Football team makes rankings history

Football looks past first ever Top 25 ranking to conference championship


Marshall Hollerith, ‘17, ran for 121 yards a touchdown in a 21-17 victory over Randolph-Macon. Photo courtesy of W&L Sports Info.

Alex Niemann

A place in the spotlight doesn’t mean too much to the Washington and Lee football team.

The team made history two weeks ago with its first ever top-25 ranking in the American Football Coaches Association poll. While a measure of pride certainly arises from such an accomplishment, the team mentality moving forward presents a different story.

“It’s not important at all,” Captain and defensive lineman Patrick Wright, ‘16, said. “That was never a goal, to be ranked. Our biggest goal is to win the conference.”

W&L football received an AFCA ranking of twenty-fifth after defeating Hampden Sydney in a 35-28 contest on Oct. 10, moving to 5-0 in the process. Another win against Randolph-Macon on Oct. 17 pushed that ranking to twenty-fourth.  After defeating  Bridgewater over homecoming weekend, 45-23, the Generals are likely to rise again in the next poll as well.

These rankings came as the Generals’ first in any major poll since the 1950 season when they finished 18th in the Division I AP and Coaches’ polls. Yet, to the team, its 7-0 record is more significant for its defiance of conference projections and as a testament to hours of hard work put in.

“We were ranked 6th in our conference in the beginning of the year, and that ranking fired us up more than whatever ranking we have now,” Wright said. “That really has been the motivating factor for us, the fact that we were picked so low at the beginning of the year, not that we’re working towards a high ranking in the coaches’ poll. We’re just trying to get back on top of our conference.”

This low projection stemmed from a disappointing season last year. Despite a handful of close games that could have gone either way, the Generals saw their season end with a record of 2-8.

Following these results, W&L approached the 2015 season looking to build confidence early and utilize the experience gained last season.

“Early confidence is important for any team, so some of those big wins early on that got us off on the right foot, that was big,” Head Coach Scott Abell said.

Abell believes that the experience his returning veterans have brought to the table this year, honed by hard work in the offseason, has contributed greatly to the team’s 2015 success and to its mentality coming off of breaking into the AFCA top-25.

“All these guys, because they played last year, they know what it’s like,” Abell said. “Each and every week anyone can beat anyone, and I think our guys understand that. We’re getting great leadership from our upperclassmen, and those things combined will keep us very grounded and focused on one week at a time.”

The Generals will need to maintain this focus as they continue ODAC play, knowing their illustrious record and ranking have made them the team to beat right now. Wright said he understands this and knows he and his teammates can use it.

“We have a huge target on our backs right now, I mean we’re at the top of the conference,” Wright said. “It keeps us motivated knowing that some team wants to take that away from us, and we can’t let that happen.”