STORY BY AUSTIN CANNON
The Drake Football team watched some video of the William Jewell College Cardinals during fall camp, but that might not matter much since the Jewell coaching staff underwent a facelift this offseason.
Longtime assistant Shawn Weigel took over as head coach for Jerod Kruse, who resigned earlier this year. Jewell alum Trent Figg became the new defensive coordinator, coming in from Southern Arkansas.
On Saturday, Drake head coach Rick Fox said his team didn’t know much about the team they will face Saturday night at Drake Stadium.
“They’ve got a new coaching staff,” linebacker John Hugunin said. “We’re not exactly sure what they’re going to do, but we’re expecting a tough game, so we’ve got to be ready to play our best.”
It’s the opening game of the season, and video from past years could be out-of-date with the new coach perhaps changing his team’s style. Even with the uncertainty, Drake will still be utilizing the film room to look for trends and tactics to strategize against in Saturday’s game.
“They run kind of a spread offense, spread the ball, throw it around a little bit,” Hugunin said.
“It’s kind of cliché, but those guys keep running down the play until the end,” lineman John McMahon said. “They play hard, so it’ll be a tough game.”
Jewell will begin its fourth year as a Division II program in 2015. They are a member of the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) and were picked to finish seventh in the conference’s preseason poll.
Drake played GLVC member Truman State last season on Sept. 6, winning 13-7 on a Conley Wilkins touchdown run in overtime. The Cardinals also defeated Truman State in 2014, en route to a second place finish in the conference in a season in which they were picked to come in last.
“We expect them to be a very, very good team,” McMahon said.
It’s only the first of 11 Drake football games this season, but the season opener has not been kind to the Bulldogs over the past two seasons. They lost to cross-town Grand View both years, including a 45-22 blowout to begin 2014 in which the Bulldogs fell behind 28-0 in the first quarter.
The Cardinals won their first game in 2014, but lost their season openers in 2012 and 2013.
Hugunin Feeling Good
Hugunin, a fifth-year senior and team captain for two years in a row, was Drake’s leading tackler in 2013. If not for a knee injury last year, he likely would have kept that distinction.
Although he missed mid-season games against Jacksonville and Valparaiso, Hugunin still finished second on the team in tackles with 89 and earned
All-Pioneer Football League second team honors in 2014.
The injury looks like it may not affect him too harshly this season. Going into Week 1, Hugunin said he feels like his younger self.
“I haven’t felt this good since my freshman year of camp,” the fifth-year senior said. “Not bad for an old guy.”
Drake starts out ranked third in the PFL preseason Coaches Poll with one first-place vote behind the University of San Diego and Dayton University.
Hugunin, cornerback Brad Duwe and lineman Aaron Melton were voted onto the preseason All-PFL team. All three were 2014 second-team All-PFL.
Duwe and McMahon will serve as the 2015 team captains alongside Hugunin.