GENEVA — Special teams can often be an overlooked aspect of football. However, it is hard to look past the dominating effort the Hobart football team has displayed in this category lately.
Last week the Statesmen notched two blocked punts — one of which was returned for a touchdown — on their way to a 41-20 victory over Union.
On Saturday, Hobart kept that same theme intact. The Statesmen used a tenacious punt-block unit to establish momentum and secured its third consecutive Liberty League title with a 37-7 victory over St. Lawrence.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the guys,” Hobart coach Mike Cragg said. “They’ve fought hard all season, prepared well and played well in every game so far.”
WPI defeated Rochester 31-21 Saturday which allowed Hobart (8-0, 6-0) to clinch the title outright.
Hobart turned a St. Lawrence fumble on the first series of the game into a Sean Kirshe 24-yard field goal.
Midway through the first quarter, Hobart’s punt-block unit got after the Saints and forced a fumble by kicker Brodie Corless which set the Statesmen up at the visitors 32 yard line.
“Even if we don’t always block a punt we’re still forcing the other teams to hurry and make mistakes,” Cragg said. “It puts so much pressure on the opposing team to try to account for us coming after the punt.”
Five plays later, Dundee graduate Steven Webb scored on a 17 yard run to put the Statesmen on top 10-0.
Webb’s run broke three Hobart records. He is now the school’s all-time leader in career rushing touchdowns, overall touchdowns and points.
“From the time I recruited Steven (Webb) he has been all-in on this program,” Cragg added. “He works hard academically, he’s a good leader on and off the field, and I’m very proud of him.”
Midway through the second quarter the Statesmen punt-block unit was at it again. Sophomore Trayvon Toney blocked a Saints punt and senior Connor Garrett scooped it up and scampered 20 yards for the touchdown, increasing the lead to 17-0.
On its next drive, Hobart quarterback Patrick Conlan engineered a 5 play, 79 yard touchdown drive, capped off by a 16 yard strike to Elvin Souffrant.
Despite a rocky start for Conlan, who went 0-9 with two picks early in the game, he was able to rebound and throw for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
The Hobart defense applied pressure to the quarterback all day and held the visitors to 3-of-17 on third down conversions. The Statesmen also forced four fumbles, two of which they recovered.
“We were able to put (St. Lawrence) in some third and long situations and we stepped up and played hard to get them off the field,” Cragg said. “I was really pleased at how well our defense played today.”
In the third quarter, Webb notched his second rushing touchdown of the afternoon, expanding the lead to 31-7.
Conlan connected with Troy Robinson for a 10 yard touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter to cap off a 13 play, 77 yard drive highlighted by a balanced rushing attack.
The Saints’ lone score came late in the first half when quarterback Zane Fish found Mitch Gallagher in the end zone for a six yard touchdown.