According to head coach Jay Osborne, the 2018 Saint Mary football season began after a Nov. 11, 2017, loss to Southwestern.
“I believe our season started this time one year ago,” Osborne said. “I think we learned more about ourselves and life than we expected in a short amount of time. Perseverance is one of the greatest qualities our team can have and I believe we have that.”
The year was filled with ups and downs for the team. The biggest hit was the death of Christian Yanos in the spring. On the field, the team at times dealt with turnovers and allowing big plays. It was also filled with the opening game win over Tabor and winning three of the last four games to finish the year strong.
Osborne said his time with Yanos and his family will be the memory that will last the most. He also said the Tabor win will be a football memory that will last.
The Spires finished the season 4-6. The 13-10 win against Tabor was followed by five straight losses, including heartbreakers to Ottawa and Bethel before the losing streak was broken against Bethany.
The Spires suffered another close loss at Friends before getting past Southwestern and McPherson to end the season on a high note. Osborne said the turnaround came from the mindset of the team.
“We never practiced and went out like a team that was defeated,” Osborne said. “Our guys have great confidence in their abilities and they learned how to play together. By the end of the season, the losses actually helped us play harder. We had felt defeat and the Spires did not want it to continue. Many of the players took it personally and began to rally and work with each other to benefit the team. This includes our freshmen who competed week in and week out on scout teams to make the team better.”
Osborne said the team MVPs this season were running back Demontrel Wilson, linebacker David Burton and long snapper Chandler Cocklin. Osborne said Cocklin didn’t have a bad snap all season.
He also said there were too many players to list for the most improved players this season, but Nicholas Holmes, who led the NAIA in interceptions, had the most improvement in terms of statistics.
Looking ahead to next season, the Spires will have all but one offensive lineman return.
The linebackers are expected to be strong and the entire secondary and running backs will return.
Osborne said getting the team to play as a family will be a key to keep the success going.
“The key is continuing the process of getting the guys to play for each other and play as a family,” Osborne said. “They are talented.”
The team will also have multiple seniors return for their fifth year.
Osborne said six of the 13 seniors were eligible and four will come back.
“These guys really want the best for the future players,” Osborne said.
The coach also had high praise for the senior class as a whole.
“Perseverance is the word again,” Osborne said. “These seniors have seen so much on and off the field, they had a never quit attitude that showed late in the season.”
The team will have a few goals going into next season including a team GPA of 3.0, 95 percent attendance in offseason activities and to return 80 players from this year’s team. Osborne said those numbers will equal a great result in 2019.
The team will also continue to be impacted by the legacy of Christian Yanos next season and seasons beyond.
“Absolutely, the ‘Yanos Way’ will be in this program for a long time,” Osborne said when asked if Yanos will be honored after this year. “His tree is on the south end of the stadium and the guys really like the flag, so his memory and story will be with the Spires for the future.”