When Georgetown’s football team (7-2, 3-1 Patriot League) takes the MultiSport Facility for Senior Day date with Fordham (1-7) Saturday, they will be bidding farewell to seniors who have stuck with the program through four years of both trials and triumphs.
After an embarrassing, winless 2009 campaign, the Hoyas have turned things around the last two seasons. With a win over Colgate homecoming weekend, they secured their first winning season since 1999, and next Saturday they will play Lehigh for the Patriot League championship.
Still, the defining characters in the drama of the last four years for the Blue and Gray have been the seniors. They went 2-8 their freshman year and then dropped to 0-11 during their sophomore season. But the Hoyas that have stuck with the program didn’t want to be defined by those records.
They were key cogs of the resurgent squad that went 4-7 in 2010. This season, on both offense and defense, the Class of 2012 has been integral to Georgetown’s best season in more than a decade.
“It says a lot about the seniors that we still have. We have a lot of kids that have come through the program and dropped out because of different reasons,” senior co-captain and defensive back Wayne Heimuli. “But all the guys [who stayed], it shows their commitment to the team and the program and the school.”
Senior wide receiver and co-captain Jeremiah Kayal also sees major strides the team has made, with rebuilding last year and reloading this season.
“I really think the biggest thing is the way we’ve grown as a team. Coming in freshman year, kind of struggling for freshman and sophomore year,” Kayal said. “And then seeing the growth from sophomore year to junior year and then putting it all together this year.”
With the game against Lehigh a week from Saturday determining the league championship, Senior Day will be a time for celebration — but the team also recognizes that that a win would mean a lot for momentum going into next week.
After deciding to offer football scholarships this season, Fordham has been placed in a kind of limbo that means games against the Rams do not count in Patriot League standings.
Still, the seniors — and the rest of the team — are taking the game seriously, both to generate momentum and to have one final shining moment in front of family and friends in the Georgetown uniforms.
“You only look one week at a time. This week we have Fordham, and we’re not thinking about Lehigh,” Kayal said. “We’re thinking about how to beat Fordham. Once we beat Fordham, we’re going to take that ‘W’ into the game against Lehigh.”
Even though the game may not mean as much for the team’s overall record, playing in front of family and friends motivates the squad.
“It’s going to be a big day not only for myself but for the rest of the seniors. Everyone has a lot of family coming in so it’s going to be a big day. Everyone wants to play really well in front of his family and friends,” Heimuli said. “It’s also our last home game, so we want to finish the season 4-0 at home and our careers with a win at home.”
The Rams, despite — or, perhaps, because of — their probationary status, have struggled this season. Their sole win came against Columbia and they have been on the receiving end of a series of blowouts. Still, Head Coach Kevin Kelly isn’t taking anything for granted.
“Fordham lost to I-A football teams. They lost to UConn, and they lost to Army, [and] they’ve also had some injuries,” Kelly said. “They are a really talented football team in all phases, and we’re going to have our hands full on Saturday.”
But Saturday is really about Georgetown’s seniors. The de facto championship is a week away. The final home game is a chance to recognize the commitment they made to turning around the team and putting the program on the cusp of one of its biggest wins in years.
“The word I have for [the seniors] is respect. They could have easily given up on the program. But I respect and appreciate their efforts over the four years,” Kelly said. “It’s a life lesson when you look at it. When you put your head down and keep grinding, good things can happen. Hard work and all the good things that athletics can teach you showed up here with this senior class.”
Kickoff is at 1 p.m. tomorrow at MultiSport Facility.