By: Dan Durkin – Staff Writer
The Dayton football team will play its final regular season home game this Saturday against the Marist Red Foxes. The Flyers come into this game undefeated at 9-0 and will look to clinch a piece of the Pioneer Football League title this Saturday and continue their undefeated season.
Saturday is senior day, when the Flyers will honor 33 seniors on the team.
Some of those seniors have led the Flyers’ defense all year: senior safety Danny Leach and senior linebacker Christopher Beaschler.
“It’s special—it’s what we come into camp day one shooting for,” Leach said. “This is our goal and just to be able to play for that [league championship] right now, in week 10, is what we have been working for, and we can’t wait.”
Though, Leach knows it won’t be an easy task against a 5-4 Marist team.
“They are a very solid team. Their record doesn’t reflect how good they actually are. They got off to a little bit of a rough start, but they are playing good football lately and they are going to come out and give us their best shot,” Leach said, adding, “With the way we’ve practiced and prepared, we’ll be fine.”
Leach’s defensive comrade Beaschler also understands what’s at stake this Saturday: a chance to go to the playoffs for the program’s first time in a long time.
“It’s really special for this senior class. We’ve never had nine wins in a season, let alone 10,” Beaschler said. “We are just approaching each week the same way and same mentality, which is to win that game.”
Even though the stakes are higher than they’ve been in quite a while, Beaschler hasn’t noticed a significant difference in the team’s attitude.
“Every week, we want to come out and win the game,” Beaschler said. “This week, though, has a little more oomph to it, I guess, and a little more excitement.”
The offense has been coming along all season, relying on a young quarterback, along with some young emerging running backs, who have stepped up since the injury that sidelined senior running back Connor Kascor for the rest of the season.
One of the elder statesmen on the offensive side of the ball this year has been senior wide receiver Cory Stuart, who has caught 39 passes this year for 635 yards and six touchdowns. Stuart is one of the seniors who will be playing his final regular season home game this Saturday.
“It’s something you always dream of doing, especially at the collegiate level,” Stuart said. “And to be able to do it at home is special, especially on senior day for these senior who have worked especially hard for four years to get to this point.”
All season, Dayton head coach Rick Chamberlin’s mindset has been taking one game at a time, and Chamberlin understands the significance of this one.
“It’s a very special week for us because our goal back in January is to work hard and prepare to win a conference championship, and we have that opportunity this week against Marist,” he said. “And it’s not going to be easy and seems like we’ve been playing for this game since Stetson [week four]. Every week has been a playoff game for us, and here we are here ready to win a championship.”
Every week has been a playoff game for us, and here we are here ready to win a championship.
Chamberlin feels like his team is peaking at the right time.
“I really feel like we’ve been growing throughout the season, especially on offense.You have a redshirt freshman at quarterback [Alex Jeske]. It’s a learning process for him and now we have a new group of running backs, so it has been a growth for us especially on offense.”
Chamberlin knows Marist will be a tough game.
“I would expect Marist to come in ready and prepared to try and beat the Flyers,” Chamberlin said. “And they are on a roll, too: They’ve won four games in a row. They made a quarterback change after their second or third game and he’s 5-2 as a starter, so I know they will be fired up for this game—and they are very talented on both sides of the ball.”
With it being senior day this Saturday, Chamberlin also knows emotions could potentially run high.
“What you try to do is make sure you keep your focus on the game,” Chamberlin said. “Sure you’re going to be talking about your seniors and the conference championship, but it all boils down to the game. And that’s what we got to do. Focus on that, and do what we need to do to beat Marist.”
The game is 1 p.m. Saturday at Welcome Stadium. Everybody who goes to Friday’s basketball game will get in free Saturday with their basketball ticket. As always, UD students get in free with their student I.D.