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Western New England football coach stomachs playoff loss to Johns Hopkins

Keith Emery was hoping for a successful second chance for his Western New England football team in the NCAA Division III playoffs, a more enjoyable result than the 62-24 thrashing his 2011 squad received in a first-round loss at Salisbury.

Instead, the Golden Bears fell behind early and often, trailing 38-0 at halftime en route to a 52-20 loss to No. 8 Johns Hopkins at Homewood Field Saturday. The loss was their first of the 2015 season after running through the New England Football Conference, but returning to the place where Emery was an assistant coach under Blue Jays head coach Jim Margraff for seven years and served as the defensive coordinator and associate head coach for part of that time was a blast.

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"I loved Hopkins, and I still do," Emery said. "Very good friends with Coach Margraff. It was great to be back. … It was great to see everybody, and it was a great Homecoming. I wouldn't have it any other way. If somebody was going to beat us, might as well be the Hop."

Margraff was equally effusive in his praise of Emery.

"I love Keith. One, he's a terrific coach," Margraff said. "… Someone from their staff or their administration talked about us mentoring him here, but that's not the truth. Keith was here for our first couple of [Centennial Conference] championships. He's a big part of the type of team that we are right now. He was a huge help to me. By the time he left here, he was the associate head coach. I've told people many times that we shared the head coaching job. I think that's why he was able to go to Western New England and turn them around so quickly and do such a great job."

Emery pointed out that Johns Hopkins is not the same program it was when he left after the 2004 season. Whereas the school had a few athletic and academic All Americans and narrowed much of its recruiting focus to the Mid-Atlantic region in 2004, the 2015 Blue Jays' roster is filled with standouts hailing from football hotbeds like Florida, California and Texas.

Emery said his goal at Western New England is to turn it into a program that mirrors Johns Hopkins' depth and results.

"The place has changed in 11 years," he said. "It's just gotten better. That's what we want to do. … Now next year, we've got to get our team ready so that when we show up next year, it's not a deer-in-the-headlights look and we can execute the way we've been executing all season long."

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