Wooster Hosts Bluffton to Open 2017 Season

Patrick Johnson
Patrick Johnson

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The 119th season of intercollegiate football, and the fifth under the veteran leadership of head coach Frank Colaprete, commences this Saturday afternoon, Sept. 2, as The College of Wooster hosts Bluffton University inside the 4,500-seat John P. Papp Stadium. Saturday marks the first time in five years Wooster's had a different opening-day opponent as the Fighting Scots opened the season against Washington & Jefferson College each of the last four seasons, with the regional-power Presidents winning each contest.

On the Air: Fans can watch this week's contest online at https://portal.stretchinternet.com/wooster or catch the replay on MCTV in Wayne and Stark Counties at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday or noon and 3 p.m. on Sunday and Monday on Ch. 22 in standard definition, or Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 9 a.m., and Monday at 9 p.m. on Ch. 621 in high definition. WKVX will carry this week's contest on 960 AM and online at http://wqkt.com.

All-Time Series: Wooster and Bluffton have met once before with the Fighting Scots winning 12-0 on Sept. 26, 1931. That game marked Wooster's season-opener and the Scots went on to post back-to-back shutouts to kick-start an eventual 4-5 season.

Last Meeting: Wooster's Cliff Nelson scored touchdowns in the first and fourth quarters for the contest's only scores, while the Scots' defense held Bluffton to 42 yards from scrimmage and two first downs as Wooster opened the 1931 season with a 12-0 win. Wooster nearly added a third touchdown in the game, but the drive stalled on Bluffton's 1-yard line.

Offense Notes: Wooster's offense should be poised for a big year as the Scots return eight starters from a 2016 unit that ranked third in the North Coast Athletic Conference with 404.3 yards per game. Senior Gary Muntean (Poland, Ohio/Struthers) is back to quarterback the offense after a record-setting year that saw the signal-caller establish new program bests in total offensive yards (3,140), passing yards (2,940), total offensive plays (516), passing attempts (386), and passing completions (234). Muntean's protection features one of the most experienced offensive lines in Div. III as all five starters are back in the fold from last year. In fact, sophomore right tackle Mick Appel (Arlington, Va./Washington Lee), sophomore left guard Adam Clark (Stoneboro, Pa./Greenville), senior right guard Clayton Geib (London, Ohio/London), senior center Patrick Mohorcic (Highland Hts., Ohio/Gilmour Academy), and senior left tackle Drake Schwenke (Ladera Ranch, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic) all did not miss a start last year and have a combined 88 games of starting experience between them. Schwenke projects to be a four-year starter on the line, while Geib and Mohorcic will now be three-year starters. Junior Antonio Bailey (Duluth, Ga./Meadowcreek) projects to lineup in the backfield next to Muntean, and he's led the team in rushing each of the last two years. Muntean spread the ball around exceptionally well last year as nine Scots had at least 20 receptions and 200 yards receiving, but some of Muntean's favorite targets are no longer on the roster. Juniors Connor Allan (East Aurora, N.Y./East Aurora) and Russell Boston (Pittsburgh, Pa./Liberty (Wash.)) are the leading returnees in this area with the shifty slot duo combining for 50 receptions and 676 yards a year ago.

Defense Notes: Wooster's defensive line projects to feature plenty of athleticism on the edges. Senior Aaron Roberson (Southfield, Mich./Detroit Country Day) is the lone returning starter as the other three-fourths of the defensive line graduated. The second-team all-conference honoree finished with 50 tackles a year ago, and was one of three defensive linemen with over 10 tackles for loss. Junior Marcus Bowers (Roseville, Mich./Fraser), who spent the majority of his stellar career thus far at linebacker, has moved up to defensive end to give the Scots a veteran presence there. Sophomore K.C. Okoronkwo (Alexandria, Va./Western Alamance (N.C.)), who spent last season primarily at linebacker before moving to the defensive backfield, is now listed as a defensive end on Wooster's two-deep. Two-time all-conference honoree Patrick Johnson (Homewood, Ill./Homewood-Flossmoor) anchors a defensive backfield that also features junior Hunter Coia (Oldsmar, Fla./Canterbury) and sophomore Christian Santos (Yeadon, Pa./Penn Wood Senior) as returning starters.

Special Teams Notes: Senior Trevor Bowden (Eatonton, Ga./Gatewood Schools) enters the season tied for sixth all-time in program history with 15 made field goals. Bowden is listed on the two-deep as the Scots' No. 1 punter for the year. Bowden previously handled punting duties in the 2015 season, averaging 36.4 yards over 55 boots.

Captains: Johnson (Homewood, Ill./Homewood-Flossmoor), Jack Marousek (North Royalton, Ohio/North Royalton), Mohorcic, Muntean, and Roberson were elected by their teammates to serve as captains for the 2017 season.

This and That: Freshman Twyan Reynolds (Columbus, Ohio/Harvest Prep School) is the son of former basketball great Antwyan Reynolds, an all-region honoree as a junior and a three-time all-conference selection on the hardwood. Sophomore Nick Strausbaugh (Fredericksburg, Ohio/Waynedale), who joined the team this fall, was a standout on Wooster's baseball team in the spring, spending the majority of the season as the starting left fielder. Strausbaugh hit .358 (38-for-106), scored 37 runs, and stole 10 bases. Wooster has two new coaches on the staff this year - KevinJo Atkins (defensive line) and Brian Kooser (offensive line).