The Highlander

Football Marks Historic Season

Sierra Crane, Reporter

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The football team made history, ending regular season play 8-2.

 

The Cougars have had only one win in each of the past six seasons. This year players responded to the formidable challenge and lost only the first and last games of the season. 

 

Mark Ross, head coach, said there is much cause for celebration.  Ross credits the success to healthy players in contrast to past seasons, which were plagued by injuries.

 

Ross also said off season practice, preparation and bonding paved the way to the wins.

 

“The stronger that bond becomes, the less willing you are to accept anything less than your best because you don’t want to let the guy next to you down,” Ross said.

 

  Player Kaden Martell, freshman pre-DPT major, said players learned to concentrate on the challenge at hand: the next team they would meet on the field.

 

“We have stayed level-headed by focusing only on our next opponent,” he said. “Throughout the season, I did not even know who we played the next week, only the team we were playing that week.”

 

Mike Diakunczak said players also learned to work through difficult situations together.

 

“The biggest difference I’ve seen from this year compared to years prior is that when crap hits the fan, we can compose ourselves and find a solution,” said Diakunczak. 

 

Ross said players can stay focused and avoid allowing a bad play get into their heads. 

 

 “They have played together from start to finish of every game,” said Ross. “You don’t rally to win a game against FDU that we won without having great resolve in playing from start to finish and realizing it’s not over until the clock says zero-zero.”

 

Martell, Diakunczak and all players have worked and put in extra time behind the scenes. Martell said the team watched a lot of film and practiced with game simulated speed to prepare. Diakunczak said he has trained and practiced every day in and out of season.

 

The players’ work was led by a crew of staff. Ross said the athletic trainer, assistant coaches and players helped to push the team to a successful season. 

 

“There’s a lot of people that have had a great influence on this season that weren’t healthy last year,” Ross said.

 

Ross, who formerly coached at Ithaca College, experienced many winning seasons there, and he is celebrating with the Cougars who now feel the excitement of a winning season.

“This is my first ever winning season in football in the past 13 years, so it is nice to see my hard work over all those years finally starting to pay off,” Martell said.

 

Martell thanks his teammates for helping him along the way.

 

“With my experience the upperclassmen are very helpful to the freshman having questions,” he stated. “Michael Becke is just one example and has been very helpful to my development as a player at the collegiate level.”

 

 On Saturday November 10, the Cougars hosted Lycoming College in the MAC championship game. A win would have brought the team its first MAC championship title.

 

Ultimately, the Cougars lost 21-14 and finish second in the MAC conference.

 

“This is what I told the team, ‘Let’s do everything that we possibly can, that we can control and what we can control is how we prepare, so we give ourselves the best opportunity,’” he said. “If we do that and our opponent can come in here and beat us, then shake their hand and good for them.”

 

Cougars hosted Ursinus in the MAC-Centennial Bowl Nov. 17.

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Football Marks Historic Season