Sat, Sep. 1, 2012 - [Football]
The 2012 Loras College football team has been waiting for a chance to say ‘1-0' instead of ‘1-9' to people for the last eight-plus months. Today, they'll have that chance against the Elmhurst College Blue Jays as they kick off the 2012 season in the Rock Bowl.
The Duhawks haven't denied the existence of the winless run through the IIAC and one-win effort in 2011, but they've started 2012 with it as far back in the rear view mirror as possible.
"I really like how our team has approached camp," second year head coach Paul Mierkiewicz said earlier this week. "We feel we need to get better with every session, and I think we have done that so far."
With a larger roster and relatively cool temperatures in late August, the Duhawk coaching staff has been pushing the squad daily. Mierkiewicz has Mike DuFrane and Rob Goode on his staff helping push the level of play – and head strength and conditioning coach and linebackers coach Josh Edwards was elevated to Defensive Coordinator going into 2012.
"Each player has been challenged physically and mentally and for the most part we have stood up to that challenge," Mierkiewicz proclaimed. "I like how we have handled the adversity of camp, and I am hoping we are a tougher team than we were a year ago."
On the field on Saturday, there will be plenty of fresh faces who will be challenged by the Elmhurst College Blue Jays. Loras lost nearly every skill position player of significance on offense following the 2011 season. Some of the most recognizable names on defense are also gone – having walked across the stage with their diplomas in May.
"Our young guys are learning on the fly and our returners are doing a great job of setting the tempo," the Loras alum said of his roster.
Vaughn Gesing and Gavin Kaiser are both in the Loras record books after four years as starters (in Kaiser's case, a kick returner). Zach Myers and Eric Meyer have departed from the defensive side of the ball.
"Replacing them will be impossible with just one or two guys," Mierkiewicz admitted. "It is going to have to be a group effort."
"The bottom line is we're going to be young and we're going to be improved."
Mierkiewicz likes what he has seen from newcomers Nate Carrier and Erich Awender at running back, Brady Williams at wide receiver, Patrick Wiedow-Hagene, Mike McCullough, Grand Meyer, Sam Burds, and Tim Mikeworth on the defensive side of the ball.
He is also high on transfer quarterback Dylan Jones (Bettendorf, Iowa/Dakota State/Bettendorf HS). Mierkiewicz has been quiet on who will get the start behind center come the opening snap on offense of 2012, but acknowledged Sean Brennan is also a capable option.
Loras' offensive line is full of seniors – including captains Sam Ross and Nick Holeton.
Defensive captains in 2012 will be Brandon Ronan (LB) and Dave Pirkle (CB).
Tyler Wilker has also proven himself a consistent contributor in the kicking game.
"Elmhurst is the number one thing on our mind," Mierkiewicz said when addressing the 2012 schedule. "We want to focus on playing a full four quarter game."
A CLOSER LOOK:
2011 Record: 1-9, 0-8 in the IIAC (9th)
2012 Preseason Coaches' Poll: 8th
Starters Lost On Offense: Vaughn Gesing, Gavin Kasier, Billy Kass, Andy Brown, Nate Even
Starters Lost On Defense: Zach Myers, Eric Meyer, David Zoeckler, Frank Pereiro, Nate Suchomel
Key Returners: Ryan Baez, Kyle Killian, CJ Daniels, Kyle Bergquist, Mike Canevello, Dan Badovinac
The 2012 season includes non-conference games against Elmhurst, Rockford, and Augustana before the bye week. The IIAC is down to eight teams with Cornell leaving the league.
WATCH THEM IN THE ROCK BOWL (All kickoffs at 1:00 pm):
September 1, Military Appreciation Day vs. Elmhurst
September 8, Hall of Fame Day vs. Rockford
September 29, Homecoming vs. Luther
October 20, Take A Kid To The Game vs. Buena Vista
November 3, Senior Day and Key City Clash vs. Dubuque
Full Schedule HERE