Jay Cronze is chasing a D-III football title
It's safe to say that in Jay Cronze's high school and prep school football career, he had never played for a team that was 12-0.
But that's where Cronze's Hobart College Statesmen are, and they are two wins away from playing in the NCAA Division III championship game.
"I'm loving this little run we're on right now," said Cronze.
The Statesmen are on their way from Geneva, N.Y., to Minnesota for a Saturday Division III quarterfinal matchup with St. Thomas.
Cronze, who was a multi-sport athlete at Taconic High School and Berkshire School in Sheffield, is a reserve wide receiver for head coach Mike Cragg.
The 5-foot-8, 170-pound receiver has played in 11 of his team's 12 games. He has caught seven passes for 124 yards. His longest catch was for 44 yards in a Nov. 3 win over St. Lawrence.
The Statesmen have set a record for most wins in a season and had their first undefeated regular season in 55 years. Hobart enters this weekend's quarterfinal game with a Liberty League title and tournament wins over Washington and Lee and Wittenberg.
This voyage started on Aug. 11 when Cronze and the rest of his teammates reported to upstate New York for camp. The Statesmen players came to believe that their 35-28 loss to eastern Division III power Wesley in last year's tournament was just a jumping off point.
"From last year when the season ended and we played Wesley, the core group of coming seniors and the juniors, we banded together," said Cronze. "When we played Wesley, we gave them a good fight. We knew we could hang with any team in the country. We made it a point to work really hard in the spring, work hard over the summer and come back to go 10-0 and win the league.
"It's a testament to everyone on the team that we're at the point we're at now. The hard work paid off. I can't make it up. We said we were going to do this and we did."
St. Thomas enters this weekend's game with a 9-3 record. The Tommies are ranked third in the latest D3football.com poll while Hobart is seventh.
Coach Glenn Caruso's Tommies are also 12-0 and are 9-3 in tournament games.
Cronze is on target to graduate this spring with a degree in psychology. Cronze said he was originally thinking about going into social work. Now, he's thinking about going into the health care industry.
Whether Jay Cronze's football career has 60 or 180 more minutes to go, the former Taconic Brave said he can't believe it's almost over.
"It's really amazing to think about," said Cronze. "I remember coming here in my freshman year and getting some time, and how fast it's actually gone.
"Seniors tell you how fast it goes, and you don't really believe it. I'm in those shoes right now."