Ever since head coach Stacey Hairston took over the Wilmington College football program in January, Saturday is the day we been pointing toward – the first game in his WC coaching tenure.
The Fightin' Quakers will host Olivet 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Williams Stadium in a game pitting a pair of team looking to elevate their programs from recent droughts. Wilmington is coming off a 1-9 season after back-to-back winless campaigns, while the Comets have posted three winless seasons in the last four years. Two years ago, OC went 1-9 on the season.
Led by Dan Pifer, Olivet brings a relatively young team to Wilmington with 19 starters either freshmen or sophomores. Most of the sophomores gained valuable experience last season.
After missing most of the season with an injury, sophomore Braden Black held off the challenges of Chance Nightingale and Brendon Smith to claim the starting quarterback position.
However, Hairston doesn't think Black will be the only player taking snaps for the Comets.
"I fully expect to see both quarterbacks Saturday," said Hairston, "and when (Nightingale) enters the game, we will expect a more mobile quarterback."
Black played in two games, with just one start, before suffering a season ending injury. He was 9-of-23 for 97 yards and one interception. Nightingale finished the 2012 season as the Comets' leading rusher with 228 yards and four touchdowns. He was 10-of-17 for 100 yards and two interceptions when taking to the air.
Wilmington turns to senior Brandon Arehart, who will be playing in his third offensive system in four years, but the Quakers fully expect to be able to use the entire playbook. The Quakers threw for more than 400 yards in their scrimmage against Earlham. However, Hairston knows his team still has a ways to go.
He acknowledged WC wasn't quite in game shape and the majority of their mistakes came from fatigue. In the first three drives against Earlham, the Fightin' Quakers marched down the field and put themselves in position to score. They recorded a touchdown and field goal, but missed another field goal opportunity.
"You drive that deep, we need to score touchdowns," said Hairston.
One of the biggest surprises in camp has been freshman running back Zak Kruer. Hairston raved about his ability and willingness to take on tacklers and run aggressively.
Additionally, the Quakers received a boost defensively with the late arrival of sophomore linebacker Tarrell Starckey. The West Virginia University transfer played for Hairston at Bluefield College, where he led the Rams with 120 tackles en route to earning all-conference honors.
After taking on the Comets, Wilmington will have its bye week before starting Ohio Athletic Conference action with back-to-back road games.