Coming off a bye week, the Maroons are rested and ready for battle in their final 2004 home game against Bethany College tomorrow. It promises to be an emotional senior day for the team, who will say goodbye to a highly praised group of upperclassmen in pre-game and halftime ceremonies.
"Our senior leadership has been a great credit to them. They've had a great attitude all year long," head coach Dick Maloney said. "This should be a big deal for them."
The Maroons stand at 1-5 (0-2 UAA), but they have not been defeated in their final home game since 1992. They have high hopes to continue that streak Saturday against a weak Bethany (0-7) team, coming off a 56-0 defeat last week by fifth-ranked Washington and Jefferson College.
"It's a new coach and a new coaching staff, and they're still looking for their identity a bit. It's really a transitional year for them," Maloney said.
"The biggest danger we can foresee is if they come in saying, These guys only have one win, we've got a chance to beat them.' If we come out to play, though, that shouldn't be a problem, and we will come out to play."
This will be the fifth meeting between Chicago and Bethany. The Maroons have dominated the series thus far, winning all four previous matchups by at least 12 points.
Hoping to end a five-game losing streak, the Maroons will be looking to convert red zone opportunities, win the turnover battle, and stop the trend of allowing big plays on defense.
The team will also aim for seven big plays on the offensive side of the ball to earn the win.
"We've looked back over the statistics, and we're looking at this as something that should set a winning margin for us," Maloney said. "They don't all have to be touchdowns, but a blocked punt, a conversion on third-and-long, anything like that."
To help accomplish these goals, the Maroons will bring greatly expanded offensive and defensive packages to Saturday's game.
"We've been adding all year. Bethany is going to see some pressures and formations nobody has seen from us before," Maloney said.
Bethany may also see a number of players no opponent has yet seen suit up for the Maroons. The coaching staff would like to find a way to work first-year Justin Fleming, the third-string quarterback, into the game.
"The week off gave us the opportunity to play a junior varsity match, and Justin played very well in that game. We really would like to get him and second-year backup Phil Marino a little playing time this weekend," Maloney said.
On the other hand, the weekend off did not aid the playing casualties as the team had hoped. Several players are still recovering from recent injuries. Third-year tackle Rich Bartolomei and fourth-year tight end Jack Stockert are questionable for game time, and second-year nose tackle Tom Miller is listed as unlikely.
Bartolomei and Stockert should both return for the following weekend's UAA finale against Case Western (3-5, 0-1).
"Rich and Jack still might make it into this game, and it would be great if they did. But we've had the opportunity to work out with some different players filling in, and it's gone very well. Bethany should still have a tough time handling our squad," Maloney said.