As football season for the Buccaneers begins on Sept. 2, there has not been this much buzz surrounding the program in years. ETSU opens its season against Limestone at 7 p.m. that Saturday to open the new on-campus stadium. In prior seasons, ETSU’s home games have been held at Kermit Tipton Stadium at Science Hill High School. The new stadium on campus broke ground Nov. 16, 2015, and now two years later, people from all over the Tri-Cities will be coming to see the game, a first in several decades. The stadium is large enough to hold 10,000-plus people, whether they’re students, fan or alumni.

For the team, the Bucs are returning a total of 22 starters — ten offense, nine defense and three specialists. The Bucs now hold an advantage that they never have in years past and that is experience. A roster loaded with juniors and seniors were before heavily filled with freshman and sophomores.

The Bucs look promising in becoming one of the conference’s premier defenses this year after finishing 5th in the conference last year in total defense, allowing 380.7 yards per game and holding their opponents to only converting points on 71.6 percent of their attempts, which ranked second in the conference. On offense, they return several key pieces, including starting quarterback Austin Herink, wide receiver Drake Powell and running back Jajuan Stinson, along with a veteran offensive line as they look to put several points on the board this season.

As a starting team two years ago, the Bucs won only two games. Though learning and improving, the Bucs won five games last year, a step up for the team. Optimism is high for this year since taking huge victories against two ranked teams last year. The Bucs took a win against both Kennesaw State and Samford in their 2016 season, a great feat for only a 2-year-old program. The team looks to continue to rise in the Southern Conference, and with a new stadium to help make boost the Buc pride, the team is sure to pull in more wins. Let the games begin.