BRIDGEWATER — Even after securing an Old Dominion Athletic Conference title and NCAA Division III playoff berth in the penultimate regular-season game, Bridgewater College has a lot to play for when Guilford visits Saturday for a 1 p.m. kickoff.
Ranked No. 21 nationally and No. 3 in the South Region, the Eagles (9-0 overall, 7-0 in the ODAC) are in position to host a first-round playoff game next week. That’s essentially guaranteed with one more victory.
“We’ve positioned ourselves if we manage business to host a home football game,” Bridgewater coach Michael Clark said. “The atmosphere we had last Saturday ... a lot of people here have never seen what it’s like. I want those people to see what the buzz is like when you have a home playoff game.”
If Las Vegas set lines for the Division III games, the Eagles would surely be huge favorites. Guilford comes in 2-7 and 1-6 in ODAC play, but the concern for Bridgewater is the possibility of a letdown after hanging on for a 28-21 championship-clinching victory against Randolph-Macon last week.
But the fact is Bridgewater still has something quite meaningful to play for. Projections this week from D3Football.com had the Eagles playing host to Case Western Reserve out of Ohio in the opening round of the playoffs. But Clark knows his team could just as easily be shipped out of town if it suffers a bad loss this weekend.
“We’ve tried to make this a regular week,” Clark said. “We took the Macon game, broke it down and studied. One of our seniors said they didn’t want this to end. The comment back was, ‘Well, you get some say in it.’ Playing at home is a lot nicer. I don’t want to have to get on a bus to Cleveland.”
Despite the poor record, Guilford has been relatively competitive in multiple ODAC losses. Despite an unsteady quarterback situation that has seen the Quakers start three different signal callers this season, their run-pass option attack can create challenges for opposing defenses.
But Bridgewater has been dominant on defense this season, allowing just 12.2 points per game. Last week, seniors Gary Ramey Jr. and Re’Shaun Myers had as good a performance as one will ever see from a pair of linebackers. The duo combined for 28 tackles, four for a loss and most right around the line of scrimmage.
They say getting ready for one last regular season game won’t be a problem.
“When I make a play, you know Re’ is going to make one,” Ramey said. “And we’re blessed to have these great coaches who got us on the right track two years ago. We’re grateful for how far we’ve come and that makes it easy to focus week in and week out.”