It’s ‘game week’ for the Springfield College Pride, and in just a few days they’ll travel a few miles down the road to take on Western New England for the first time in program history.
Earlier today, we caught up with Coach Mike DeLong to preview the team’s matchup, as well as talk about what he saw during the Pride’s training camp.
On kicking off the season this weekend: “We’ve had a film exchange with Western New England, so we’ve had a chance to look at what they did last year, but obviously things change from year-to-year, so you’re always preparing for what you think is going to happen and hopefully you can be sound against what might have changed. We’re hoping that our offense matures early in this first game. Again, we do have some new faces, but a lot of returners and some guys with a lot of game experience, but the starters are going to have to step up.
“We expect Jonathan Marrero to get into a good game flow, our quarterback, hopefully we can establish a little more with our fullbacks and go from there on offense. Defensively what we hope is our team’s speed is really able to be used from the beginning of the game until the end, so those are just a few things, but we need to come out with great pursuit for the ball and offensively we still have to come out and sort out what they’re doing and establish a run.”
On Jonathan Marrero’s progress: “At this point he’s (our starter). As we get ready to load this thing up we fully anticipate him starting and like everybody he’s a little bit sore right now, but we’re bringing him back. We had a very good preseason, but it’s been grueling, the weather the past few days – the air has been heavy, but the guys will be ready to go on Saturday. Jon is certainly more mature, he has a better feel for the big picture of the game and athletically he’s had a year in the weigh room, he’s explosive, he’s a very sound leader and the team will look to him to set a pace.”
On Max Nacewicz’s leadership and experience: “Max is a tremendous athlete, both strength wise and speed wise, and he’s in tremendous shape, but what he’s done to help this team is he gets other people around him better. He’s a solid kid, he just loves to play football, but we expect to a very strong and consistent performance each week.”
On preparing the defense for WNE’s offense: “Well, they have a very experience quarterback over there and I believe he’s a senior and he’s been around, so whenever there is a senior leadership (on the opposite side) and a kid with a lot of experience in that position, you’ve got to try and get him out of rhythm. You have to be able to provide pressure and I am sure that Western New England’s skill group this year is very, very good and has a lot of experience, but I think the key thing for our guys is to disrupt (our opponent’s) offensive rhythm with a strong pass rush. We’re also still hoping that speed will be what we do best on defense, too.”
On facing WNE for the first time: “It used to be the Springfield-AIC game and that was certainly a highlight battle, but now AIC is gone a different direction with a strong Division II program and we’re Division III, so this will be a certainly a high interest game in Springfield. It’s our first time playing them, I know (other teams) play them in other sports and it’s very competitive, so I am sure both teams are looking forward to establishing this as a traditional game. We’re looking forward to playing Western New England and I am sure they’re looking forward to playing us.”
On keys to a successful season: “Well, I think the fact that we were pretty young last year and we’ve got a lot of those guys back and they’ve had a strong offseason and they’re a little bit stronger and the team has developed a real solid work ethic, so I think that’s going to be a positive factor for us. These kids have all gotten a little bit stronger and a little bit faster, but with the experience we’ve gained last year we do have high expectations of the kids that are returning and we expect them to perform at a higher level like we did last year.”
On the remaining other non-league foes: “We expect Husson to be an improved team and Mount Ida had us right on the ropes last year, so we expect to go down there and have a battle with Mount Ida. What we hope to gain from these games is to the opportunity to build up to speed and (prepare ourselves) for the Liberty League, which is a strong conference. Rochester has an outstanding quarterback returning, they’re always tough on defense, but we hope to grow in these games. Again, early season games help develop confidence, so we hope to establish it and do a good job in these early season games, so we can get some confidence as we get ready to go into the league.”