The Alma College football team (7-3 in 2016) opens the 2017 season on the road traveling to Latrobe, Pa., to take on the Saint Vincent College Bearcats in non-conference play. This is the only road game for Alma in the month of September, as the Scots will return to Bahlke Field for three straight home games.
This week's game marks the second-ever meeting between Alma and Saint Vincent in a series that began last year. Alma is 0-1 against the Bearcats.
LAST YEAR'S GAME
The Scots spotted Saint Vincent a 26-0 lead and couldn't overcome the deficit, falling to the Bearcats by a 47-24 margin in the season-opener for both teams at Bahlke Field. Dylan Zaborowksi completed 21 of his 46 passes for 247 yards with one interception as the Scots posted 418 yards of total offense, including 171 on the ground.
O CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN
Senior wide receiver Lars Murray, senior linebacker Zac Peterson and senior defensive lineman Dustin Tripp have been selected to serve as captains for the 2017 campaign. Murray is a three-time member of the MIAA Academic Honor Roll and has been a regular among Alma's wide receivers corps for the past two seasons while Tripp has been a part of the Scots' defensive line for the past three campaigns. Peterson, Alma's tackling leader for the last two years, enters 2017 after back-to-back 100-stop seasons.
STANDING IN THE HALL OF FAME ...
The Scots will make a stop during their 463-mile trip to Latrobe, Pa., to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The players and staff will spend a couple of hours touring the facility before completing the trip to the Pittsburgh area.
NOTES ON THE OFFENSE ...
- Alma's rushing game tied a school record with 28 scores on the ground, matching the mark set by the 1969 squad.
- Senior QB Dylan Zaborowski enters his fourth season as the starting signal-caller for the Scots. He ranks fourth in Alma College history in passing yards (6,093), completions (467) and total offensive yards (7,411). Zaborowski, a second-team All-MIAA honoree in 2016, is also sixth in school history with 44 passing TDs.
- With 1,318 career rushing yards, Zaborowski enters the season 182 yards away from becoming the third quarterback in Alma College history to throw for 6,000 yards and rush for 1,500 yards in a career. Josh Brehm, the Gagliardi Trophy winner in 2006 and QB for the Scots from 2003-06, and Mackenzie McGrady, who started under center from 2007-09, are the other two in the 6,000/1,500 club.
- Senior RB Caleb Reinhart returns as the leading rusher after toting the ball 75 times for 313 yards and 4 TDs in 2016. Reinhart moved into a starting role late last season when Nick Sullivan became sidelined due to injury.
- The offensive line is anchored by senior OL Ian Hickerson, who is beginning his third year as a starter as well as an All-MIAA First Team pick a year ago. Senior TE Nick Cozart was also a first-team All-MIAA selection last season.
NOTES ON THE DEFENSE ...
- Alma held opponents to a NCAA Division III-best .417 scoring percentage inside the red zone last year, allowing 25 scores (22 TDs, 3 FGs) out of 60 attempts.
- Senior LB Zac Peterson anchors the defense after leading the team in tackles in each of the previous two seasons. Peterson owns 213 career stops, including 23 tackles for loss, a mark that ranks eighth in Alma College history.
- The quartet of senior Derek Ellis, junior Hunter Hoffman, junior Joe Hernandez, and senior Dustin Tripp gives Alma most of its starting defensive line from a year ago. Tripp ranks fifth in program history with 11 sacks, including nine in 2016, and will be chasing Alma's career sacks record (22.5) this season.
NOTES ON SPECIAL TEAMS ...
- Junior PK Jacob Plisko is returning for his second season as a starter after joining the Scots last year. Plisko, who originally came to Alma College to be a part of the men's soccer program, ranked third in points (62) a year ago and made 41 of his 45 extra-point attempts to become the second kicker in program history to top 40 PATs. Plisko was also 7-for-9 on field goal attempts and averaged 53.6 yards per kickoff, fifth-best in school history.
- The Scots' football staff will be one of the 336 college football staffs wearing American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) patches on their shirts to bring awareness of and to promote the association during this weekend's game.
- Alma is 63-56-3 all-time in season-opening contests and own a 6-14 record in road season openers since 1975.
- The Scots are looking for their second straight win in road season openers, which would mark the first time since 1975 that Alma has won consecutive season-opening road games. The Scots blanked Finlandia (MI) in their last season-opening road game, defeating the Lions by a 46-0 margin in 2015 in the first-ever NCAA Division III game played in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
- Alma is carrying a 112-man roster this season that includes 20 seniors, 20 juniors, 32 sophomores and 40 freshmen.
- The Scots are in search of their first back-to-back winning seasons since posting 10 straight years of winning records from 1997-2006.
- Alma has won a MIAA championship in each decade dating back to the 1900s. The Scots' last league title was in 2004.
Alma will open the home portion of its 2017 schedule on Saturday, Sept. 9, when it hosts Manchester University (IN) at Bahlke Field. The Scots will put their perfect record in home night games (4-0) on the line against a familiar face. Manchester Head Coach Nate Jensen served as the Scots' defensive coordinator from 2012-15 before taking over the Spartans' program, while assistant coaches Scotty Cole (Alma College, 2012) and Riley Fisher (Alma College, 2015) are both products of the Scots' football program.