Washington & Jefferson football team is set to make some D-III history
Even as he enters his 12th season in charge of Washington & Jefferson, coach Mike Sirianni still cracks a sly smile when he drops references to his alma mater, Mount Union, the school with more wins than any other in Division III.
Sirianni has not lost the soft spot in his heart for the powerhouse in Alliance, Ohio, but he's determined to keep his Presidents in the conversation about Division III's most storied programs.
W&J needs just three wins to become the third Division III program to reach 700. It enters its 123rd season with a record of 697-383-40. Mount Union and Wittenberg are the only members in the 700-win club.
Three of W&J's first four games are at Cameron Stadium, so the Presidents can hit the mark in front of the home crowd.
“I hope when we do it, everyone that has ever put on a W&J uniform is proud because this is a very tradition-rich program,” Sirianni said.
While the Presidents no longer contend for Rose Bowl championships — that happened in 1922 — they remain in the running for Presidents' Athletic Conference titles. They claimed at least a share of the conference crown the past two seasons.
Sirianni considers the current group of Presidents possibly the youngest in his time as coach. But he believes the underclassmen, notably sophomore quarterback and Upper St. Clair grad Pete Coughlin, are bursting with potential.
“He might be the most talented player I've ever coached,” Sirianni said of Coughlin, who threw for 216 yards and three touchdowns in the first round of the playoffs against eventual NCAA D-III runner-up Mount Union. “But that doesn't mean he'll be as good.”
Senior linebacker and Bethel Park alumnus Jared Pratt, a first-team All-PAC selection in 2013, returns to lead the defense after making a team-high 98 tackles.
WHO TO WATCH ...
6-1, 185 pounds
Bethany, Jr., WR
A breakout star in 2013, Blinn set two single-season records for the Bison: receptions (95) and receiving yards (1,300). The Western Beaver grad, an All-PAC first-team selection as a sophomore, needs 536 more receiving yards to become the school's career leader.
6-3, 255 pounds
Clarion, Sr., DE
The reigning PSAC West Defensive Athlete of the Year returns after making 83 tackles, including 18 for a loss, as a junior. He also had four blocked kicks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. The Altoona grad enters his final season with 170 career tackles and 28 sacks.
5-9, 180 pounds
Geneva, Soph., DB
The Moon grad grabbed a Presidents' Athletic Conference-best six interceptions and also ranked first in passes defended (20). His performance earned him the 2013 PAC Newcomer Award and an All-PAC second-team defense nod.Tyler Zimmer
6-3, 240 pounds
Seton Hill, Sr., LB
In two seasons with the Griffins, the Penn-Trafford alumnus has accumulated 214 tackles. Zimmer made 93 stops in nine games to earn All-PSAC West first-team honors last year. He needs 80 more tackles to set the school's career record.