This Saturday, the Johnnies (5-4, 3-4 MIAC) travel to Bethel to take on the Royals (7-2, 5-2 MIAC) at 1 p.m. With a playoff berth out of sight for the Johnnies, the team looks to finish the season strong with a victory over the Royals.
“This is a very important game for us,” offensive coordinator Jim Gagliardi said. “A big win on Saturday would set the tone for the entire offseason and would be a great way to send off our excellent group of seniors.”
A win for the Johnnies on Saturday would eliminate the Royals from a shot at the NCAA Division III playoffs, and the team is looking to play the spoiler once again this season after knocking St. Olaf out of playoff contention in the final game of the 2011 campaign.
“We definitely plan on playing the spoiler,” senior defensive back Bobby Fischer said. “We have been playing with a chip on our shoulder for the last few games because we know we’re a better team than our record suggests. The defense has really meshed over the last few weeks so we just need to play our game, keep going strong and come out with a victory.”
“I think we’re going to crush them,” senior defensive back Alex Powell said. “It’s always better to go out on a win, and we want to go out there and prove that we’re the better team.”
With this being the final game for seniors, the Johnnies want to end the season on high note. After failing to fully live up to preseason expectations, the team has come on strong over the last three weeks with dominant victories over Carleton, Gustavus and Hamline. Seniors on the team have stressed the importance of this game as a way to validate the season as well as their legacy.
“We want to finish the season strong for John (Gagliardi) and for each other,” senior linebacker John Gans said. “It’s been a rough couple of seasons for us as a team so we want to leave everything on the field on Saturday and come out with a W.”
Although players and coaches are trying to prepare for this game like any other, it’s hard to ignore the fact that this is the last time this team will take the field together.
“It really hasn’t set in for me yet,” Fischer said. “It probably won’t until the final whistle on Saturday. This week we’ve just been preparing for Bethel like it’s any other game.”
“It’s not really something you necessarily think about during the week and during practice,” Gans said. “It’s something that doesn’t set in until after the game when you realize that this was the last time you get to play football. There’s still a game to be played so you really can’t get emotional. I’ve just been trying to enjoy the little things more this week and appreciate all the great guys that are part of this team.”
“We’re going to approach it like any other game but it’s tough,” Gagliardi said. “Every season you go through it. It’s almost like sending your kids off into the real world and it’s hard because we have such a great and unique group of seniors. Guys like Scott Ramey, Taylor Freetly and John Ries, guys like that don’t come around often. We’ll never have any other guys that are quite like Steve Johnson, Harry Awe or Wade Powers. So it’s tough but it’s part of the game and they’re all tremendous kids and will go on to be great, successful men.”