The Anderson University Ravens know what to expect Saturday night when the Taylor Trojans arrive for the season opener at Macholtz Stadium.
The Wagon Wheel game against Taylor traditionally brings out a big, enthusiastic crowd.
Along with the new attitude in the Ravens’ program this year, the anticipation for kickoff is building as the countdown to game day shortens.
“There’s more of an emphasis on how important a game this is,” AU quarterback/defensive back Mike Burel said. “It’s a rivalry game. It’s for the Wagon Wheel. For the alumni and Anderson University, it’s a big game.”
“I try not to think about it as much and keep my mind in the right spot, but you can’t really,” Anderson safety Tyler Ganus said. “With the Wagon Wheel, the atmosphere is phenomenal. All the Taylor students coming and the big rivalry between the student sections, it’s just great. And just the overwhelming feeling of being able to put the pads on and go out and hit somebody else, it’s just the greatest feeling.”
The players and new coaching staff realize the importance of a first impression on the home crowd and the Anderson community as a whole.
“It’s more than just a rivalry, it’s a first step,” Burel said. “If we want to do anything, we have to win that first game.”
“It’s a big deal. First game of the season, everyone is going to know if they want to keep coming (to games) or not. If they see you win, they’re going to be pumped and excited to come back out,” quarterback Colton Priser said. “Just the atmosphere of this game, it’s bigger than a D3 atmosphere. Everybody’s out there in the orange and black, and it’s a good time.”
The players have heard talk about the excitement surrounding the upcoming season.
With classes at AU not starting up until after Labor Day, the players can concentrate on the upcoming game without the entire student population getting caught up in the emotion.
“There’s a lot of talk about the new program. Everyone wants the best, but with a lot of people here we could get distracted very easily,” Ganus said. “With people staying away, we’re able to put our hearts and minds into football and concentrate on what we’ve got to get done.”
What the Ravens hope to get done is a win against Taylor — and bring the Wagon Wheel back to Anderson — for the first time since 2007.
“I’m personally excited to show everybody what Raven Football is all about now. We have a whole new look, team, everything,” Ganus said. “I’m excited to go out on the field and show everybody that the past is in the past. We’re a new team, and that’s what I’m excited about: Raven football.”
— Quintin Harlan is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin. Story reposted with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.