Football subdivision playoffs

Crusaders’ march starts now

By Brendan Hall
Globe Correspondent / November 28, 2009

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A vastly improved pass rush was one of the main goals for the Holy Cross football team this season. Mude Ohimor took the challenge to heart.

The Stoughton native started eight games at defensive end as a sophomore in 2008, contributing zero sacks to the Crusaders’ pedestrian total of 10. So in the offseason he upped the ante, incorporating jump rope and a 50-pound resistance vest into his workouts, and three times a week biking 5 miles to his summer job driving trucks for Rentals Unlimited.

Just getting back to fundamentals wasn’t enough.

“I went into this season definitely believing I could be first-team all-league,’’ said Ohimor.

The junior did just that, on the strength of his team-high seven sacks. Sure, the Crusaders (9-2, 5-1) captured their first Patriot League title since 1991 behind their explosive offense and All-America candidate Dominic Randolph (3,429 passing yards, 31 touchdowns). But just as integral was an improved defense, which totaled 21 sacks and allowed just 3.7 yards per carry.

“We really needed to shore up our defensive line, and Mude’s been an integral part of that,’’ coach Tom Gilmore said. “He’s really improved every year that he’s been here. You can just see him getting better and learning the game, and becoming a force to be reckoned with for opposing offenses.’’

The raw talent that the 6-foot-3-inch, 245-pounder possesses was evident early on. A former basketball player who formed an imposing frontcourt at Stoughton High alongside Drexel-bound Dartaye Ruffin, Ohimor didn’t start playing football until high school.

Ohimor discovered just how beneficial his basketball skills were to a quality speed rush and has developed a nasty spin move. Today, he is a total student of the game, a guy who studies the NFL’s elite pass rushers on Sundays and takes notes.

“I think I have a decent repertoire of pass-rush moves,’’ Ohimor said. “I worked a lot on speed rushing. You think of any good defensive end, and they all execute a great speed rush, so I definitely work on that a ton. I’ve taken a little bit after Dwight Freeney. He has an insane spin move, so if I could do anything remotely like that I think I’d have a shot.’’

He also sets the tone in the weight room and is considered one of the team’s strongest players.

“It’s not like he has to be told to do it, he’d do it anyway. He works extensively,’’ Gilmore said. “He’s become a force off the edge . . . obviously it looks real impressive when you just totally beat someone off the edge with your speed, but he’s got a good power rush, too.’’

Injuries have hampered the Holy Cross defensive line, and Ohimor has not been immune. He did not dress for Wednesday’s practice because of a minor ankle injury, but he returned to action Thursday.

When the Crusaders hit the field this afternoon at No. 2 seed Villanova (10-1), they’ll be going up against one of the premier offensive lines in the Championship Subdivision, including right tackle and Newburyport native Jonathan Bugli and left tackle Benjamin Ijalana, who is already being sized up for the 2011 NFL draft.

“They’re going to be the fastest team we’ve played against this year,’’ Ohimor said. “They’ve obviously shown they can execute real well.’’

New Hampshire (9-2) might be in for a shootout this afternoon when it takes on high-octane McNeese State (9-2) in Lake Charles, La. The Wildcats, who are allowing only 19.5 points per game, will be tested by Cowboys senior running back Toddrick Pendland, who leads the FCS with 19 touchdowns. McNeese is riding a six-game win streak. UNH, making its sixth straight playoff appearance, is led by tight end Scott Sicko, who leads the team in receptions (48), yards (645), and TD catches (seven).