Hendrix’s first football game in 53 years carries both an air of excitement and mystery.
The freshly minted 2013 Warriors will take on Westminster College of Fulton, Mo., in the season opener at 1 p.m. Saturday at the new Young-Wise Stadium, which workers were working to the last minute to smooth some rough edges.
Speaking of edges. There are none in this matchup.
Normally, opposing teams exchange film or video tape of their last game or games for scouting purposes.
“I don’t think they are interested in our 1960 film,” said Hendrix coach Buck Buchanan, whose team wasn’t fully assembled until Aug. 15.
The teams have each other’s two deep and the Hendrix staff has the statistics from last season in which the Blue Jays went 4-6 in the NCAA Division III St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“They (the Blue Jays) have a new offensive coordinator, so we’ve had to practice every way but loose,” Buchanan said. “The Catch 22 is when you have to take practice time for things you might not see, it takes time away to work on things that you are good at. We’ve practiced on things and situations that might not happen. We’re expecting anything and everything.”
The Warriors plan to run out of multiple offensive and defensive sets to determine what their personnel can do against players other than themselves.
“After this week, we’ll be able to do more traditonal game-planning. During the game, I expect we’ll adapt, adjust, improvise and overcome,” Buchanan said.
Westminster returns a quarterback who averaged 300 yards per game passing last season.
“It makes things more difficult when you don’t have three or four games to evaluate an opponent,” said Reed Heim, Hendrix’s defensive coordinator. “You don’t have anything to gauge that you have to top this play or that play. The upside is this has allowed us to concentrate on us and letting our guys learn how they need to play to be successful.”
Buchanan added, “The thing about this game is we’re pretty much playing with all freshmen against juniors and seniors.”
With so many young players and without any of them having gone through an offseason program, conditioning in a game in which the temperatures are expected to be in the mid-90s is a concern.
“It has been tough getting guys ready to play in the fourth quarter, which will be a fifth quarter for most of them,” Buchanan said, noting almost all of his players are accustomed to playing four 12-minute quarters in high school as contrasted to four 15-minute periods in college, an extra 12 minutes a game. “This will be the longest almost all of them have played in a football game. That extra three minutes a quarter is a big adjustment.”
Buchanan and his staff have spent recent practice sessions emphasizing the mental aspect.
“You can’t rely on just enthusiasm to win a football game,” he said. “Just because this is our first football game in 53 years doesn’t guarantee we will play well. We should never mistake activity for accomplishment.”