Thursday, April 24, 2014
By Steve Craig firstname.lastname@example.org
In the highly competitive New England Small College Athletic Conference, where every regular-season football game is the be-all and end-all because the conference abstains from postseason play, “every Saturday is like a Super Bowl,” said Gorham’s Jonathan Day, a junior tight end at Wesleyan University
“There are so many good teams and almost every year some team goes 7-1, and a lot of years a team can go 8-0, so you just can’t afford to lose any game,” said Day, 21, a former standout running back at Gorham High and now a starting tight end for Wesleyan.
This Saturday could be extra super for the Cardinals of Middletown, Conn. They are on the cusp of Wesleyan’s first 8-0 season since 1969.
To achieve it, they will have to win at Trinity (5-2), which has a 50-game home winning streak and has never lost on its current field.
“If we win, we end their streak and become the outright NESCAC champions,” Day said. “We have plenty to play for. There’s a lot riding on this, and I think it’s going to be a really special day with all the rivalry and all the historical precedent.”
Wesleyan has already broken a 43-year drought by winning the Little Three championship outright. The Little Three is a conference within a conference, pitting Wesleyan against Amherst and Williams
“I came in as a freshman and I’ve played in every game, and we went two years without getting a win against Amherst or Williams. This year we got them both. That first one, against Amherst, is one of the games I’ll never forget,” Day said.
Amherst was officially opening its new stadium that day, a celebration Wesleyan spoiled.
Combined with last Saturday’s 16-14 win against Williams and the 7-0 start, the 2013 team has energized the campus and the alumni. The day before the Williams game, Coach Mike Whalen brought in a former Wesleyan player, Dr. George Hicks, chief of cardiac surgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
“He gave a really nice speech, just about how long it’s been since we’ve been on top. He said he hadn’t been back on campus in 30 years and was just jacked up about this game and this season,” Day said.
Day went to Wesleyan after a four-year varsity career at Gorham High playing for Dave Kilborn and one postgraduate year at Bridgton Academy. It was at Bridgton where the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Day switched from running back to tight end.
That was also where he first heard about Wesleyan. Day said he originally enrolled at Bridgton on the advice of the Columbia University coaching staff. Improve your SAT scores and GPA, get a little bigger and faster, and there will be an Ivy League acceptance in your future, Day was told.
The University of Maine also had him make an official visit.
But Columbia declined enrollment (“I never got my SAT scores up enough,” Day says), Maine could offer only a partial scholarship, and Wesleyan had a champion in then-Bridgton Coach Rick Marcella.
“He told me that Wesleyan had called him and they were asking about me. He said if I had the opportunity to get in that it was an opportunity that I had to take,” Day said.
Wesleyan’s large endowment led to significant financial aid, something Day said he needed.
“I just fell in love with the coaches and campus and the team and pretty much decided the day of visit that I was going to come here, and it’s been a perfect fit since then,” Day said.
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