For the first time since Nov. 16, 2019, some 650 days, California University will play a football game that matters.
The Vulcans, like the rest of the PSAC teams, sat out last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. All that was left was the spring game.
That seems like such a long time ago, and it was, nearly two years since a snap came from center.
The Vulcans enter tonight’s nonconference game at Fairmont State (7 p.m. kickoff) ready to shake off the rust and tear into the Falcons.
“We’re really looking forward to seeing the kids compete,” said Cal head coach Gary Dunn. “It’s really surreal we haven’t done this since November of 2019. It’s going to be who wins the turnover battle and who’s going to make mistakes. It really comes down to handling our business and controlling things we can control.”
This will be the 40th meeting between the teams and Cal has won 26 games. The last meeting was in August of 2006. Cal has won the last seven meetings.
There will be some interesting storylines to this team. Quarterback Noah Mitchell added 40 pounds to his frame, looking a bit more like Ben Roethlisberger.
“I don’t think he looks like Big Ben,” said Dunn. “I think he looks like a junior in college. He continues to develop and mature.
“Noah looks really good. He’s moving around better even though he put more weight on. A few years ago, he was a long skinny kid. He looks pretty good now and had a nice preseason camp.”
The starting backfield will take a couple games to figure it out. Kyle Brunson, a transfer from Tiffin, redshirt freshman Eric McKan III, and Richie Sykes will each get chances.
Jaque Jackson will be on the other side of Tyson Hill to give Cal a 1-2 punch at wide receiver.
Linebacker Matt Todey gets a chance to break out for the defense after a four-tackle freshman season.
Tight end Ian Edenfield, a junior tight end, is looking for a breakout season. Edenfield was a standout wrestler for Laurel Highlands, finishing second and fifth in the state championships in Hershey.
The Vulcans have won 13 of their last 16 season openers, including a 59-13 victory in New Hampshire against Saint Anselm in 2019. . . . One of the longest tenured coaches in the Mountain East Conference, Jason Woodman, enters his ninth season as head coach at Fairmont State. He ranks third in school history with 44 victories after leading the program to five-straight winning seasons. . . . The Vulcans were picked to finish third in the preseason PSAC West poll after posting a 7-4 overall record in the 2019 campaign. Each of the losses for Cal were against playoff teams and three losses were on the road to nationally ranked teams. Meanwhile, Fairmont State was slotted sixth in the preseason MEC poll after recording a 5-5 overall mark in 2019.