MONMOUTH, ILL. (08/31/2022) For the past several years, Monmouth College football coach Chad Braun has wanted his team to play the first home night football game in school history.
The reason? He thought it would be a cool experience – figuratively and literally – for his Fighting Scots to play under the lights at April Zorn Memorial Stadium, and he knew fans would enjoy it, too
Braun will finally see his dream realized on Saturday, when Monmouth opens the season at 7 p.m. against the visiting Wartburg Knights.
“We’ve had the lights here now for a while. Walter was generous enough to give us the lights,” said Braun, referring to Monmouth alumnus Walter Huff ’56, who provided the naming gift for the stadium in memory of his late wife. “We had a night game planned for 2020, but we didn’t get a chance to play because of COVID. So it’s been in the works for a couple years now. We’ve played Wartburg at night before at their place. I’m super excited about finally getting a chance to do it here.”
The practical reason for the late start time is the typical presence of pre-Labor Day heat. Indeed, Saturday’s forecast calls for a high of 86 degrees, which will be amplified a few more degrees by the artificial surface on Bobby Woll Field.
“Early in the year, it’s usually so hot,” said Braun. “This gives you a chance to play at night when you’re not burning up.”
But there’s another reason Braun and his players are stoked for the night game.
“We’ve practiced quite a bit under the lights, and there’s just a different energy, a different vibe,” he said. “It takes the guys back to their ‘Friday night lights’ roots.”
Braun is not unlike most football coaches, who prefer to keep their teams on a regular pre-game routine. But he’s willing to change that up for Saturday’s special game.
“We’ve been through the new routine on the road, but it will be nice to do it when we’re home and we don’t have to travel back to Monmouth after the game,” he said. “We can just go back to our own beds. … The players will adjust and adapt. You’re playing a football game, no matter what time you do it.”
Two experienced teams
Braun simplified the outlook for his 2022 squad to a single word – “experienced.”
That begins at the quarterback position, where seniors Carter Boyer and Riley Fetterer both started multiple games last fall. Boyer threw for 1,508 yards and 10 touchdowns, while Fetterer added a running element to the position. He gained 364 yards on the ground and threw for 614.
Braun said the skill positions and offensive line both have plenty of returning starters, too. The former group is led by a pair of fifth-year players – receiver Jake Uryasz (40 catches, 586 yards) and running back Devin Lawrence (389 yards, 7 TDs). Uryasz, along with linemen Derek Brown and Matt Shimko, were All-Midwest Conference selections a year ago.
Defensively, it’s more of the same, with experienced starters at all three levels. Korbyn Personett, who posted a school-record 16 sacks last fall, headlines the unit, which surrendered 14 points or less in half of the Scots’ 10 games. Personett and returning defensive back Devin Graham were All-MWC picks.
“It’s a very veteran group,” said Braun. “It’s very different for us from a year ago. We played a lot of kids who didn’t have much or any experience playing college football. It’s a complete 180 this year.”
There are plenty of new faces, too. Monmouth’s 57-member recruiting class makes up roughly half of the 117-player roster. Several freshmen are in the top two of their positions on the depth chart and will see action in the opener, led by Kewanee product James Conner. The 6-foot-3, 270-pounder will start at right tackle.
The overall roster experience is important, because Wartburg will bring a similarly experienced squad to town, with 14 starters returning, including six all-conference selections.
“It’s always a tough first game,” said Braun, who enters his seventh season as Monmouth’s head coach with a record of 50-12. “They’re getting votes for the top 25. They’re a great program.”
RIVALRY NOTES: Both Monmouth and Wartburg are predicted to finish second in their respective conferences. … The teams have met in the past five seasons, with Wartburg owning a 3-2 edge in those games. Overall, the teams have faced off 10 times, with Wartburg winning eight. … Last year, the Knights topped the Scots 44-3 on their way to a 7-3 record. Monmouth finished 8-2.
***Story by Monmouth College Athletics***