ATCHISON, Kan. — It may be a new season, but the Benedictine Ravens return to the football field with the same craving for a championship title.

The No. 2 Ravens begin their 2019 campaign Saturday night when they travel to Iowa to face Graceland University, which is experiencing a new coaching staff.

“There are a lot of unknowns with the first game, but we’ve been more focused on getting our team ready and developing depth as we go into the season,” Benedictine head coach Larry Wilcox said.

The Ravens look to continue the success they had last season.

Benedictine finished their 2018 season with a record of 13-2, setting a new program high for single-game wins.

“Last season was a great year,” Benedictine senior Shaefer Schuetz said. “This year we just want to build off that and continue to move forward.”

Benedictine advanced to the final round of the NAIA Championship last year. They took second place after losing 35-28 to Morningside College.

“We played in NAIA championship game, so hopefully that propelled our players into this season. They’ve been very excited through spring football and fall camp here for the opening game against Graceland University,” Wilcox said.

Entering his 47th year coaching at Benedictine, Wilcox said since fall camp began, the Ravens have been playing aggressively and competitively.

The team is given two and a half weeks from the time they report to their first game, leaving little time for preparation before the first game. However, the upperclassmen are used to this short timeframe and help their younger teammates get ready ahead of game day.

“We’ve had to get a lot done in a short amount of time,” Wilcox said. “Our players are mature and we’re fortunate to have a lot of upperclassmen yearly so they know the routine and get it done.”

The Ravens not only look to work hard in the weight room and on the field, but also in the classroom. 

“As a team, we’ve tried to rally and increase our teams GPA,” Schuetz said. “That’s been an emphasis for us along with creating the most well-rounded individual we can moving forward into the season.”

Benedictine kicks off their five-game home schedule on Sept. 7 against William Penn University.

“We love playing at home,” Lilly said. “We really rely on the support of the fans to encourage us. It’s an awesome atmosphere.”

Lilly, a Bishop LeBlond graduate, is one of the Ravens’ captains this year alongside Schuetz.

“As a group, we’re all trying to focus on leading each other as a team instead of focusing on individual leaders. We’re all trying to step up and encourage each other as a whole,” Lilly said.

Kristen Carver can be reached

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