The Concordia Cobber football team kicked off its season last Saturday against the University of Jamestown at Jake Christiansen Stadium in Moorhead. They came out ahead, defeating the Jimmies 39-14. The Cobbers are coming off of a 2012 season in which they posted an 8-2 record, finishing second in the MIAC Conference behind St. Thomas.
Head coach Terry Horan emphasized that the team was ready to see an opponent and play in a real game situation. “It was time to see someone different from ourselves,” Horan said. One of Horan’s concerns was that Jamestown had already played two games before the Cobbers even opened up their season. He said Jamestown was in “good game shape.”
The Cobbers return three starters on offense, five on defense and both the punter, Brett Harmelink, and kicker, Ben Wagner. Altogether there are 60 new faces on the team this year, 57 freshmen and three transfers. Horan believes this is one of the better recruiting classes in recent history, and said the upperclassmen have done an excellent job welcoming the freshmen into the Concordia football program.
Throughout preseason camp, the team had to overcome many challenges – especially building depth. With so many new players, there were plenty of opportunities for younger players to step into new roles, both as starters and as backups. Horan said there were still question marks regarding who would fill roles, particularly for the linebackers and offensive line.
Horan said he keeps his team focused throughout the year by constantly talking about focusing on coursework and preventing all off-field distractions. On the field, he said they “focus to improve a little bit every day.”
There are a number of returning impact players to watch throughout this year, including junior quarterback Griffin Neal, a returning all-conference performer. Ben Tamm, a senior offensive lineman, will provide experience to an offensive line that lost all five starters to graduation last year, Horan said. Brandon Zylstra, a junior transfer from Augustana, hopes to contribute to the wide receiving core. More weapons on offense include Mark Whiting, a senior wide receiver from Alexandria, Minnesota, John Baune, a sophomore wide receiver from Fargo and Luke Gotta, a senior fullback from Moorhead. Also in the backfield is senior Matt Peterson from Alexandria. Leading the defense is senior nose tackle Mark Wychor, a preseason All-American this year. Other players to watch for are defensive backs Bryce Hentges, Kenyon O’Brien and Luke Peterson.
Matt Peterson, who will be entering his final season as a Cobber described the feeling as “bittersweet.” Peterson hopes for the team to get better every week, and to reach the goal of a conference championship. Peterson said he wasn’t worried about Jamestown having already played two games because he knew the experience of veteran Cobbers would help. He also added that the two scrimmages the Cobbers played helped simulate a game atmosphere.
Luke Peterson said it feels weird being in his final season, but he’s ready to go out and win each Saturday. He also agreed with Horan, saying, “It was nice to see someone other than ourselves.”
Horan said his team is a tight group of hard workers who want nothing more than to produce on all home games in front of the Concordia fans and students. He indicated that win or lose, his team will hold their heads high and continue to play hard.
The Cobbers head to Storm Lake, Iowa this Saturday to take on the Beavers of Buena Vista University.