The Athens Review
The 2013 football season is approaching and the Trinity Valley Community College Cardinals are preparing for the defending national champions.
The second annual Battle In the Valley heats up Saturday night at Bruce Field against the No. 4 ranked team in the Iowa Western Reivers.
Head coach Brad Smiley said last year’s 44-20 loss in the third week of the season was a pivotal game that sent their season in a disappointing turn.
He hopes the opener will answer some questions about his team and what they have to offer this season.
“It is a tremendous challenge because we don’t know much about them,” Smiley said. “I want our kids to get up for a game and get excited to play a national champion right off the bat. If we go out and do what we ask them to do, I think we will have a shot on Saturday.”
Iowa Western comes to Athens looking for a quarterback after the loss of sophomore Jake Waters — the 2012 NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year.
Waters set a a new NJCAA single-season mark for completion percentage (73.3) while leading the Reivers to a 12-0 record and their first national championship.
The Reivers are looking for big things from Connor Bravard and Tay Bender at quarterback. Bravard played in 11 games last season going 34-for-48 for 517 yards, six touchdowns and one interception.
“We know nothing about Iowa Western,” Smiley said. “I don’t know what kids they have recruited or signed and they were very sophomore laden last year.”
The Cardinals — coming off a 2012 season with a 3-6 record — will counter at quarterback with sophomores Hunter McCoy and Ryan Polite.
Smiley said he was pleased with the summer camp and spring workouts that the Cardinals were able to participate in this offseason.
He is hoping the players come out focused and ready to compete with such a big game atmosphere coming to Bruce Field on Saturday night.
Smiley said another reason for leading off with Iowa Western is the fact that the Division I scouts are ready to see the talent from both programs this early in the season.
“We hope to minimize the mistakes and we think we know what we are going to do,” Smiley said. “I am looking forward to seeing how we respond.”
The Cardinals coaching staff is hoping to head into next week against the preseason ranked No. 12 team Coffeyville with some teachable moments from this game.
“Whatever happens win or lose, we will be able to learn from how we played going into Coffeyville,” Smiley said. “If we win by 40 or lose by 40, we have got to go in and learn from this film heading into next week.”
Smiley said this early season battle could give them a sign of how 2013 will play out for the remaining nine weeks.
“We will find out what we are made of on Saturday. If you think your tough, jump in with a heavyweight champion,” Smiley said. “We are going to get in there and take our shots and see what happens.”