The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Football takes a bye, preps for Beloit

The football team hopes to rebound from last year’s losses. Photo by Parker Van Nostrand

After winning just four games over the past two seasons, the football team was eager to start its season when college football began last week. Unfortunately for the Pioneers, they were not able to as the team’s bye week came during the first week. As a result, the team will play its first game tomorrow at Beloit College.

It may seem beneficial to have an extra week to prepare for the season, but that is not the case. Per NCAA rules, a team’s first practice is based on when its first game is, meaning the Pioneers reported to practice in August one week after nearly all other teams did.

“It’s not ideal, but it’s something you have to live with,” said quarterback and co-captain Sam Poulos ’16.

And although the Pioneers know they will face a long, 10-week season with no time off, they will benefit from being fresh when they travel to Beloit, Wisc. to play the Buccaneers, who lost to the University of Chicago 28-6 last week.

The football team hopes to rebound from last year’s losses. Photo by Parker Van Nostrand
The football team hopes to rebound from last year’s losses. Photo by Parker Van Nostrand

Grinnell, which will dress 41 players tomorrow, is usually hampered by their lack of depth, but against Beloit they will have an advantage as Beloit has an even smaller team.

“[Beloit]’s numbers are down, so if we can keep the pressure on, we should wear them out by the end of the third [or] early fourth quarter,” said head coach Jeff Pedersen ’02.

The Pioneers’ toughest task will be replacing the secondary, which graduated four starters who all saw significant time each year since the 2010 season. Andrew Clark, Seth Gustafson, Max Keller and Kevin Hwang (all ’14) will be replaced by several underclassmen with little experience.

“At the beginning of camp, it was really tough without them,” said linebacker David Ternes ’15. “But our young secondary is starting to pick it up and they’ll be ready.”

“We really don’t have starting experience back there,” Pedersen added. “But it’s nice that [safety] Jacob Beecher [’16] is one of the smartest players on the team. He’s going to be the ring-leader back there.”

Kent Hoover ’17 will start as the other safety while Joe Galaske ’17 and Nate George ’15 will play cornerbacks.

The inexperienced defensive backs will complement a strong front seven, anchored by co-captains and linebackers Ternes and Rich Renteria ’15, who have a career 278 and 159 tackles each, respectively. Pedersen said that the veteran lineman and linebackers will make up for the young secondary.

“Rich and David are, of course, as good as anybody in the Conference. It’s nice to have them one last time,” Pedersen said. “So we’re hoping [opposing teams] don’t have time to sit back and pick us apart. If they have to make quick reads, quick throws, that helps cover for the inexperience.”

Offensively, the Pioneers return most of their production from last year, notably the two-year starter Poulos, who has thrown for 3,273 yards and 21 touchdowns in 17 games as a starter, while also rushing for two scores. In the offseason, he worked on his pocket passing and the 5’10” scrambler will hope to be more of a pocket-passer this year. However, he’ll use his legs when necessary.

“I’ll do it when I need to, but the goal is I won’t get pressure so I can throw out of the pocket,” he said.

The team’s other co-captain, Pierce Gustafson ’15, will anchor the offensive line that graduated important pieces in Morgan Kinsinger and Quinn Rosenthal (both ’14) last year.

The line will block for running back Jacob Bernholtz ’17, who rushed for 359 yards and seven touchdowns on 104 attempts last year. Last year against Beloit, Bernholtz rushed for 157 yards and two scores.

“He’s good,” Poulos said. “I mean, he’s still fast. He was fast last year. And he’s even bigger.”

Jacob Meixler ’15, who tallied 682 yards and two touchdowns on 49 receptions last year will return as the number one receiver. Meixler will start alongside Henry Cummings ’16 and Greg Ruzich ’16. Aamir Walton ’15 will also see time as a slot receiver.

This year, the Midwest Conference is split into two divisions, meaning that the Beloit game will be a non-Conference match. Poulos noted that this new schedule allows the team to avoid some of the conference’s toughest foes, such as 2013 MWC Champion St. Norbert College.

After beginning last year 0-3 and finishing with just two wins, the Pioneers are hoping to get off to a stronger start this year. Ternes noted that last year, they often began the game with a deficit and could never dig themselves out of that hole—something that he hopes to avoid this year.

“We just can’t get down on ourselves, that’s the biggest thing,” he said. “[We have to] keep fighting.”

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