When any team in Division III Football face off against Mount Union, they know the task at hand is daunting. But, the goal after that game is to get better, and from what Head Coach Jim Hilvert has seen, the Yellow Jackets got better after being stung by the Purple Raiders.
“You can’t have a hang up from that game,” Hilvert said. “You have to learn from it, and you can’t let them beat you twice. We have to focus on our big game against Heidelberg. Our league is very competitive, so you have to take it week to week or you’ll beat yourself.”
The team began the season with three straight games on the road, opening the season at Alma College in Michigan before traveling to Otterbein University and Mount Union. After handling Alma and Otterbein by a combined score of 76-42, the Purple Raiders handed BW their first loss of the young season. But for Hilvert, it’s all about how his team bounces back.
“You can’t take anybody in our league lightly, first of all. Heidelberg is 3-0, scoring like 40 points a game and only allowing single digits,” Hilvert said. “So I’ve told the guys, it’s one game at a time. You have to go 1-0 every day and then 1-0 every week. Obviously you have to take it one game at a time or your get yourselves beat.”
Leading the team so far is senior quarterback AJ Miller, who is starting for the first time in his career. After his first three starts, he is averaging 240 yards per game, with four touchdowns. And even though he wasn’t recruited by Hilvert, he says that Miller is exactly what the team is looking for from their seniors.
“AJ and his senior class have bought into the program we’re trying to build here and that’s why they’re still on the team,” Hilvert said. “I’ve seen a bunch of great kids buy into this never quit mentality and that’s why we are where we are today. It starts with those guys in the locker room.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the seniors are also leading the charge. Linebacker Josh Liberati leads the team with 24 tackles, two for a loss, and a forced fumble. Behind him is another senior, defensive back Jordyn Johnson has 18 tackles and leads the team with four pass breakups. In addition, senior defensive lineman Jake Schrock leads the team with three sacks and five tackles for a loss and a forced fumble.
“I have a lot of faith in those guys,” Hilvert said. “They’re showing our younger guys the way and I know they’re excited to go out on a positive note in their senior year and playing well and leaving their mark and their legacy on BW Football”
But it isn’t just the seniors showing up on the stat line.
Sophomore defensive backs Dominick Bowman and Anthony Kendall lead the team with two interceptions each, and junior defensive lineman Taino Arocho has 2.5 sacks in three games.
Bowman was also named the OAC Defensive Player of the Week after collecting his two interceptions against Otterbein and returning one for a touchdown.
The Jackets play their first home game of the season on September 28th when they take on Heidelberg University at Tressel Field. Then they play host to Capital University. BW beat both teams by at least 27 points last season, but Hilvert knows you can’t take that for granted especially when Heidelberg sits atop the OAC standings.
But Hilvert said something stood out for him coming off the loss against Mount Union, leading into their game against the Student Princes. Late in the fourth quarter the Yellow Jackets scored their first touchdown. It had no real impact on the game but it showed the heart that the offense had, and that’s what Hilvert said the team could build on.
“The Mount Union game was big for us. We have to put together and execute four quarters of football. And that has to be good football,” he said. “If we can start putting that all together and keep improving as a football team I like where we will be at the end of the year.”
Story Notes – BW hasn’t beat Mount Union since 1994, 0-24 since then