Whitaker is Captain for Millikin University Football Team
Published on September 10 2013 9:54 am
Last Updated on September 11 2013 12:22 pm
Written by Millie Lange
In his third season, Millikin head football coach Patrick Etherton, believes this is the season the Big Blue will restore Millikin's winning football tradition. After going 5-5 last year with two losses coming in overtime, the Big Blue are primed and ready to make a move up the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin standings.
Millikin returns 12 starters and 30 lettermen from last year's team. The returning talent coupled with a strong incoming class has Etherton thinking positive about the 2013 campaign.
The biggest question on offense for the Big Blue will be replacing all-conference quarterback Matt Holmes and all-conference wide receiver Erik Tobey. Etherton believes the strength of the Millikin offense will be its veteran offensive line and a group of talented running backs.
Millikin returns four starters on the offensive line including three seniors. The group is led by Eric Whitaker, Effingham High School graduate, who earned CCIW All-Conference Second Team honors last season. He is one of the captains this season.
Senior Parker Kelley is back at the other guard spot and senior Brad Rucker and sophomore Anthony Berkman are expected to reclaim their starting spots at tackle. Sophomore Jared O'Connor is expected to the Big Blue starter at center. Millikin has several other experienced players and a solid group of newcomers to give the Big Blue depth across the front line led by junior Mitchell McElroy.
With a veteran front line and talented and deep group of running backs, the Big Blue should have no trouble rushing the football this season. Junior running back Sean Dunning returns after gaining 717 yards last season to give the Big Blue a power running game. Junior Justin Brooks provides Millikin with a speed back after gaining 300 yards last season. Henry Banks II is also expected to see playing time after missing his freshman season due to injury. Etherton has depth at the running back spot with a group of talented freshman that could work their way onto the field.
Millikin will be young at quarterback, but Etherton believes he has a group of players with the talent to be very successful running the Millikin offense. As the start of the season drew near three players emerged as the top candidates for the starting quarterback spot. Sophomores Nick Pippin and Kyle Leadlove along with freshman Tucker Schwengel are battling for the starting spot. The running and passing threat that Holmes provided for the last two seasons will be hard to replace, but Etherton believes all three of his young quarterbacks have the talent to make their own mark on the Big Blue offense.
The Millikin defense returns five starters from last year's team that was very successful in defending the pass allowing only 153 passing yards per game to finished ranked 15th in NCAA Division III in pass defense. The Big Blue will be young especially in the secondary, but Etherton has high hopes for the defensive unit.
"The CCIW features some of Division III's top passing attacks so we are very proud of that accomplishment last season," said Etherton. "We will look to build off that success in 2013 as we look for some young players to step up on defense especially in our secondary. Senior Jacob Alvis is back at safety and he will be a great leader in the secondary. The strength of our defense will be our linebackers where Jake Hazelton and Andy Roth return and we have added several freshmen that have the talent to be very successful in this league."
Millikin Falls In Opener
The Millikin Big Blue football team lost its season opener to Greenville College 48-41 Saturday at home.
Greenville opened the scoring on a seven yard run by Jacob Stull to make it 7-0 Panthers.
The Big Blue then answered back with 21 straight points to go up 21-7. Millikin scored late in the first quarter on a 40 yard run by Sean Dunning. Dunning would score again early in the second quarter on a three yard run. Nick Pippin then hit Brady Cufaude on a 30 yards pass to make it 21-7 Millikin.
Greenville then scored three straight touchdowns in the second quarter to build a 28-21 advantage at the half. The Panther scores came on a 63 yard run by quarterback Brendan Chambers, another Chambers touchdown game when he recovered his own fumble in the end zone. The final second quarter touchdown was a three yard pass from Chambers to Shawn McKnight.
Greenville opened the third quarter with a 38 yard touchdown run by Chambers and a 21 yard scoring run by Zibeon Washington to go up 41-21.
The Big Blue then battled back with three touchdowns. Dunning scored on a 14 yard run to make it 41-28. Pippin then hit Mike Blakely on a 23 yard pass to make it 41-35. Millikin's final score came with 1:34 left in the game on a five yard pass from Pippin to Brendan Bauers. A missed Big Blue extra point them made it 41-41.
Greenville then hit on a big pass play of 66 yards from Chambers to McKnight with 37 seconds to pull out the victory.
Dunning rushed for 137 yards and three touchdowns lead the Big Blue offense. Pippin making his Millikin debut was 19-42-1 for 276 yards and three scores. Taylor Sanders led the Millikin receivers with four catches for 78 yards.
Stull rushed for 164 yards for Greenville. Chambers racked up 155 yards on the ground and was 12-23 passing for 178 yards and two scores.
Adam Rosner was Millikin's top tackler with 8.5 tackles including three tackles for a loss. Cody Lopez had 12 tackles for Greenville.
Millikin travels to Hope College Saturday, Sept. 14 for a 12:30 p.m. game.