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NSU has high expectations in '11
When Bradley Dale Peveto came to Northwestern State, he immediately infused the Demons — and the campus community — with high hopes. Two seasons — and a 5-16 record — later, those unfulfilled high hopes have become high expectations.
Peveto enters his third season as the NSU football coach with fans expecting his team to make a serious run at the Southland Conference championship.
“There are expectations, but that is all outside the program,” senior linebacker Yaser Elqutub said. “The expectations are the same as they have been since coach Peveto came here inside the team. We expect to play for a championship.”
Peveto has made no secret from the start of his tenure that he embraces that philosophy. Not even an 0-11 debut season in 2009 dampened that resolve.
“We intend to play for a championship,” Peveto said after Thursday’s first day of practice. “That’s why we’re here.”
NSU showed signs last year that it was possible. Although the Demons finished with a losing record at 5-6, they went into the final game of the season playing for a share of the Southland title and a spot in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
“I feel like we have come a long way,” Peveto said at the Southland Conference media preview. “My first year was a great building block for us. We don’t hide behind it. We did a lot of good things and lost a lot of close football games.
“This past season I thought we took a big step and played for the conference championship the last week.”
The big improvement did not go unnoticed. The Athlon Preview picked NSU to win the Southland Conference championship this fall.
“I was proud when that publication came out because it told me that somebody was noticing progress with Northwestern State football.”
The Demons were not quite as highly thought of at the Southland Conference media preview. They were picked to finish fourth — although they received one first-place vote — in a poll of the league’s sports information directors and picked fifth in a poll of the league’s coaches.
“I think the Southland Conference is wide open,” Peveto said. “I don’t care if you’re picked No. 1 or No. 8, it’s anybody’s game week in and week out.
“This is a great conference coached by great football coaches and played by very good players. It’s a tough league with great parity and it’s anybody’s league, to be honest.”
NSU has nine returning starters on offense and seven on defense, along with more depth than the Demons have had at any time since Peveto arrived.
“We have a lot of players who have played in a lot of games for us,” Peveto said.
While Peveto and his players are not shy about talking about their desire to win a conference championship, they also understand they can’t look too far ahead.
“We’re worried about two things right now,” Peveto said after Thursday’s first practice. “We’re worried about the Demons and we’re worried about Delta State.”
NSU opens the season Sept. 1 with a Thursday night home game against Delta State, which played in the NCAA Division II national championship game last season.
“Delta State is all I care about right now,” NSU junior quarterback Paul Harris said. “We’ll move on to the next one after that game is over.”
“Our expectations are to win the conference championship and make the playoffs,” junior tailback Sterling Endsley said.
“We came so close last year. We have to get that (conference championship) ring this year.”
By Randy Benson, Louisiana Gannett