Phillip Hazel ‘23 

Staff Writer

Blockers in front; Aris Hilliard ‘23 finds the hole between two lead blocks. Photos by John Crawford ‘20

Davidson football has had a successful season, tied for second in their conference with a 5-2 record. Under Head Coach Scott Abell, the ‘Cats have been consistently improving over the past few years, recording their first winning record in the 2018 season since 2007. Upon implementing an improved playbook this fall, they have seen even more growth and tallied more total wins than last year.

The primary focus of the new playbook has been a triple option offensive strategy that has helped the team gain more yards. This switch gives the quarterback at least three ways to move the ball down the field. He can run the ball himself or pitch it to one of two available running backs. This forces the opposing defense to be extra vigilant and adapt quickly. The implementation of this offensive strategy has helped the team be more efficient with every possession. Furthermore, since the triple option centers the offense on runs, it is great for managing the clock when it comes down to crunch time. 

Jared McDonald ‘22, an offensive lineman, put it best when he said, “It’s a ground and pound […] you really have to dominate your opponent […] and you score a lot of points, so that’s always fun.” This strategy has given individual players more opportunities to make significant impacts every game. One such player is Wesley Dugger ‘21.

Dugger, a junior running back, has seen increased responsibility on the field this year in large part due to the new offensive strategies, rising to the occasion and breaking several program records. The first of those achievements came against Jacksonville University when he became Davidson’s  all-time leader in career rushing touchdowns with 37. The next came three games later against Butler University when Dugger set the record for all-time Davidson rushing yards. His teammates speak highly of him, too. They note his speed and skill, as well as his sportsmanship and team-oriented mindset. 

This attitude is indicative of a larger cultural shift in the Davidson football program. New offensive strategies and individual stars have helped the team this season but they can only do so much. What has really turned the tide for the Wildcats is the establishment of a fresh program under Coach Abell. Older players have accepted new roles and lead the younger players. This discipline contributed last year to a strong offensive line complemented by a dominant defense developed this year.

This cultural shift seems to have been the key to the ‘Cats’ success. Initially projected to finish fifth in the Pioneer Football League, the players and coaching staff remained undeterred and focused on development. Davidson exceeded all expectations, rising to second place in the conference. That being said, the ‘Cats aren’t done yet. Their final game, on November 23, is against the Drake University Bulldogs, who are also 5-2 in the league. With time to work out remaining kinks in their new offense, a winning record under their belt, and home field advantage, this game will be a great opportunity for the team to bolster its position in the conference.