased with practice this week. It was actually almost too aggressive on Tuesday. So I was pleased with that.”