The NCAC football season is upon us with the Wooster Fighting Scots preparing for a tough conference schedule this year. All eyes are on the trio of conference champs Wittenberg, Denison and Wabash as each school returns a with a plethora of talent. The preseason media poll has the Scots remaining at fifth preceded by DePauw, Denison (1), Wittenberg (3) and Wabash (6) with no straight consensus on a conference favorite. Wooster plays Denison and Wabash at home this year, which bodes well for the team looking to avenge nasty losses. However, the Scots play Wittenberg, Depauw, Wabash and Denison in consecutive games including the first two on the road back to back. If the Scots can do well in these four crucial games and run the rest of the table, the conference championship might finally return to Wooster.
Last year was a year of foundation building and offensive strides for the Scots. The Scots went 5-5 last year finishing fifth in conference. It to be a routine season for the Scots as Wooster won more than seven games once since 2009. Quarterback Mateo Renteria ’22 threw for 2130 yards last season, fourth best in conference, with the third best completion percentage of 60.4 percent. However, the Scots also fumbled the ball 27 times including during crucial plays against rival Wittenberg last year that ended in a six-point loss. Running back, Antonio Bailey ’19 rushed for 88.1 yards per game for the fouth best record in conference. Defensively, the Scots look to improve from sixth place allowed with 27.4 points per game with most of the defense returning. Overall, the Scots will have nine out of 11 all conference players returning for the season which should strengthen the team, especially on defense. The Scots’ defense is determined to improve upon last year’s performance.
“We have a chip on our shoulder and a lot to prove,” said captain and defensive back Christian Santos ’20. “We aren’t settling for close games, we want to embarrass every team that has the nerve to align across from us.” Wooster’s defense only lost three seniors from last year, making the transition for the unit easy for younger players to fit into the system. Santos notes in particular Sky Crain ’22 and Dorion Talley ’23 standing out among the defensive underclassmen for showing promise and growth in practice. Wooster was ninth in passing yards allowed last year but Santos maintains that the problems from last year weren’t systemic and can be fixed. “[We] just made some mental mistakes that we had to fix and trusting the coaching this year I can say we’ve done that,” Santos said.
On offense, the Scots aim for small tweaks to a stellar season. “We’re adding some more short line packages, plugging in some new guys, and leaning less on the run game,” said Renteria. He echoes Santos’ aim to break expectations and lead the Scots to their first conference championship since 2004. Renteria says for him the biggest difference will be coming back with experience so he can focus more on leading the team “Everything clicks faster, the chemistry is better with returning receivers and can focus more on the team,” said Renteria. 2018 All-Conference honorable mention receiver Nick Strausbaugh ’20 returns to be the likely favorite for passes and explosive plays. Despite the great numbers, Wooster’s offense is hungry to avenge key losses against Ohio Wesleyan and arch rival Wittenberg including an 18-66 loss to Denison that stung hard for Renteria. “I’ve never scored less than seven points in any game and that won’t happen again this year,” said Renteria.
The Scots open the season against Bluffton Sept. 7 at 1:00 p.m. at John Papp Stadium.