Quakers host MSJ in season opener

Wilmington College will open the 2011 football season when Mount St. Joseph visits Williams Stadium for a 7 p.m. kickoff Saturday.

"I feel a lot more comfortable about things this year with a year's worth of preparation behind us," second-year WC head coach Ken Minor said. "I know the players and the coaches, and I'd like to think that we're on better ground right now."

The Quakers were 0-10 last season while the Mount finished at 5-5. The Lions topped Wilmington, 24-7, in the 2010 opener and have now defeated the Quakers eight straight times.

"For Mount St. Joe, 5-5 is not a good year. They have been to the NCAA playoffs five times, and I know that they want to go out and prove themselves worthy of the success they have enjoyed over the years," Minor said. "We should have a chip on our shoulders, too. They kind of put it on us last year. The score really didn't indicate how one-sided the game really was."

The outcome of Saturday's opener will largely hinge on play at the line of scrimmage. The Quakers' offensive line includes senior left tackle Adam Salyers, who missed most of the 2010 season with a knee injury. Up front defensively, big things are expected from sophomore nose guard Donnie Ary.

"Line play will be the most important part of the game," Minor said. "Mount St. Joe's offensive and defensive lines are very solid. Our offensive line needs to become more consistent. Donnie has a chance of really doing some great things at Wilmington College. We're just hoping he stays healthy."

The Mount's offense will be led by junior quarterback Brian Pitzer, who saw action in seven games last season. Wilmington sophomore Brandon Arehart passed for more than 1,400 yards and nine touchdowns in 2010.

Arehart's targets include sophomores Logan McCormick and Kyle Blakeman, who caught a combined 45 passes last year.

"If our line can give us a little time, we can get it done," Minor said. "We're a much better offensive team this year. Brandon and Logan and Kyle all have a much better feel for and understanding of the game."

The ground game features both teams' leading rushers from a year ago. The Mount will look to junior James Clay while Wilmington junior Tyrell Richardson is coming off a 385-yard season.

"James Clay is a really good player, and when he goes out, Jimmy-Dan Conners comes in and gives them solid play. We are really happy with Tyrell. He really worked hard in the off-season. He is in so much better shape. I think he's in for a really good season," Minor said.

The key intangible, Minor said, will be his team's ability to generate and sustain self-confidence.

"We need to believe in ourselves and each other," Minor said. "We can't give up if something goes bad. Last year, we went out there and Mount St. Joe came with a big push at the beginning. Their speed was so much better than what we anticipated, and we didn't really compete with them until the third quarter."

The Quakers will dress more than 90 players for the season opener, compared to last year's 60-man roster. Minor is hoping there is strength in numbers.

"It makes a big difference. We have more depth and we can run two scout teams this year," Minor said. "We're still a very young football team, but I really believe that we are taking this program in the right direction."