The Big Blue Look to Bounce Back

        After a tough season last year, finishing at 4-6, the Big Blue football team is expecting to make improvements on the field this upcoming season.

        Coach Dan Gritti began to make strides last season in just his first year as head coach at Millikin. He helped lead his team to two more wins than the previous season record, where they finished 2-8.

         Although Gritti and his team are beginning to improve, they are not satisfied. This season will be the true test, where they look to have the first winning season in years.

      The one disadvantage the team will have this year, is the lack of defensive varsity experience. After graduating several seniors, such as defensive lineman Travis Goveia and defensive back Mykal Neal, on the defensive side of the ball, the Big Blue are looking for younger players to step up. Millikin seniors, defensive lineman Quintaz Wright and linebacker Nikia Averitte will be key players in this young defense. As a captain, Averitte will help lead the way. Gritti is not discouraged by his inexperienced defense. He believes that the improvement seen last year will transcend into this year. After finishing dead last only a few short years ago, Gritti believes this year’s defense has the potential to reach greater heights.

        “Last year we finished in the middle of the pack, this year we should be able to finish in the top three defenses in the conference,” Gritti said. “And that’s certainly our expectation and our goal.”

          Although the Big Blue will be without some of  last year’s playmakers, they retain a few players players who are poised to help lead the young team. Junior quarterback Nicco Stepina will be at helm, leading the offense that will consist of standout sophomore receivers Jordan Smith and Gerald Perry. Perry was the leading receiver with 828 yards and 6 touchdowns last season while Smith had 438 yards and 7 touchdowns.

     The running game will be seeing changes as well. They will be without running back Kyle McMahon, but sophomore George Jimerson Jr. will look to step up this season in his absence.

         Perhaps one of the biggest changes is at kicker. This season, former Millikin soccer player, Ben Spelman, will be returning to Frank M. Lindsay Field in his final year at Millikin, except this year, he will sport shoulder pads instead of cleats. The senior has already started turning heads after drilling a field goal from the 50 yard line in practice.

         The biggest strengths this upcoming season will center around the receivers and running backs. Offensively, the Big Blue will look to score early and often.

        “Our strong points, offensively, are the depth at wide receiver and our depth at running back,” Gritti said.

         Although Gritti and his team look to have a winning season, their biggest goal is still centered around improvement as they make their way to the top of the leaderboard in the CCIW rankings.