On Saturday night, the Saint Mary Spires football team kicks off the 2018 season with a home game against Tabor College.

For various reasons, this game has been on the countdown for the Spires, and now it is time for game one of the season.

The Spires are coming off of a 4-7 season in 2017, a step back after the record-setting 8-3 season in 2016. The loss of the strong senior class in 2016 hurt the team’s defense and run game.

Now the team looks to have those two areas improved to pair with senior quarterback Drew Cortez in the upcoming season. 

The Spires will have their work cut out for them as they face Tabor College, a team coming off of an 8-2 record in 2017. 

Head coach Jay Osborne said that all three phases of the game will have to work in order for the Spires to beat the Bluejays, who are nationally ranked 18th in NAIA.

“We want to establish our offense by moving the ball consistently,” Osborne said. “We also need to play very strong in our front seven and show our ability to stop the run. Sound special teams is always crucial in early season games. We need to have good execution in all aspects of the kicking game.”  

According to Osborne, the small number of football games in a season makes the start of the year special.

“The football season is very short compared to the calendar year and to other sports,” Osborne said. “We do have spring ball, but it is not an actual game setting. Kicking off on Saturday will mark one of our 10 games this season. Consider that we have about 52 Saturdays, one out of five is a football game. That is a large amount of time outside the game. The energy and passion that comes from the off time always fuels the first game excitement. And we have obvious reasons to be even more excited about the game.”

The obvious extra excitement comes from the team’s plan to honor Christian Yanos, the Spire who died earlier this spring. Yanos’ family will be in attendance and the team will debut the various forms of memorials for their fallen teammate for the season. Osborne was asked if honoring Yanos will make the opening game more special.

“Absolutely,” Osborne said. “Christian is with us. He was present every day he was here in the spring. His presence is felt by our team. Personally, I want our team to make him and his family proud. I know our guys feel the same way.”

The Spires and Bluejays will kickoff at 7 p.m. at Berkel Memorial Stadium.