WILMINGTON – With a new offensive scheme and some new talent, the Wilmington Fightin' Quakers are hoping to do something else new – win the season opener. They haven't experience a win on the opening day of the season since a 45-20 victory over Mount St. Joseph in 2002.
As the two rivals prepare for their final meeting in the foreseeable future, the Quakers would like to bookend the portion of the contract with victories. The other elephant on the gridiron is also the WC's 26-game losing streak.
"The only elephant I have ever seen was in the zoo," said head coach Ken Minor. "This is a new year with a new group, and we only talk about this year. We don't yell about the past."
The 2012 version of the football team will start the season with 14 freshmen along the two-team. However, that number is a little deceiving as five of the freshmen are at least 20 years of age. Four of those advanced freshmen – running back Alex Koyfis, slotback Dennis Nance, along with receivers Jeremy Duncan and Justin Lee – will be asked to make a significant impact on improving an offense that averaged 10.0 points per game last season.
Junior quarterback, and three-year starter, Brandon Arehart and running back, Tyrell Richardson, a two-year starter returns to provide experience for the group. The biggest boost for the Quakers comes along the offensive line. For the first time in the Minor era, all five of the starters have starting experience entering the season.
It will serve them well against a MSJ front five, led by seniors Sean Brooks and Adam Bigelow. The key for Wilmington will be getting to the second level and getting bodies on linebackers Garrett Breiner and especially, Konnor Blevins.
"Watching them on film, they are well-coached and solid at every position," Minor said of the Lions. "They were picked to finish second (in the Heartland Conference) for a reason. We will have to play the perfect game, no turnovers, to beat them."
While staying away from the turnover bug with go a long way in stymieing the Lions, keeping their running game from getting on track with have a larger impact on the outcome of the game. Preseason All-American James Clay returns after running for 1,132 yards a season ago.
The Lions gained 331 yards on the ground in last season's 26-16 win as Clay went for 141 yards on 18 carries. The biggest boost came from quarterback Brian Pitzer, who added 92 yards and two rushing scores.
"We have emphasized taking away the run all through two-a-days and spring," said Minor. "We have to not give up the line of scrimmage and make them beat us by passing."
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday at Schueler Field on the campus of Mount St. Joseph. The game can be heard on the Wilmington Sports Network with the pre-game starting approximately 6:40 p.m.