As football transitions from a rigorous preseason into its 125th season, Head Coach Jay Anderson is readying the Yeomen for their 2016 crusade. The team will have the opportunity to test itself against Kalamazoo College in a non-conference game on Saturday in Kalamazoo, MI before diving into a nine-game North Coast Athletic Conference streak. After finishing with just three conference wins in 2015, the Yeomen are hungry for victories and will look to build upon the success they had when defeating rivals like Kenyon College, Allegheny College and e College of Wooster last year.
“We are ready to prove what the Yeomen have this year,” said junior co-captain Avery McThompson. “The team is really hungry to win and have a great time on the field.”
The Yeomen graduated nine seniors last spring, including four-year starting quarterback Lucas Poggiali — although he did not go too far, as he will serve as the team’s newest running back coach. Still, Poggiali’s absence on the field opens up the opportunity for younger players to prove themselves. Junior Christian Flynn, senior Chris Herman and first-year Zach Taylor will all compete for the starting slot as playmaker.
“[Taylor] has big playmaking ability with both his arms and legs,” junior running back Khalil Rivers said of his rookie teammate. “He could greatly contribute.”
With big shoes to fill, the Yeomen’s four senior co-captains are expected to continue building on their individual successes to lift the team in conference play. Senior Justin Cruz, a 2014 All-NCAC Second-Team selection, led the team with 37 catches for 491 yards last season alone. He has been pivotal to the Yeomen’s offensive line for the past three years and will be a key player in the receiving end this season. Cruz’s co-captains include classmates Larry Leggett and Justin Bute and junior Avery McThompson. Leggett and Bute will help manage Oberlin’s defensive end, as the duo combined for 99 solo tackles last season, and McThompson rounds out the crew as the lone junior captain. McThompson has been a stronghold in the Yeomen’s defensive end in past years, starting every game at center last season.
With the strong leadership of these upperclassmen and a promising preseason, Anderson said he feels optimistic about the year. “A productive fall camp gave many players the chance to truly establish themselves,” he added, calling the first-year class extremely talented and expressing enthusiasm over their ability to “develop as both players and students.”
The Yeomen will look to sustain momentum after returning three key players from injuries, seniors Adrian Kelly, Alec Bean and Chauncey Simmons. Juniors Anthony Allen and Luis Solorzano are also expected to be valuable contributors on the offensive end for Oberlin. Overall, the Yeomen are returning a squad that is ready to lay everything on the line this year. Rivers, who said he is physically and mentally prepared for the season, told the Review that the key to success this season will be to persevere through each game.
“[We have to] play strong through entire games and establish confidence in practice that will translate when Saturday comes around,” Rivers added.
After hitting the road for Michigan this weekend to face off against Kalamazoo, the Yeomen will make their way back to Ohio for their NCAC opener against Kenyon College at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10 in Gambier, Ohio.