Hampden-Sydney football returns this week

Published 9:04 am Wednesday, August 30, 2023

This season is a special one for Hampden-Sydney football. Yes, the Tigers return 83 lettermen, including 18 starters. But more than that, Tigers coach Marty Favret announced in August that this, his 24th year at the helm, would be his last. He took over on Dec. 30, 1999, making him the longest-tenured collegiate football head coach in Virginia. 

“We certainly have reasons to be optimistic this fall,” said Favret. “With 18 returning starters and 83 upperclassmen, this is my most experienced team in a decade. I am also thrilled with the staff I’ve assembled and look forward to six home games at Fulton Field.”

Breaking down the defense 

Thirty-nine of those returning lettermen are on the defensive side, led by senior safety Will Pickren. The Mount Pleasant native returns for his fourth-year as a starter. He started all 10 games and had team-high 123 total tackles, including 48 solo and 75 assisted, 5.0 tackles for loss, two interceptions, three pass breakups, one forced fumble, one quarterback hurry and one blocked PAT kick-leading the ODAC in total tackles and tackles per game. A team captain, Will begins the campaign with 267 career tackles and needs just 78 to equal and 79 to surpass and become the school’s all-time leader in tackles.

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Meanwhile on the defensive line, senior defensive tackle Kevin Gholson, senior defensive end Tramell Thompson and junior defensive end Brendan Wallace make their return. Gholson started the first game as a junior before suffering a season-ending injury. Kevin was a Third Team All-ODAC selection as a sophomore when he had 39 total tackles, including 19 solo and 20 assists, eight tackles for loss, four sacks and two forced fumbles. A team captain, Thompson started all 10 games with 39 total tackles, including eight solo and 31 assists, three tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble and one quarterback hurry-tying for 10th in the ODAC in forced fumbles. Wallace started eight of 10 games and had 36 total tackles, including nine solo and 27 assists, five tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, one pass breakup and two quarterback hurries. Stokes played in seven games with seven total tackles, including one solo and six assists.

Finally on the defensive side, senior linebackers Dorian Green and Jaylin Jones return as starters for the Tigers. Green had 70 total tackles, including 24 solo and 46 assists, four sacks, two interceptions, two pass breakups and three quarterback hurries-ranking sixth in the ODAC in tackles per game (7.8).

Depth up front for the offense

Favret sees the offensive line as a strength this season for the Tigers. H-SC has tremendous experience and depth up front, anchored by senior left tackle TJ Minter. He was named to the 2022 D3football.com All-Region 3 Third Team and started all 10 games as the Tigers accounted for 4,275 yards of total offense (427.5), including 1,139 yards rushing (113.9) and 3,136 yards passing (313.6) with 44 touchdowns. A second-year team captain, TJ has started 22 of 23 career games-grading out at 92% last season while allowing just one sack, and is a two-time First Team All-ODAC selection.

Also returning on the o-line are senior right tackle John Mill, senior left guard Jason Southern, junior center Logan Cohn and sophomore right guard William Stimmel. Mill started all 10 games as a junior and has started 18 of 22 career games. Southern also started all 10 games and has started 21 of 23 career games. Cohn started all 10 games, as well, and has started 10 of 13 career games. Stimmel started his first three games as a freshman before a season-ending injury.

Senior running back Melik Frost also returns. Starting all 10 games as a junior, he rushed for 943 yards on 201 carries, including a long run of 67 yards, with team-high 12 rushing touchdowns. Frost added 26 receptions for 236 yards, including a long reception of 47 yards, and one receiving touchdown. Frost led the ODAC in rushing yards and rushing yards per game (94.3), and ranked second in all-purpose yards (1,179), all-purpose yards per game (117.9), rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns (13). 

A new starter behind center 

One change for the Tigers this season is who will be lining up behind center. The Garnet & Grey will suit up both senior Andrew Puccinelli and sophomore Carter Sido, alternating both as quarterback. 

Puccinelli started two of three games as a junior and completed 66-94 passes (70.2%) for 646 yards and six touchdowns, adding one rushing touchdown for 625 yards of total offense. He passed for a career-high 305 yards (28-33) and four touchdowns, adding a rushing touchdown, as well, in his first collegiate start against Greensboro a year ago. Sido played in six games as a freshman and completed 3 of 3 passes (100%) for four yards, adding 56 yards rushing and one rushing touchdown for 60 yards of total offense.

The team plays host to Wabash this Saturday, in the 2023 edition of The Gentlemen’s Classic.