The second round of the Division III football playoffs has become a painful exercise for Johns Hopkins.
Saturday’s 42-37 loss to No. 11 Wesley at Homewood Field in Baltimore marked the third time in the past three trips that the Blue Jays failed to advance out of the second round. The program is just 1-3 in the second round compared to 4-3 in the opening stage and 0-1 in the quarterfinals.
Coach Jim Margraff, who has guided Johns Hopkins to all seven of its appearances in the NCAA tournament, said his first priority is ensuring that his team can capture the Centennial Conference and secure the automatic berth into the postseason.
“After that, it’s, ‘Let’s line it up and see what we’ve got,’” he said during the team’s postgame conference. “We joke around about it, but it’s extra football, it’s bonus football. When you get to the playoffs, only one team is going to finish their season with a win. You kind of know that going in. I give our guys some weird talks, but you’ve got to want to come up with the bases loaded and two outs, and that’s what the playoffs get to.
"You know you’re a good player when you want to be in those situations. Our guys relished being in a one-possession game today. A lot of worse things happen in life all over the place. We lost a football game. It’s tough right now, but to be in that position and to have that type of thrill, there’s only 16 teams that had that opportunity this weekend. So I’m hoping they enjoyed that. They won’t enjoy it today, but I’m sure they’ll appreciate it some time in the future.”
Inside linebacker Keith Corliss, who is part of a senior class that has experienced the last three losses in the second round, said the players don’t believe they are in a playoff rut.
“We’ve lost in the second round a couple years, but I don’t think it’s anything where we think there’s a hump,” he said. “That’s not something we think about as a team. It’s fun to win games, and you never want your season to end earlier than it has to.”
Margraff said the coaches will begin researching how to break through as early as next season.
“You always want to go as far as you can, and we’ll study film and see if there’s a way we can advance further in the future,” he said. “But it’s not something that I see as a big hump or anything else. You get matched up, you play who you play, and you do the best you can.”