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Terriers look to continue strong run
Coach Mike Ayers knew some people thought his team’s time near the top of the Southern Conference was finished after the Terriers went 3-8 in 2009.
Wofford proved that wasn’t the case, rallying to 10-3 mark that included sharing the league title with SoCon heavyweight Appalachian State and a trip to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. Now, Ayers and the Terriers expect even more out of 2011.
“The group of kids we had and the kind of coaches we had, all came to a consensus that we understood the reasons why we faltered and were going to do everything we could to get back on track,” Ayers said.
The Terriers enter the year with big expectations and the league’s preseason offensive and defensive players of the year in fullback Eric Breitenstine and defensive lineman Ameet Pall, who shared the honor with Georgia Southern lineman Brent Russell.
Pall was the league’s defensive player of the year after last season when he had 12 1/2 sacks and 22 1/2 tackles for loss.
Breitenstine led the Southern Conference and was fifth in the FCS with 1,639 yards and 22 touchdowns. He said his success is due to Wofford’s option offense that led the league in rushing at nearly 300 yards a game last season.
“If you’re not going to take away the fullback, we’re going to keep hitting the fullback,” he said. “So I had a good year, had a good time, and hopefully this year, we’ll have a lot of success as well.”
Ayers said Breitenstine is a complete player who does just as well without the ball. He’s a proficient blocker adept at leading the way for Wofford’s other runners.
“He’s the guy that makes people around him better,” Ayers said.
Still, the Terriers are picked to finish behind the league’s other two playoff teams from a year ago in Appalachian State and Georgia Southern. Wofford’s playoff run ended with a 23-20 loss to the Eagles in the quarterfinals.
The defeat was hard to take because Wofford had won the teams’ regular season meeting and had fallen behind at home 20-3 before tightening things up. Ayers said the players have to use that disappointment to grow and achieve bigger things this season.
The Terriers aren’t concerned where they rank in the preseason. After all, they were coming off a pair of playoff appearances in 2007 and 2008 when they took a step back with their losing record. Then came last season’s recovery that Ayers hopes to continue this fall.
“Last year, we were completely off the radar screen,” Ayers said. “What we’re going to try to do is what we did last year, focus on ourselves, focus on getting better, take it a day at a time and do the best we can do every day.”
By PETE IACOBELLI, Houma Today