When Marty Jackson first elected to play a non-region football schedule in 1998 and 1999 at Aquinas, there were a few grumbles from fans and players.
After an 8-2 record last season, Aquinas' fans are eager for the start of the 1999 season. Jackson believes playing a non-region schedule helped his club in more ways than it hurt them.
"Playing a non-region schedule last year helped us mentally," Jackson said. "This year, these guys have a goal to improve on last year and have fun at it. They expect to win now and they practice like it. They're playing with a different mentality.
"We won a lot of close games last year. If we're in a close game, the guys will find some way to pull it out."
Topping last year's 8-2 mark may be a little harder this season. The Irish have a small senior class, but a strong junior class is expected to step up.
Aquinas may not be very experienced at the skill positions, but a solid offensive line will give some younger players time to develop. A pair of seniors, Dominic Prestifillipo and Doug Black, and junior center Matthew Brigmon anchor the offensive line.
The quarterback position will be settled between a pair of juniors, Ross Trulock and Michael Johnson. The winner will get the nod at quarterback while the loser will catch passes in an experienced group of receivers. Senior Joey Breuer has the most experience, and will team with juniors Scott Rhodes and Bryan McArdle.
A pair of juniors will take over in the backfield. Jed Capuy rushed for 179 yards last season and will start, while Lamon Coleman also should get plenty of playing time.
Jackson is a little concerned about his defensive line, where the Irish will be young, but the secondary will be solid with Rhodes and Michael Johnson, two guys with good speed who saw action last year.