Football wins season opener

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(Left to right) Jake Willemsen (junior), Seth Holston (sophomore), Ben Rosen (sophomore), Gabriel Ramos (Sophomore) practice with their coach at the Patterson Field at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. Bobby Yu/The Occidental

The Occidental football team opened their 2019 season with a 38–7 win against Centro de Enseñanza Técnica y Superior (CETYS) University of Mexicali, Mexico Sept. 7 at Jack Kemp Stadium.

Quarterback Joshua Greaves (senior) is one of two senior captains leading the team this season. For Greaves and the rest of the senior class, Saturday’s win was their first home win since their first year. After the 2017-2018 season was canceled due to injuries and health concerns that limited the number of eligible players, the team has worked to rebuild the program.

“[The win] definitely meant a lot to us,” Greaves said. “With football you put in a lot of time and work, and it’s really hard to get a win in college, so for us to do that at home was amazing for our program. It shows how far we’ve come and how special this group of guys are [for] trusting in the process.”

According to Oxy Athletics, 20 first years joined the team this season. Wide receiver Jack De Avila (sophomore) said these new players added depth to the team that was lacking in past seasons, especially now that there are more back-ups on the field during games. Associate head coach and defensive coordinator Ricky Lang was excited to get the new players on the field.

“We’re happy with some of the talent in the class, particularly some skilled positions and a couple big guys up front who are already playing for us,” Lang said. “[The first practice] was exciting, but you could feel the nervousness from the first years, the excitement from the returners and the attention to detail from the coaching staff.”

For Sam Meinhard (sophomore) and De Avila, the CETYS win was their class’ first home win during their Occidental football career. Feeling prepared after following Coach Lang’s training regimen over the summer, both Meinhard and De Avila said they were excited to start their game season.

“The morale after the game was the best attitude I’ve ever seen the team have,” De Avila said. “It was just a great atmosphere.”

Two weeks before students returned to campus in August, the football team was back in Eagle Rock to attend training camp and get prepared for the season, according to Meinhard. Greaves said that the start of their season was a much easier transition from last year because of the experience of the returning players.

“The first thing I noticed was that these guys could play right away,” Meinhard said. “Having them in camp just added more competition because there were more people competing for the same spots and it just increased everyone’s level of play.”

Over the summer, both the returning players and coaches stayed in touch with the incoming players, making sure that they were ready to hit the ground running when they got to Occidental.

“It adds a lot of depth to the team that we haven’t really had in years past,” De Avila said. “Last year, all the guys during the games were dying because we didn’t have any rest and now we have guys that we trust will go in and execute.”

According to Lang, the expectations for the team from supporters of the program, especially the Occidental football alumni community, is much higher this year than in years past. Having brought in a strong first-year class, Lang is confident in the positive trajectory of Occidental football.

The Tigers have multiple games scheduled including some tough competition against Chapman University and University of Redlands, according to Greaves. The team is staying focused on tightening up and honing in on their skills and specialties to perform the best they can, according to Meinhard.

“I’m confident,” Meinhard said. “I don’t think there are any games in the conference that are head-and-shoulders above us, some teams just have more experience than us, but I don’t think there’s any games that we shouldn’t be competitive in.”

With an exhibition win and several weeks of training completed, Occidental is ready for the season and will face Willamette University in Oregon Sept. 21. Greaves said that the team is excited for the rest of their games and hopes to see Occidental fans filling up Jack Kemp Stadium at their next home game against California Lutheran University at 1 p.m Oct. 5.

“This is the closest team I’ve ever been a part of at Oxy,” Greaves said. “There’s true love, appreciation and respect for each other.”