When the Marietta College football team takes the field at Don Drumm Stadium Saturday, it will be the first time since 2007 that the team has not opened its schedule against Thiel.
The Pioneers were 4-0 against the Tomcats from 2008-11, but the two teams will not square off in 2012. This year, the Pioneers are opening up against Case Western Reserve of the University Athletic Association/North Coast Athletic Conference. Last year, the Greg Debeljak-coached Spartans were 9-1, including a season opening win over John Carroll, who Marietta has never defeated.
The Pioneer players expect a big challenge in week one.
Times file photo
Marietta College’s Louis DiPaolo (10) tackles a John Carroll University player during OAC football action at Don Drumm Stadium last season. MC is scheduled to kick off its season against visiting Case Western Reserve Saturday night.
"We've watched hours of film, and they're definitely different than Thiel," said senior linebacker Kadeem Corbin. "A lot higher competition, and they're a very disciplined team."
Offensively, the Pioneers will have a new quarterback in Tom Fulton. Fulton will have a number of returning weapons at his disposal, including preseason All-Ohio receiver in Kirby Harris. Receivers Tannon Roberts and Sean Munfield will likely see plenty of touches, as well as running back Tevin Dones.
On the other side of the ball, Corbin is a preseason All-Ohio pick and figures to be among the leaders on defense, along with defensive ends Gaston Hayes, David Olach, linebacker Franklin Holmes, and defensive back Robert Brown.
"Defensively, I feel like we're sharpening up," Corbin said. "We do a lot of mental training. We come to practice and do a lot of reps, and play recognition and stuff like that. I feel like our defense will be pretty good. Also we have a new defensive coordinator, so this is a new style of defense. We're excited."
At linebacker, Corbin's job will be very important, especially since Case Western loves to attack with the ground game.
"They're definitely a running team," Corbin said. "They can throw the ball, but they're run heavy. We have to stop the run to have any chance to beat them."
Returning from the 2011 Case Western team that won the UAA championship are running backs Kenny Riordan and Manny Sicre. The duo accounted for over 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns last season. The Spartans also return starting quarterback Erik Olson, who threw for 1,571 yards and 11 touchdowns last fall.
The strength of the Spartan defense will be in the secondary, as they return three of four starters in Dan Calabrese, Cary Dieter, and Jordan Banky. All three were All-UAA selections last season.
Marietta head coach Jeff Filkovski is entering his fifth season with Pioneers, and believes this year could be a good one for the Blue and White.
"We always want to win the OAC championship," Filkovski said. "Anything less than that is disheartening. We're gonna shoot for the stars."
Corbin noted that a week one victory would do wonders for the team's confidence as it enters OAC play.
"It would be humungous, not just for this season, but also because of the tough luck we've had in past seasons," Corbin said. "A win this Saturday would be huge. It would just give us so much momentum going into the season."