The College of Wooster football season kicks off this Saturday from the 4,500-seat John P. Papp Stadium at 1 p.m. when the Fighting Scots take on Bluffton University. This is the third straight season the Scots and Beavers will meet in the season-opener. Wooster's in search of winning its season-opener for a third straight year, which would mark the program's best stretch since taking five straight openers from 2002-06.
On the Air: MCTV will carry this week's contest online at https://portal.stretchinternet.com/wooster. MCTV customers living in Wayne and Stark Counties can catch the replay with first airings scheduled for Ch. 22 (SD) at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and Ch. 621 (HD) at 8 p.m. on Saturday. Fans are encouraged to check local listings for additional replay times. WKVX 960 AM will carry this week's contest live and online at https://wqkt.com.
All-Time Series: Wooster's won all three previous meetings against Bluffton. The two teams first met in 1931, a game won by Wooster 12-0, and then didn't meet until 2017. Wooster's 45-21 win in 2017 marked the Scots' first season-opening win since 2008, and the Black and Gold followed that up with a 44-34 win last year.
Last Meeting: Wooster made waves with four takeaways, and the Scots' offense capitalized on numerous short-field opportunities while building the lead, prior to the Black & Gold warding off a late surge by host Bluffton on Sept. 1, 2018.
Wooster's defense set the tone early and had Bluffton reeling for most of the first quarter. Three of the Beavers' first four offensive series ended with negative yardage, and Bluffton's lone drive that didn't resulted in four yards and a three-and-out.
Senior Robert Alvarez (Fort Washington, Md./Riverdale Baptist School) scooped up the pigskin on Bluffton's second first-quarter fumble, and found pay dirt after a 33-yard runback in what marked Wooster's first touchdown on a fumble return coming on an opponent's rushing play since Jeff Geffert had one at Case Western Reserve University during the 2007 season.
Alumnus Antonio Bailey toted the ball 21 times for 124 yards and two scores, while junior Caden Croft (Coshocton, Ohio/Riverview) completed 23-of-33 passes for 202 yards and two scores in his first collegiate start.
Offense Notes: Wooster projects to have six returning offensive starters take the field on Saturday, including a pair of four-year starters on the offensive line, a rarity in college football. Mick Appel (Arlington, Va./Washington-Lee) projects to slide over to left tackle after spending three seasons as the starter at right tackle, while Adam Clark (Stoneboro, Pa./Greenville) is expected to stay at left guard. Junior Eli Lohrey (Hamilton, Ohio/Edgewood), one of two returning all-conference offensive linemen, is the likely candidate to start at center on Saturday after spending last year at left tackle. Rising sophomore Mateo Renteria (Houston, Texas/Cypress Creek) is back as the Scots' signal-caller, as are his two favorite targets - the always electrifying Nick Strausbaugh (Fredericksburg, Ohio/Waynedale) and sure-handed tight end Jacob Lewis (Silver Creek, N.Y./Silver Creek Central). Renteria's 2,130 passing yards in 2018 were the fourth-most among rookie quarterbacks in NCAA Div. III. Cam Pollard (Cleveland, Ohio/John Hay), a returning starter, is expected to line up at a new position this year. After spending two years starting in the Scots' secondary, Pollard is now a slot receiver.
Defense Notes: Senior D'Andre Brown (Atlanta, Ga./Benjamin E. Mays) headlines the five projected returning starters on defense as a D3football.com All-North Region honoree. Wooster's four other returning starters on defense include all-conference honorees junior Beau Greenwood (Pittsburgh, Pa./Mount Lebanon), who projects to more to corner, junior Mark Herron (Youngstown, Ohio/Chaney), and senior Christian Santos (Yeadon, Pa./Penn Wood Senior). Alvarez enters the year as the Scots' most experienced defensive end, and he started seven games a season ago.
Special Teams Notes: Pollard earned all-conference honors as a return specialist, and is expected to continue to be one of the leaders on special teams, while sophomore Henry Whyte (North Huntington, Pa./Norwin) is the Scots' lone returning kicker. Head coach Frank Colaprete has utilized the quick kick on numerous occasions over the last few seasons on fourth down, but with freshman Matt Pardi's (Arlington, Va./Washington-Lee) strong leg, the Scots could have some stability at punter at the onset of the 2019 season.
This and That: Saturday marks the kickoff for the 121st season of Wooster football. Sophomore Cole Hissong (Shreve, Ohio/Triway) will be wearing No. 12 on Saturday as a tribute to the late Sean Carmichael, the beloved athletic director and coach at nearby Triway High School. Hissong played four years of baseball under Carmichael at Triway, and wants "to honor a man that I cared for deeply and loved like a father." Sophomore Julian Ballesteros (Winchester, Calif./Chaparral) will be in No. 83 for Saturday's game.