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Case Western Reserve University's independent student news source

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Football kicks off the new season

The+CWRU+football+team+returns+to+the+field+on+Sept.+2+to+play+Thiel+College+in+Greenville%2C+PA.
Courtesy of CWRU Athletics
The CWRU football team returns to the field on Sept. 2 to play Thiel College in Greenville, PA.

After almost a year in the offseason, the Case Western Reserve University football team will return to the field for the 2023 season this Saturday, Sept. 2 against Thiel College on the road.

The Spartans ended the 2022 season with a 6-4 record, the seventh-consecutive winning season, while also placing fourth in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC).

Head Coach Greg Debeljak enters his 20th season, holding a career record of 131-55.

“I think the losses hurt at the time, but if you look at the overall big picture, it was helpful for the growth of this group and it puts them in a good position for this year,” said Debeljak in an interview with the CWRU Athletics Department.

Sporting a preseason squad of 112 players, the team has 79 returners, 27 of which are graduate students and fourth-years, 20 are third-years, 32 are second-years and 30 are first-years.

“This is the first time since the pandemic that we will have a senior-dominant lineup,” said Debeljak. “Usually, the quality of your senior class is a predictor of how your season will go. We are in a good position, and it is a position we haven’t been in a while.”

The offense ranked in the top half in total offense with 388 yards per game and scoring offense with 28.4 points per game in the last season. The team averaged a passing game of 242.4 yards, which was second-most among the league’s teams. The major difference this year is that the offense will no longer be captained by four-time All-PAC First Team honoree Drew Saxton. Regardless, the offense has eight starters returning from last year and the head coach has a plan.

“We certainly tweak the offense every year,” said Debeljak. “Drew was a great throwing quarterback, and the other options were dual threats, which created a challenge to incorporate both styles. Now that our quarterbacks all have similar skill sets, it will be a little easier to put the offense together.”

On the defensive end, the Spartans have less positions to fill as they sport 10 returning starters from last fall. The group had a very strong showing last year, ranking fourth in the PAC in yards allowed per game at 287.4 and fifth in points allowed per game at 18.5.

“[The defense] will be physical, and this will be one of the more athletic defenses that we have ever had,” added Debeljak. “And, we have some depth, so we can avoid being devastated by injuries… It should be an exciting defense to watch.”

Last but not least, fourth-year Joseph Rhodes V is returning after spearheading the kicking game for CWRU. He was nearly perfect for extra point attempts, going 25 for 26. His punts averaged 38.1 yards while his kickoff averaged 53.1 yards per attempt. First-year kickers Graham Sorg and Gabriel Petrozzi are joining the squad, while fourth-year Kuper Imrem will return for long snapping duties.

The Spartans will travel to Greenville, Pennsylvania to play Thiel for the first time since 2021. CWRU is 12-9 all-time against Thiel and has won the last nine matchups.

CWRU will return for homecoming on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 7:00 p.m. on DiSanto Field against Grove City College.

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About the Contributor
Puneet Bansal, Sports Editor
Puneet Bansal (she/her) is a fourth-year student majoring in biochemistry and medical anthropology. She loves obsessing over food, spending time outdoors or annoying her friends. Hailing from the Bay Area, she is an ardent Golden State Warriors fan and finds it daunting to sport her Stephen Curry jersey around Cleveland.

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