The St. John’s University Football season came to a close last Saturday with a 7-28 defeat at the hands of the undefeated Bethel Royals.
Had SJU won the game, they would have had a chance at grabbing one of the last at-large bids for the Division III national tournament. Instead their current playoff drought was extended to four years. Not all is lost though, as the Johnnies showed improved poise and resiliency throughout the season and had an improved defensive unit which will be needed to get back to the playoffs.
After Saturday’s game the Johnnies finished the year with a 7-3 record, which is the most wins the team has posted since the 2010-11 season. The team won five games by a touchdown or less, which showed the perseverance of the team and the leadership of head coach Gary Fasching.
Following the hiring of Gary Fasching, the school was anxious to see how the new look Johnnies were going to fare on the field. The progress made throughout each week was evident not only by the fans, but by the players as well.
“Everyone reacted well and everyone was committed, not saying everyone wasn’t committed under John in the past, but Gary kept players accountable for their actions on the field, and he also brought a more physical presence on the field,” said senior wide receiver Blake Belland.
Even though the Johnnies didn’t make it to the playoffs, the weekly progress and improved play was something that Fasching himself was very pleased to see.
“In some areas we got better, especially defensively. In some areas we probably stayed the same. In all, we won seven games so that in itself says something,” Fasching said. “Players adjusted well to the practice structure, which was the biggest change to the sesason. The seniors bought into it which led to the younger players buying into the system as well.”
The look towards next season has already started. Players have started hitting the weight room training for spring practice, which will lead to summer and fall practices. Although the team did not make the playoffs, they must build on what they did well this year.
“This year we played as a team, we played for one another. We all wanted to see the coaches succeed in their first year, and we also worked really hard in the off-season to prepare for this year,” said senior tight end Matt Dockendorf. “The team needs to recognize what talent they have, but that talent will only take them so far. The success depends on the effort they put in over the next nine months.”