After recording a 9-2 record last season, the Stevenson University football team believes they are prepared for any team they’ll face this season.
Recently the Mustangs were ranked No. 24 in the nation in the d3football.com’s week 2 top 25 poll, ranking the top programs in NCAA Division III football. Their recent ranking at No. 24 marks the first time in program history that the Mustangs are ranked.
The players are working hard and finding a balance between academics and the sport. A lot of new competition within the team is forcing players to perform to the best of their ability.
The team has developed an “us against the world mentality”, according to assistant coach Todd Nelson, as the team sets out to defeat each team they face one at a time. Nelson began working with the team last season and has plans of building depth within the defensive line as the team adjusts to his style of coaching. He can focus on the younger players because the older players know how to run practice.
Among some of the bigger goals this season, according to assistant coach Ryan Larsen, are “to win this league, win the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC), and compete in the NCAA playoffs for the first time in school history. That’s a big goal of ours as a team.”
In the season opener against North Carolina Wesleyan College on Sept. 2, the Mustangs had a program-record six-interceptions as they blazed to a 42-28 victory. Senior defensive back Billy Lewis had three-interceptions, including a pick-six, senior linebacker Cory Pietrzyk had two-interceptions, and senior defensive back Austin Tennessee had one.
Junior quarterback Dan Williams, back from last-year’s ACL injury, passed for 235 yards and three touchdowns, hitting junior receiver Devin Salisbury for 78 yards on six passes. Salisbury also earned MAC Special Teams Player of the Week for week one, averaging 31.3 yards on three kick returns.
Stevenson’s winning form continued as the Mustangs were on the road Sept. 9 against MAC defending champions Albright College. The Mustangs outlasted the Lions in a 31-26 victory on a game that was marked by Stevenson’s four-takeaways as Williams was 12-24 passing for 173 yards and two-touchdowns.
Though the Mustangs were bested by Albright in passing and rushing yards, Stevenson took advantage of the Lions’ penalties, mistakes and missed field goal attempts for the win. Tennessee was named the MAC Defensive Player of the Week for week two after the win, where he recorded 11 tackles including a sack.
The coaches believe that consistency of practices and a strict workout/practice schedule helps mold the team members into more responsible adults. One of the biggest changes from last season to this is a lot more maturity and age. According to Larsen, this helps the team’s leadership immensely.
No team is taken lightly in the conference, because one loss could mean that the Mustangs could slip out of competition. However, according to Nelson, one of the team’s biggest opponents is Delaware Valley University, who visit Mustang Stadium on Oct. 22 on Homecoming weekend.
The Mustangs next face MAC opponent Lebanon Valley College at Mustang Stadium on Sept. 17 at 1 p.m.