Sometimes the toughest opponent a football team faces throughout a season is injuries. It’s impossible to predict what will happen on the gridiron, but the Hillsdale College football team’s 2016 schedule is one of the most favorable it’s had in Keith Otterbein’s 15 seasons as head coach.
The Chargers will play 10 games in 2016. Six of their 10 games will be played at home, and the Chargers will enjoy a bye week at the midpoint of the season. Hillsdale’s coaching staff considered filling the open date, but ultimately decided the week would be better spent resting and recuperating for the stretch run of the season.
“The fact that we kept that open speaks to the intensity that you have for a full 11 weeks in the Great Lakes Conference,” Otterbein said. “Week in and week out it’s a grind.”
Hillsdale’s bye week comes the second week of October. By that time, the Chargers will be five games into the season — dealing with fatigue and potential injuries.
“We can back off a little bit in terms of the physical contact that our guys have. You can’t do that if you’re getting ready for another game,” Otterbein said. “So we can crank that back a little bit, give them a little time to heal up, but at the same time we’ve got to stay sharp. So I think we have a pretty good plan established as to how we’re going to approach that off week.”
Hillsdale’s players haven’t experienced a bye week in their collegiate careers, but they’re looking forward to getting a bit of a break during the season.
“The bye week is actually phenomenal,” sophomore quarterback Chance Stewart said. “It’s perfect because it’s right in the middle of the season, so it’ll be great to let the body recover for a week and get ready for that last stretch.”
The Chargers will also benefit from playing a majority of their games at home. Five of their nine conference games will be played at Frank “Muddy” Waters Stadium, in addition to Saturday night’s season opening matchup with non-conference opponent University of Indianapolis.
“Just being at home is a big advantage,” Otterbein said. “We want to defend our house. It’s a more comfortable environment.”
The Chargers finished last season 3 – 3 at home and know they need to do better this season.
“We seem to have played well over history here,” Otterbein said. “Our home community is with us, our students are with us, so the fact that we are home six of those 10 games is a big advantage and we’re hopefully going to play to that level.”
Grand Valley, Ferris State, and Michigan Tech are the top-three ranked teams in the GLIAC North Division Preseason Poll, and the Chargers will face all three teams at home this year.
“A lot of our tougher opponents are at home which is good,” junior linebacker Jay Rose said. “Playing at home is a lot different and a lot better, especially night games too. It’s a good atmosphere and I’m excited for that.”