On the surface, it’s hard to look at the football team’s performance this season with great enthusiasm — few could argue that. Winless through five games (including 3 losses in the Liberty League) and slightly over halfway through the regular season, a postseason berth seems unlikely. A Liberty League crown over undefeated St. Lawrence University is out of the question.
Tack on a Meliora Weekend loss to a normally beatable Merchant Marine Academy and match-ups against St. Lawrence and perennial powerhouse Hobart College still to come, and the future looks grim.Yet, despite their disappointment thus far, no Yellowjacket seems prepared to simply throw in the towel.
Two-a-days in the summer sun and many late nights spent drilling again and again under the lights of Fauver Stadium have given this year’s crew an against-all-odds attitude — an underdog spirit that unites the men under a common guise.
“We are having a rough stretch right now, all of which have been hard fought games,” sophomore running back Chris Lebano said. “But we never stop fighting. We will keep fighting to win the four games we have left.”
Lenbano rushed for 63 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s 48-19 loss to Merchant Marine.
A sleeper season, such as the one the Yellowjackets are faced with this year, says perhaps more about a team than any winning season could.
A team is nothing if it cannot maintain dignity and drive in its finest moments as well as it darkest hours. And with numerous other teammates echoing Lebano’s words, it’s clear that this year’s squad is not short on either.
Sophomore fullback Quinton Mitchell is a prime example. He rushed for 26 yards and a touchdown and remains confident both in this year’s squad, as well as in seasons to come.
“We know what kind of team we are,” Mitchell said. “We aren’t the team that our record says we are, and I know we are going to finish the season strong regardless of what has happened in the past. We also know what kind of potential we have.”
In terms of potential, the Yellowjackets have plenty. They have 38 freshmen on their opening day roster — twice the number of seniors on board and as many as the sophomore and junior classes combined. With leaders such as Lebano and Mitchell good for another couple seasons, the day is young for the football team. The approaching weeks will be challenging for sure, but the years to come give the yellow and blue a reason to keep the faith.
Meanwhile, the good-natured, fun-loving atmosphere that defines this year’s team off the field has served as a breather from the season-long struggles on it.
UR may not have the wins, but they have one another.
“We are more than a team – we are a family,” Lebano said. “And just like any family we are going to have hard times. But this family is not going to quit.”
Bernstein is a member ofthe class of 2014.