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For Kavanaughs, success runs in the family

Ed Collins, The Standard Times


Coach Bill Kavanaugh

DARTMOUTH -- Saturdays in the fall are a constant tug of war for Debbie Kavanaugh, who has to balance and juggle football games at UMass Dartmouth and Bentley College with the skill of a circus star. Husband Bill is the head coach at UMD, which will be out to wrap up a perfect 10-0 regular season with a win over Salve Regina University tomorrow at Dartmouth Memorial Stadium.

Son Billy is a junior defensive end for Bentley, which plays a key Northeast-10 Conference game at C.W. Post in a matchup of teams that are both 9-0. UMD and Bentley are two of the four teams in New England that are still unbeaten this season, along with Westfield State College (8-0) and Williams College (7-0).

"The most difficult thing for me is deciding which game to go and watch," said Mrs. Kavanaugh. "It's really hard to miss Billy's games, but I also want to be there for my husband and his team."

This week, Billy's Bentley Falcons won out over the Corsairs, because Mrs. Kavanaugh will be making the drive to Long Island, N.Y., to watch her son's team take on C.W. Post. The winner will probably get one of the 16 spots in the NCAA Division II Tournament.  There's always next week for UMD, which will travel to Worcester State College for a matchup against Westfield State College in the New England Football Conference championship game.

The winner of that one will receive an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Tournament. 
"It's been an exciting season for our family, because both of our teams are doing so well. Saturdays are hectic days for me. I keep very busy on my cellphone and I drive a lot of miles," said Mrs. Kavanaugh. "We're lucky to have a lot of family members who support my husband and Billy. We have family at every one of their games, and we all keep in touch about what's going on with both teams."

A lot has been happening this season for UMD and Bentley, which have both been making names for themselves nationally. The Corsairs' defense leads Division III in turnover margin (3.67 per game), interceptions (26), and fumble recoveries (22). UMD is also third nationally in scoring defense (8.7 points per game).

"Our defense has played a key role in our success this season. We've been playing good team defense and we've been stopping teams on the ground and through the air," said Bill Kavanaugh. "We've made a lot of big plays on defense and our offense has done a great job moving the ball down the field and taking time off the clock with nice long drives."

At Bentley, Billy Kavanaugh and fellow junior Ted Krautman have been putting on a tremendous pass rush for the Falcons.  Krautman is second in Division II with 10.5 quarterback sacks, and Kavanaugh is right behind in a tie for fifth with 10. They're also 1-2 in the Northeast-10.

Billy Kavanaugh would have been a tremendous asset for the Corsairs, but he never really considered playing for his father after wrapping up a career at Dartmouth High School that also included competition in hockey, baseball, basketball, and track. 

"That would have been nice, because my father has never been my football coach and I'm friendly with a lot of the guys on his team, but I wanted to get away from home and I had a chance to step in and play right away at Bentley," said Billy Kavanaugh, a business communications major. "The guys at UMD tried to recruit me, and it was hard to turn them down. I work out at UMD in the offseason and they still bust my chops a little, but I'm glad I made the decision to go to Bentley.

Bill Kavanaugh said he's happy that Bentley has been such a great fit for his son academically and athletically. 
"I stayed out of it when it came time for Billy to make a decision about where he wanted to go to school. It would have been nice to have him play for me at UMD, but I never even recruited him," said the elder Kavanaugh, an English teacher at Dartmouth High School who served as an assistant to Carlin Lynch before taking over at UMD in 1990. "That was a decision he had to make on his own, and things have worked out great for him at Bentley. He likes his teammates and coaches, he loves playing there, and he's getting a great education."

Billy Kavanaugh suffered a dislocated shoulder in the first quarter of Bentley's 37-6 win over Assumption College last Saturday, but he's been getting treatment and practicing all week, and he'll be ready to go against C.W. Post.

Injuries are a part of the game, but they can be just as hard on parents as players and Mrs. Kavanaugh knows they come with the territory.

"You never want to see your child get hurt, but Billy called me right after the game to let me know he was alright and that made me feel better," said Mrs. Kavanaugh. "Everybody in our family likes football. Billy has two sisters who follow the games and his grandmother on his father's side (who passed away in September) was a huge sports fan and we really miss her.

"We're all very proud of Billy and what he's been able to accomplish at Bentley. Things have also fallen into place at UMD like they never have before. My husband has had some good teams there over the years, but this has been a season to remember and the best thing is that it's not over yet."

This story originally appeared on page C1 of The Standard Times on November 8th, 2002 and appears with the kind permission of Ed Collins & The Standard Times.

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