After edging Macalaster (2–2) last Saturday at home, football (2–1) will face Lewis and Clark for the first time in recent memory when the Pioneers (0–2) arrive at Stagg this weekend.
Allowing 88 points while only managing six for themselves, the Pioneers join Eureka (0–3) as the only winless opponents on Chicago’s schedule, and the Maroons can only hope for a blowout like their 41–10 season opener against Concordia.
A victory Saturday would give the South Siders their best win percentage since 2001 while providing the squad with solid momentum heading into conference play.
Despite the high expectations for this weekend, one uncertainty for the Maroons will be in the quarterback department, where the squad is seeing as much shake-up as the other Monsters of the Midway, the Chicago Bears.
After the departure of fourth-year Matt Rinklin, Chicago is without a definite starter for the first time in two years. Third-year quarterback John Kiernan looked sharp in his first start for the Maroons, throwing for 158 yards and two touchdowns. Then, after allowing Elmhurst (3–0) to take a 20–0 lead during the team’s first Stagg night game, Kiernan watched as fourth-year Justin Fleming took his place to put the Maroons on the board immediately.
Fleming’s direction of the squad to two touchdowns earned him the starting spot during last Saturday’s home stand against the Scots, but an injury in the third quarter brought in first-year Marshall Oium, whose respectable performance could merit the chance for a start tomorrow.
Whatever the case, the Pioneers’ seemingly nonexistent defense may allow the Maroons wide room for experimentation with different offensive styles, even different play callers. The squad will need every opportunity to hone its skills as it prepares for the next match, a showdown with UAA-leader Wash U (3–1).
Even without a sure play caller, the Maroons can look to some standout first-years on the rise and a corps of veterans. First-year running back Thomas Parks and wide receiver Clay Wolff have been a notable presence on offense, each notching a pair of touchdowns.
Defense finds an anchor in fourth-year Gaby Fernandez, who grabbed three interceptions and forced a fumble over Macalaster. These efforts earned Fernandez a UAA Athlete of the Week nod, while he and first-year defensive end Justin Kaderabek were both named to D3football.com’s Team of the Week. Kaderabek adds to his recruiting class’s standout skills with a team-leading four and a half sacks.
Spotlight on Thomas Parks
With much of the Maroons’ offense in turmoil, first–year running back Thomas Parks has emerged as a go-to player. A potent offensive weapon, he has averaged 96 yards per game and 6.4 yards per carry. Parks’s 287 offensive yards lead the squad, and his two touchdowns are good to tie first place. His TD carry last weekend gave Chicago the lead for good against Macalaster, with his other score topping off the squad’s 41–10 crushing of Concordia.