By: Dan Durkin – Staff Writer
The Dayton Flyers will begin their 107th football season Saturday, hitting the road to take on the Robert Morris Colonials in Corapolis, Pennsylvania, at noon.
The new season also brings a new starting quarterback for the Flyers, redshirt sophomore Blake Bir, filling the void left by former starter and graduate Will Bardo.
“It’s exciting. It’s something I’ve really worked and prepared for the last 2.5 years,” Bir said. “It’s a really exciting opportunity, and you only get one chance at this—and I’m ready to make the most of it.”
To help ease the transition, there will be a pretty familiar face out there for the Flyers: senior running back Connor Kacsor, fresh off a 1,547-yard season. “Connor is a great player,” Bir said. “It really helps making your first start and looking back and seeing No. 23 in the backfield. He is an absolute game changer.”
Head coach Rick Chamberlin talked about the quarterback situation during media availability Wednesday at Welcome Stadium: “I would expect our new quarterback, Blake Bir, to pick up where Will Bardo left off.”
Chamberlin said he doesn’t need Bir to do too much but to trust the offensive system and the playmakers around him.
Chamberlin also spoke about playing the opening game on the road.
“As a head coach, you always want to sleep in your own bed the night before your first game,” he said. But Chamberlin also saw the positives. He said it’s a chance to get the players away from the distractions surrounding them at school, plus it can be a good bonding trip for his team.
With all the talk of the offense and the new starting quarterback, the Flyers also bring back a veteran-led defense that is looking to mimic the success they had last year against Robert Morris, when they only gave up seven points in a 31-7 victory over the Colonials at Welcome Stadium.
“We have a lot of faith in our offense, but if our defense can create turnovers and hold their offense to minimum yardage, then that’s obviously going to help the team as well,” Sudnick said.
The Flyers are taking on a Robert Morris team that struggled last year, finishing 1-10 for the season. The Colonials, led by second-year head coach John Banaszak, are expecting to start a true first-year at quarterback, a local product from Troy, Ohio, Matthew Barr, who was on the Dayton coaching staff’s radar coming out of high school. Joining Barr in the backfield will be returning sophomore running back Rameses Owens, who rushed for 562 yards last season.
Defensively, they return two redshirt senior linebackers in Jake Tkach and Mike Stojkovic, who had 84 and 82 tackles last year, respectively.
The Flyers will take on the Colonials this weekend then return to Welcome Stadium to play Duquesne on Saturday, Sept. 19 at 1 p.m.