Gallaudet University has some unique challenges when it comes to football, even for a Division III school. Besides the usual absence of scholarships, low amount of funding and small fanbases that nearly all DIII programs have to deal with, the Gallaudet Bison have yet another challenge that no other DIII team does.
The entire team is deaf or hard of hearing.
Representing the flagship institution for the deaf and hard of hearing in the US, each member of the team has to deal with all of the associated challenges.
The team has always found ways to adapt, although it has been far from easy. The Bison dropped down to club status in 1995 and didn't return to Division III until 2007, in large part because of difficulties being competitive.
Since the reentry of the team to Division III in 2007, things have begun to look up. Under coach Chuck Goldstein, Gallaudet has manged a winning record and even finished third in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference last season.
Despite the reasons for optimism, Gallaudet still faced some obstacles. They had never won the ECFC, or made it to the playoffs.
Until now, that is.
This weekend, the Bison improved to 9-0 on the season and clinched the conference title and playoff auto-bid thanks to a 35-7 win over Anna Maria College.
Gallaudet made history by playing the same way they have all season. A potent triple-option offense that racked up the rushing yards and dominated time of possession was complimented by a dominant defense.
Their monumental game was the seventh time this season that the Bison held their opponent to 20 points or less. They also had an impressive advantage in time of possession, in which they had the ball for more than double the amount of time of Anna Maria.
The Bison are led on offense by fullback BJ Flores, quarterback Todd Bonheyo and his brother, running back Ryan Bonheyo. The three have combined to rush for 1,969 yards and 19 touchdowns so far this season.
The defense is led by Adham Talaat, who originally enrolled at Division I University of Massachusetts-Amherst before a coaching change led him to leave the team. He is considered to be an NFL prospect and could be the first Gallaudet player ever taken in the draft.
The Bison have one game left in the regular season, where they will take on SUNY Maritime College with a chance at the first perfect season in school history.
It is unknown how the Bison will fare in the playoffs, as they have not played any ranked teams this season. One thing is for certain though.
The Gallaudet Bison have put together the greatest season in school history, and no amount of challenges or obstacles will ever take away their first conference title or historical playoff bid.