On Saturday, the ETSU football team will play in front of its home crowd for the first time in three weeks to take on Warner University at Kermit Tipton Stadium.
ETSU is coming off a tough loss to No. 21 Montana State. The Bucs were defeated 63-7, which is their biggest loss this season.
“I thought throughout the entire game our players competed, played physical, never gave up and never backed down,” said coach Carl Torbush. “I don’t think the score showed what type of effort or physicality we had during the game. Down the road, this will help us be not only a better football team, but a better football program.”
Two players had standout performances for the Bucs in the game against Montana State.
Freshman linebacker Dylan Weigel (Pickerington, Ohio) finished the game with 12 tackles, six solo tackles and six assist tackles.
“It’s a disappointment; a loss is a loss,” said Weigel. “We did do some good things that we can learn from. Some guys stepped up and made plays at different positions that they haven’t been too familiar with…guys stepping up and being leaders.”
“The crowd there was loud,” Weigel added, “and that’s the first time our team has experienced an atmosphere like that, which is a good thing for us to experience.”
Freshman wide receiver Dalton Ponchillia (Nashville, Tenn.) also contributed to the team, finishing with 64 yards on four receptions.
“The loss definitely still hurts a lot,” said Ponchillia. “We do feel the score was a bigger margin than we felt we played, but we took some positives out of that. We felt confident in the way that we played offensively and defensively.”
According to the Warner University athletics website, the Royals finished 5-5 overall last season with a 3-2 mark in the inaugural year of Sun Conference football.
The team had seven student-athletes on the All-Conference First Team and Honorable Mention list, and its head coach, Rod Shafer, was honored as the league’s 2014 Coach of the Year.
The Royals defense finished in the top 50 in nine statistics, pass defense per game (11th) and opponent third down conversion (18th).
Stand outs on the Royals defense are Justin Jackson (Tampa, Fla.), defensive back Dekivious Crawford (Belle Glade, Fla.) and linebacker Loronza Smith (Haines City, Fla.). They all were named All-Conference First Team in the 2014 season.
This season, the Royals are 2-6 overall so far and are coming off a tough 14-45 loss to the University of San Diego last Saturday.
“Warner started out 2-0 but have loss the last six games,” said Torbush. “They’re a little bit like we are right now… They’ve shot themselves in the foot several times. They’re playing with a fairly young football team, obviously not as young as we are, but pretty young.”
Kickoff for Saturday’s game will be at 1 p.m.
Children 12 and under who wear their Halloween costumes to the game will receive a free ticket. ETSU students are also encouraged to dress for the event.
Former Buccaneer football players can participate in the Buc Walk and see the team warm-up. They will also be honored during a pre-kickoff letterman recognition.