GREENVILLE — There has never been another. Thiel College has never hosted a NCAA Division III football playoff game before. No Tomcat football team has ever qualified for the playoffs before, either.

All that changes today as fifth-year coach Jack Leipheimer and his Tomcats host Johns Hopkins University on the campus of Thiel in the first round of the NCAA playoffs. Kickoff is slated for noon.

“I’m excited,” said senior wide receiver Tom McEntire, one of 15 former District 10 players on Thiel’s roster. “I’m ready. For four years, this is what we have been trying to do.”

The competition gets difficult now — not that it wasn’t before — in a field of just 32 teams in the country to qualify for the national tournament. After today, only 16 teams will remain in a loser-goes-home, single-elimination format.

And Johns Hopkins (8-2, 5-1 Centennial Conference) is up to snuff.

“They’re a good football team,” Leipheimer said. “Or they wouldn’t be (in the playoffs).”

Like the Tomcats, the Blue Jays are making their first NCAA playoff appearance.

But Leipheimer said that all the extra hoopla that goes along with the playoffs shouldn’t hurt his team.

“To say it’s not a distraction would not be truthful,” Leipheimer said. “But I think they’ll handle it OK. Crowd-wise, we have sold this thing out almost every game anyway. And the extra people will mostly be rooting for us, so that’s OK with me.”

The Blue Jays are a lot like the Tomcats in that they like to run the football out of the Multiple I and have done so with success. But they can go to the air when needed, too.

Their top running back is T.J. Lyons, who has run for 949 yards and nine touchdowns on 187 attempts. Mark Nesbitt, who has 236 yards on 66 touches, will also see spot time.

“They’re a balanced offense, 55 percent run overall, I believe,” Leipheimer said. “They do both things fairly well.”

Stopping Lyons will be Thiel’s No. 1 concern.

“He’s a very solid tailback,” Leipheimer said of Lyons. “He’s a good, solid back, runs hard with good leg drive.”

Johns Hopkins’ go-to receiver is Anthony Triplin, who has 66 grabs for 757 yards. He has also scored three touchdowns. With 31 catches for 426 yards, Corey Sattler is the No. 2 receiver.

Two quarterbacks will make throws to Triplin and Sattler. The No. 1 Johns Hopkins quarterback is senior Zach Dilonno, who has completed 153-of-270 passes for 1,654 yards and four touchdowns. He has, however, been intercepted seven times. Freshman Adam Waddell is also expected to see time, mostly out of the shotgun. Waddell is mostly a speedster, but he can throw, too.

The Blue Jays employ a 4-3 defense, and they like to blitz.

“Defensively, they’re aggressive,” Leipheimer said, noting that the Blue Jays’ defensive coordinator, Frank Colaprete, worked under him at Allegheny for two seasons. “They blitz the heck out of you out of a 4-3 front.”

While Johns Hopkins looks good on paper, Thiel looks even better.

Thiel’s first 1,000-yard rusher Steve Minton is expected to start today, Leipheimer said, after missing last week’s game against Carnegie Mellon, a 50-48 triple overtime win by the Tomcats.

Signal-caller Darrell Satterfield has completed 179-of-318 passes for 2,344 yards and 22 touchdowns. Satterfield has two top-notch receivers in McEntire and Brandon Chambers, who have combined for 1,678 yards and 16 touchdowns on 119 catches. Slot receiver Marc LaScola has also contributed four touchdowns and 426 yards on 20 receptions.

Thiel defenders Tom Wozniak (outside linebacker) and Zjaque Douglas (cornerback) are also expected to play today after missing last week’s game, Leipheimer said.

“I think we’ll be OK (health-wise),” Leipheimer said. “We’re as good as we’re gonna get.”

Leipheimer has been preparing his team for the playoffs for three weeks, he said.

“Two weeks ago we told our kids ‘Hey, we’re in the playoffs. Buffalo State is the first-round game,’” said Leipheimer. “We need to take care of business to keep playing.

“We did that on purpose because once we did make it, I didn’t want them to be like ‘Oh, my God. We’re in the playoffs. Now what do we do?’”

Now, they win. Just like before.

“It’s a great feeling right now,” McEntire said. “No one is satisfied right now, though. We’re gonna keep going and see how far we can take this thing.”

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