The Guilford College football ended this season with a 3-6 record, the least number of wins in a season since 2011.
“Obviously, record doesn’t go as well as you hope,” sai head coach Chris Rusiewicz. “You want to win them all.”
The season was hurt by the lack of depth on the team. When the starters went down, the players that had to come in did not have much experience.
“We were young, we didn’t have a whole lot of depth other than new (first-years) coming in, “ said Rusiewicz. “So there was some challenges with that.”
The offense had many returning faces from last year, including redshirt senior running back De’Eric Bell. Bell once again led the offense as he broke almost all of the Guilford College rushing records for a season and career. Bell stands fifth in the NCAA Division III history with 8,369 all-purpose yards.
This season, Bell is leading Division III in all-purpose yards per game with 239.89. Bell broke the colege’s single-season records in rushing yards (1334), rushing touchdowns (18), 100-yard rushing games (seven), scoring (128) and touchdowns (21).
Bell holds Guilford career records in rushing yards (4,213), rushing touchdowns (53), all-purpose yards (8,396), scoring (366), touchdowns (63) and kickoff return yardage (2,217). His 53 rushing touchdowns is 30 more than second-place Josh Schow ’15.
Bell was named to the All-ODAC First Team and All-South Region First Team. He is the second three-time All-South pick in college history.
The best game for the Quakers was Senior Day against Washington and Lee University. The 40-3 victory was a complete domination on offense and defense. The defense held the Generals’ triple-option offense to 183 yards of total offense and forced five turnovers. The Guilford offense was in stride and had 484 total yards that game.
“Our offense went out there and played probably almost as perfect as you can get. Obviously a couple of turnovers in there,” said Rusiewicz. “I think the way the defense responded from the Davidson (College) game, which ran the same offense, to a game like that where they held an opponent to under 200 yards and an All-America running back to 19 yards.”
The Guilford defense struggled this season in holding opponents to low scores. They allowed 46.6 points, 243rd in Division III, and 522.9 yards per game, 245th in the Division II.
“When you have that many (new) guys out in your secondary,” said Rusiewicz. “You’re trying to play a system where you’re trying to man up and trying to do some things in zone, mental breakdowns can happen, people can take advantage of the passing game on us, which is where they got us.”
The defense was anchored by redshirt sophomore linebacker Bryce Smith. He had 105 tackles on the season including 10 tackles for loss. He averaged 9 solo tackles per game, which makes him tied for first in NCAA Division III. He earned a spot on the All-ODAC First Team and third team All-South Region.
“I think for the most part I was happy with my performance game in and game out,” said Smith. “Coming off an ACL injury, getting my confidence back was major for me at the beginning of the year, then it felt as if every game it got easier when I started to get comfortable on the field.”
Junior defensive end Jarrod Russ anchored the defensive line for the Quakers. He had an ODAC-leading 7.5 sacks in seven appearances. He had 29 tackles and 12 tackles for loss. Russ was named to the All-ODAC First Team. His 3.5 sacks against Methodist University earned him ODAC Defensive Player of the Week and was named to the D3football.com Team of the Week.
“When (Russ is) playing in a football game, that helps your pass defense,” said Rusiewicz. “When he’s out of a game, that’s not going to help your pass defense because you’re not getting that edge rush.”
Junior safety Jeremiah Hedrick and senior offensive tackle Matt Ingram were named to the All-ODAC Second Team. Junior wide receiver Juwan Houston, junior defensive tackle J.T. Carmichael and offensive tackle Emory Lyndon received All-ODAC Third Team honorees.
The team won three of the four games this season at home, but they lost all five away games. The last away win came on Oct. 28, 2017 at Bridgewater College.
Guilford’s offense averaged 526.2 yards per game, fourth in Division III. Sophomore quarterback Alex Manley passed for 2,354 yards with 17 touchdowns. Manley had a 49.8 pass completion percentage, completing 149 of 299 attempts. He threw 13 interceptions on the season and a 126.0 efficiency rating. Manley also had 401 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Manley stands sixth in Division III in passing yards per completion with 15.80.
Houston and senior wide receiver Montek Johnson led the receiving group with 604 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
The Guilford offensive line allowed only 1.22 sacks per game, which is 34th in Division III. Four of the five starting lineman return for next year.
“With all the experience our guys got, we’re going to be very junior and sophomore heavy next year with a great group of seniors,” said Ruisewicz.