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Washington & Jefferson football team is set to make some D-III history

| Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, 10:24 p.m.
Washington & Jefferson quarterback Pete Coughlin returns after shining as a part-time starter for the Presidents in 2013.
Clarion defensive end Julian Howsare returns after receiving the PSAC West's Defensive Athlete of the Year award in 2013.
Geneva defensive back Tim Martin returns after earning the Presidents' Athletic Conference's Newcomer of the Year award in 2013.
Seton Hill linebacker Tyler Zimmer returns after earning first-team All-PSAC West honors a season ago.
Bethany junior Eric Blinn returns after setting the school's single-season records for receptions and receiving yards.

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 ...

Eric Blinn

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.

Julian Howsare

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.

Tim Martin

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.

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