Today: May 22, 2024

Football team looks back on their 11th consecutive winning season

RYAN FLYNNStaff Writer

Seldom dominant, but always compelling: that was the 2011 Owls in a nutshell. 

Their 7-3 record was the result of a pair of winning streaks—four and three games long, respectively— bookended by losses. 

Slow starts and marred finishes kept the team from truly dominating in the way that they would have liked, but what the team lacked in consistency, they made up for with the ability to stage late-game comebacks. Four of their seven wins occurred in come-from-behind fashion. 

Suffice it to say this season was not lacking excitement. 

Owls football opened its 64th campaign coming off a 10th-consecutive winning season under head coach Rich Cavanaugh. They began the season with a trio of road games, the first of which pitted them against in-state rival Central. The Owls looked outclassed early, surrendering a 28-0 first half lead. They played much better in the second half, however, scoring three-straight touchdowns before Central returned an onside kick for a touchdown to seal the game. 

After this 35-21 loss, Southern traveled to West Liberty and again started off slow, trailing 10-0 after the first quarter. The Owls mounted yet another comeback, this time to better results, pulling out a 27-19 win. 

“The thing that I remember most about this season is it seemed to me like we were behind in most of the games that we won,” Cavanaugh said, “and I thought our team really showed a lot of character in various situations that they had been in. We always talked about trying to play a complete game and playing for four quarters and I thought that our team really did that this year. No matter how bleak the situation looked they just kept playing hard and the majority of the time, good things happened.” 

The third game, at Saint Anselm, was a back and forth affair early on, until Southern tailback Rashaad Slowley, a senior from Mount Vernon, N.Y., decided to take over. He scored a school-record six rushing touchdowns in the 59-34 win, to go along with 205 yards rushing. Southern would continue to roll the following week, dominating Pace in a lopsided 61-0 home opener. Senior Quarterback Kevin Lynch had four touchdowns in a 13-for-15 passing effort.

The following week, at Assumption College, the Owls had again surrendered an early lead, as was the theme all season long. Another comeback, courtesy of  a career-high 288 yards rushing by Slowley, gave them a 38-24 win and improved their record to 4-1.

“We all stayed calm,” senior linebacker Jack Petion said of the comebacks. “Really we just stayed together. We knew we could pull it out. Once the pressure got on us we knew that we had to play tougher and harder—and play faster.” 

Petion credited the team’s chemistry as well and their belief in one another. 

Possibly the biggest game of the season came next, against ranked conference foe UNH. After trailing early, Southern came back and built a 13-point lead early in the third quarter. However, the Owls were unable to stop UNH late, and they pulled away in the fourth quarter to hand Southern a 59-34 loss. 

The Owls would win 31-29 the following week at Bentley, scoring 24 unanswered points after trailing 17-7 at the half. A game at AIC came next. Trailing 47-35 with just under five minutes left, the Owls mounted their greatest comeback yet. Kevin Lynch threw a pair of late touchdown passes to junior wide receiver Willie Epps, the second of which came with just three seconds remaining in the game. Southern won 48-47. 

The Owls went 1-1 in their final two games. In snowy, frigid conditions, they beat Stonehill 16-6 on Homecoming day before returning two weeks later to meet Merrimack on senior day. The Owls, after leading for most of the game, gave up a fourth-down touchdown pass in the final period and fell 28-27. They finished the season at 7-3, with a 6-2 NE-10 record, second in the conference to UNH. However, it was not enough, and the Owls failed to make the playoffs. 

“Overall I think we had a good season. It could have been better,” Petion said. “Of course we wanted to make the playoffs. That was one of our main goals. Of course we wanted to win the conference, but I say we still had a good season and it’ll be a memorable one.” 

It was a stellar year for running back Rashaad Slowley in particular, who was named Northeast-10 conference MVP and selected as a finalist for the Harlan Hill Award, which is the Division II version of the Heisman. Slowley amassed 27 rushing touchdowns—best in the conference by a wide margin—and 1584 yards on the ground. Slowley is one of 18 seniors who will graduate this season, so heavy turnover can be expected in 2012 in several key positions. 

“We graduated 18 outstanding seniors that really all contributed,” Cavanaugh said, “So, you know, there’s going to be a lot of new faces offensively and defensively and I’m hoping that these young men are going to work extremely hard between now and next year and try to become the best players that they can be.”

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