By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It has been a struggle on the football field for Division II Cheyney for quite some time.
The Wolves have spent the past several season at the bottom of the standings in the extremely strong Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. However, there is hope that 2013 could be the year that things start to click.
One big reason for optimism is numbers. One of the big problem for the Wolves has been depth, making the usual attrition of a football season especially devastating. But here in 2013, participation is proving not to be a problem at Cheyney.
“We’re extremely excited about our numbers,” Cheyney head coach Ken Lockard tells KYW Newsradio. “(Tuesday) I think we had 107, 108 out there at practice for the first practice of the two-a-day. We’re sitting with a lot of guys out there. There’s a lot of competition and the beauty of the numbers is adding the extra competition unlike in previous years.”
Cheyney went 1-10 in 2012, dropping the final ten games after a season opening win over Lincoln. But as the campaign went on, the Wolves put a scare into a couple of teams and Lockard is hopeful the arrow is pointing up for his squad.
“The continual improvement that we’ve been showing over the past couple seasons has been tremendous to the confidence of the players on the team,” Lockard says. “Couple of the games last season we played extremely well, that people didn’t expect us to play well (in). The big thing we’re looking forward to is being able to have the consistency with the players. We’re returning a lot of players from last season, more than half the roster returns. Then we have some good transfers that have come in to help out the program and everything, who understand college football already and looking for them to make some immediate impacts.”
One of the players to watch on this team is senior running back Marcus Jones. Last season he keyed the Wolves option attack, rushing for 662 yards and three touchdowns.
“He runs so hard,” Lockard says. ” I mean he just runs hard. He knows the system, he knows what he has to do. When Saturdays roll around, he gets out there and he’s just trying to run. He just works hard when he’s out there, and he just makes things happen.”
As usual, the Wolves open the season with one of the area’s big rivalry games as they host fellow HBCU Lincoln in the “Battle of the Firsts”.
“I’ll never stop talking highly of rivalry games,” Lockard says. “They just add a different element to the season. For us to start the season with that rivalry game, it’s really exciting.”
That Cheyney/Lincoln season opener is set for September 7th at 1:00pm.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.