A left ankle injury forced Brandon Cherry to miss Johns Hopkins' 49-24 romp at Centennial Conference rival McDaniel on Saturday, but the senior running back could be back for Saturday's NCAA Division III first-round game against Western New England.
Coach Jim Margraff said the Boys' Latin graduate has returned to practice and "looked good." That could be significant as Cherry – who has carried the ball 107 times for 713 yards and eight touchdowns this season – and junior Stuart Walters (123 rushes for 798 yards and 16 scores) give the No. 8 Blue Jays (10-0) a 1-2 punch in the ground game against the Golden Bears (10-0).
"We've got good running backs, but it would be more from a leadership role, the type of toughness he has given us on inside runs," Margraff said of Cherry's value. "But I think all of our guys are important right now. It would be great to have him."
Even if Cherry does return, Margraff acknowledged that it would be difficult not to rely on Walters, who has gained 249 yards and scored seven touchdowns in the team's last two games.
"There's not a starter, but you would go in thinking he might get a few more runs just to see if Brandon is comfortable or not," Margraff said. "But [sophomore] Ryan Cary has been running well and even our freshman, Tyler Messinger, looked real good last week."
The outlook is not as rosy for senior left guard Fernando Concepcion, who continues to battle an unspecified injury. Concepcion has been replaced in the starting lineup by junior Blake LaDouceur.
"With that stuff, you just never know," Margraff said. "So, he's probably still doubtful right now."
Two first-round games feature 10-0 teams. (No. 17 Washington & Lee at No. 9 Thomas More is the other.) Margraff said expecting a pushover in the postseason is dangerous.
"Any time you're playing someone who's 10-0, you know it's a very good team," he said. "But once you get to the playoffs, whoever they put in front of you, that's who you've got to play. I don't look at it in those terms.
"Wisconsin-Whitewater has one loss, but I'm sure they're a pretty good team. They've won the national championship [in five of the past six years]. So it doesn't really make a difference other than the fact that you see a team that has found a way to win in every game and you try to glean what you can from that."