By Nathanael Hawthorne
With a new academic year at Youngstown State University, the upcoming football season is underway. Last season, many Penguins weren’t satisfied with their record, but they are hoping to change their luck this season.
“Last year, we went 4-7 and were projected to finish seventh in the conference,” senior tailback Joe Alessi said. “That’s not us. We want to make a statement and show that we’re way better than that.”
Making a statement seems to be the team’s MO this year.
“We’re more hungry than we were last year,” senior linebacker Cash Mitchell said. “We had a disappointing year last year, and we just want to go out this year and show everybody that last year was a down year for us, but we’re going to pick it up this year.”
The Penguins went 3-5 last season against conference teams with great success at home, winning four of their six games at the Ice Castle. This was the high-point of the season as the Penguins dropped all five games on the road.
Even with a tough season behind them, the team is optimistic, prepared and ready for what is ahead of them.
“This year, it’s all about making a statement, and [letting] everybody know that we can come out and be the best team on the field. Every game we come out [to play],” senior defensive back Devanere Crenshaw said.
This season, the players are putting an emphasis on teamwork and striving to work together to make it a success.
“We’re really excited, really positive and we have a lot of energy. I’ve been here for five years, and I think [the energy] is higher than it has been in the last couple of years,” senior wide receiver Ryan Emans said.
According to Alessi, that feeling has extended to the team culture.
“The culture has changed a lot from last year to this year,” Alessi said. “Everybody is here to work.”
With the season opener quickly approaching, the team is anxiously waiting to get on the field and prove to the Youngstown faithful that this is going to be a big year for the Penguins.
“I’m just looking to getting out there with my boys,” Crenshaw said. “That’s it. Getting it underway and making that statement we’ve been saying we’re going to make and just getting [after] it.”
Going into the first game with all eyes on them, Mitchell said he knows the team needs to come out energized.
“I just want to go out and bring energy, have fun and concentrate on the little things,” Mitchell said. “It’s not the big things. It’s the little things we need to focus on with [Samford]. They’re fast and like to throw the ball a lot, so we’re just going to have to run and hit [like] we usually do.”
The first home game is less than a month away, and the team is ready to show the fans what they’re made of.
“We’re gonna have a lot of fun on the field, so we expect the fans to come out and show love,” Crenshaw said. “We’ll show love right back by getting a ‘W.’”
When it comes to expectations of the year, fans can expect one thing in spades: effort.
“Expect a whole bunch of players. Eleven people on the field at all times who are going to go out and give the best they absolutely can,” Emans said. “We want to compete. We want to have fun and obviously, we want to win. That’s the goal every week.”
The Penguins will have their first game Aug. 24 against the Samford University Bulldogs at 3 p.m.
The team will defend the Ice Castle Sept. 7 against Howard University.