Expectations are high and spirits higher as the Hillsdale Chargers prepare to open their season at Michigan Tech this Saturday.
Despite graduating eight seniors, this Charger football team returns eighteen starters to the field, giving them experience and depth. Additionally, the Chargers are coming off of a four game spring season which provided opportunities for younger players to cut their teeth and for the entire team to gain momentum heading into this season.
Starting punter Jack Shannon spoke on the benefit of the spring season.
“I think it will help us a lot, especially with some of these teams that we’re going to be playing this season,” Shannon said. “They did not have any games in the spring and it’s been a while since they’ve played so I think we’ve got a good advantage going for us.”
In the course of their four game spring season the Chargers showed marked improvement, winning their last two games and propelling them into the offseason.
Scheduling isn’t the only factor working in the Chargers’ favor this season. Eighteen of last year’s starters will play again this Saturday, including junior quarterback Luke Keller, who is excited about the talent surrounding him on offense.
“I think we have a lot of strengths. Obviously we have some pretty good wide receivers: Isaac TeSlaa, Austin Williams, KJ Maloney,” Keller said. “Our running back room is stacked as well and then we got a solid offensive line: both Affholter brothers, Cole Johnson moved out to right tackle and Ben Geno at left tackle, Jack McCarthy, they’re all experienced players.”
Head coach Keith Otterbein, in addition to praising the physical talent of his team, highlighted the mental fortitude of his players.
“There’s always adversity in football, so I’m anxious to see how we react,” Otterbein said. “I think we’re going to react very, very well. I think we’ve got a great mindset. We’ve got a football team that I don’t think will flinch or get distracted when tough situations occur.”
The first game of the season will not be an easy one for the Chargers. The team has lost their past two games against Michigan Tech, a pattern that Coach Otterbein looks to break this Saturday.
“I think the team that makes the fewest early game mistakes is going to be the winner and traditionally has,” Otterbein said. “The expectation is go up there, play hard, be physical, and play for 60 minutes.”
Keller maintained a similar mindset.
“We just got to play our game, no matter who the opponent is we just got to play our game and execute our game plan, and I think we’ll have success against anybody that we play,” Keller said.
Regardless of opponents and outcomes, there is tangible excitement in the air as the Chargers prepare for their first full season of football in two years.
“It’s always a time here near the end of camp, when you want to figure out whether you’re a good football team and the only way to find out what your strengths and weakness are is you got to go play somebody,” Otterbein said. “So we’re excited to go play.”