Seniors Win on Appreciation Day

Senior defensive end Greg Zotian walks down the center of the field with his parents.

Senior defensive end Greg Zotian walks down the center of the field with his parents.

Melanie Quintanilla, Multimedia Editor

Football players felt mixed emotions after they played Wilkes University and ended up on top with a score of 31-24 at their last home game of the season .

The university recognized 21 senior players at a pre-game ceremony. However, this was not any typical senior appreciation day: This class was the first recruited in Misericordia’s football history.

“From the beginning it was an emotional game just because it was our last one, but it was a close game right until the end, which made it even better,” said senior business major John Ameen.

Head coach Mark Ross said that his goal for the game was the same as he has for any other, but with one difference: He wanted the seniors to go out with one last win on home turf.

“Any time you commit to being a part of something bigger than yourself, and you make the sacrifices necessary to accomplish an established goal, it has great value and meaning. The seniors accepted the challenge and responsibility of starting a football program here at Misericordia,” Ross said. “We have all worked very hard to make it a program that this university, the students, staff, faculty, administration and local community can be proud of. To be able to have success on your last opportunity to play in front of the home fans that have been so supportive is very rewarding and in small part makes the sacrifice and hard work of the last four years worth it.”

Senior government law and national security major Jeffrey Puckett said seeing the seniors stick it out to the end to play and win was special. He said it was also “bittersweet” after all the hard work that the seniors dedicated to the team throughout the years.

“Stepping on the field for senior day was tough. There are so many emotions flying around, and you really have to harness them all and stay focused on the game itself and your job. The focus everyone showed and determination was a testament to how we have matured and grown as a group,” said Puckett.

Ross said that beating a local rival was a big reward.

“We have worked very hard, and we have made significant strides as a program. We have not taken advantage of some opportunities to win a few more games, but the goal is the same every week: to prepare to be the best that we can be on Saturday,” Ross said.

After the first quarter, the Cougars were in the lead with a score of 14-0.

“We were extremely confident with the lead we had. We kept our composure though and played the game drive by drive. Each drive was a clean slate, and the focus was taking care of the football and putting more points on the board. You can’t get caught up with being ahead or behind in the game, and we did a great job as a team keeping a level head,” said Puckett.

Coach Ross made some schematic adjustments and told his team to focus on play.

“We were in the position we wanted to be in, but the next thirty minutes would be the toughest thirty minutes of football they had ever played.  The last thing was that we needed to keep our composure and be willing to take one for the team if necessary,” said Ross.

Puckett said Ross deserves credit for his leadership. “All of us understand the sacrifice, hard work, and effort he has contributed to us. We wanted the win for him, and were elated to get it for him.”

Ameen said Ross has always inspired players to do more. “He has led us both through football and our college careers. If it was not for him, many of us would not have made it this far,” said Ameen.

The founding seniors are leaving with the pride and dignity of a job well done.

“Being the first group of graduating seniors was an honor, and I am sure I speak for the rest of the seniors as well. Most of us had other opportunities to possibly play at other schools, but we all chose to go to Mis to establish the program. It takes a special group of men to do that, and we fostered a brotherhood that will last a lifetime,” said Puckett.

Ameen said it is a “blessing” to be part of the team and the university. “I am very thankful for the relationships I have made with my teammates and coaches. I’m very excited for the future of this program.”

Although the football team has not won many games over the past few years, seniors feel they accomplished more than what anyone had expected.

“This program has a great capability to be very successful in the near future. Most people do not realize that we started with nothing. Wins do not just come, you need to work for them. It is all a building process and we had the pleasure of being the first building block,” Ameen said.

The football team means “a whole lot” to Puckett. “Regardless of our record over the past four years, I have gained a family that will last me a lifetime. We have all worked our tails off to get where we are now. I am very excited for the future. This team is headed in the right direction and are going to be very successful in the upcoming seasons.”

Ross – and the remaining players – expect to continue to grow on the solid foundation that the seniors built.

“They have exhibited great character, they have excelled in the classroom, and have been ambassadors for the game of football here at Misericordia.  Their impact goes far beyond just the football program.  They have impacted this university in a variety of ways including, greater exposure, facility upgrades, increase in enrollment, greater pride and school spirit,” said Ross.