In their final game of the 2012 season, the Cardinals were set for victory, holding a seven-point margin over their opponents, the Trinity Bantams. Knocking off their undefeated Route 9 rivals would have been a momentum shift for the Cardinals, who had stumbled in the last half of the season, losing two of their last three contests. By collecting its first victory against the Bantams since 2000, the Wesleyan football team could have established itself as one of the premier NESCAC teams to beat in 2013.
However, with just 17 seconds to play, Trinity completed a 78-yard drive down the field for a touchdown, sending the game into overtime. And after recovering a Wesleyan fumble on the team’s own five-yard line, Trinity punched in its ticket on an undefeated season on Jackson Field.
As the Cardinals head into a new season, this loss may be an indication of the direction the team is taking. Although last year they were unable to defeat perennial NESCAC leaders like Williams, Amherst, and Trinity, the average margin of defeat in those three matches was a little over eight points. Additionally, the Cardinals’ 5-3 record in 2012 was their best in a decade. All this is an indication of immense growth under fourth-year coach Mike Whalen. Though the squad has not risen to great levels of success just yet, this team has the drive and commitment as well as the talent to break through to that next level of NESCAC play.
The main strength for the Redbirds heading into the 2013 season is their massive depth. Forty-one returning letter-winners have been gearing up for the season with the memory of last year still burning in their minds. Among returnees, seven are all-NESCAC honorees: offensive lineman Jake Sheffer ’14, defensive backs Jake Bussani ’14 and Donnie Cimino ’15, defensive end Nik Powers ’15, wide receiver/tight end Kevin Hughes ’14 and tight end Teddy Baker ’14. With this much returning talent on the roster, the Cardinals have one of the deepest and most-skilled rosters in recent memory. After falling short of meeting their goals in 2012, these Cardinals enter the new season with a chip on their shoulders.
To accompany the team’s impressive experience, Head Coach Mike Whalen has brought in 23 new recruits to round out the roster. Among them, Devon Carrillo ’17 stands out, as he will be tasked with taking charge of the secondary.
“[Carrillo is] one guy that can make a real impact” said John San Filippo ’16, a returning linebacker. “He’s a free safety, which is a position we graduated two players from last year. He’s a phenomenal athlete and has a great work ethic.”
The Cardinals will begin their season in historic fashion with the first-ever night game in NESCAC history on Saturday, Sept. 21st against the Tufts University Jumbos, rivals from Medford, Mass. After dismantling the Jumbos 35-14 last year, the Cardinals will look to make an example of them again this time around. Starting off the season with such historic overtones bodes well for this Cardinal squad, as their talent sets them apart from teams in years past. However, talent alone will not define this team. Instead, the team’s determination and ability to persevere against the stronger sides in the conference will.