There are just 18 days left until the football team takes the field to start its conference journey to the NCAA playoffs. Players and coaches have spent this past week team building, training and sweating for one common goal – to win.
Last season the team went 10-2 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division III National Championships for the sixth straight year. There are high expectations for the Cru to meet this season after ranking sixth in most NCAA Division III polls.
Nerves come with playing sports, but junior exercise sports science major Ervin Johnson is not stressed at all.
“We’re always ranked in the top 10 every year, so as a team we are going to go out and practice hard every day,” he said.
The team hopes this formula will produce another winning season.
A factor the Cru has to remember when looking ahead is that they are returning 76 players and gaining 108 newcomers. Head Coach Pete Fredenburg believes new talent is coming into the program.
“We think we have a great freshman class and hope to fill some needs, but we won’t know until practice has run its course,” he said.
With all the new recruits, the juniors and seniors are having to step up and become leaders both on and off the field.
Senior business management major Max Taylor, knows the pressures associated with playing for a highly ranked team.
“Every year the bar is raised, and we are expected to do better,” he said. “I just do what the team needs me to do and some more.”
This combination of determination, leadership and dedication could potentially allow the Cru to achieve their goal. Fredenburg is looking forward to clenching another championship title as he leads the team in its 13th season.
“We will practice like we always have, but (the players’) efforts certainly reflect their expectations,” he said.
Even with all the hype of winning another championship, Fredenburg and the players realize the importance of practicing and playing in the moment.
Johnson knows that the team has to “take it one game at a time and not overlook any teams in the schedule.”
However, he is looking forward to playing the Hardin-Simmons Cowboys as the first home game and beating Mississippi College for revenge from last year’s loss, which caused the team to be co-ASC champions.
Many of the expectations for the Cru come from renowned sources like D3football.com, but for most of the players it’s the hope of the fans and community that drives them to win.
“The fans make a huge difference at each game. The amount of support and enthusiasm that they bring motivates and encourages us to represent the Crusaders,” said senior sports management major Brenson Bristow. “The fans mean everything to us, and we truly appreciate the outstanding support we receive each Saturday.”
Taylor wants to remind the students that the football team loves to hear the Couch Cru and fans cheering them on. When the game gets tough, listening to the fans is what gets them through.
“Students should come support the team because we are ranked in the top 10 every year, and that is something that should not be taken for granted,” he said.
The Cru will begin the 2010 season with an away game against Wisconsin-La Crosse Sept. 11 and officially start conference play in Abilene Sept.18 against McMurry.