After 6-4 season that ended with disappointing playoff loss, football team is already training for next year

With the fall season at an end, the Norwich University football team headed into the off-season, but it’s hardly a time of inactivity. With running and lifting workouts, the off-season is crucial for the development of the team next year.

“The guys are going to be working hard, they’ve gotten a taste of what it’s like to play in the big games and they know what it takes to be in them,” said head coach Mark Murnyack.

“The season had its ups and downs but we know what needs to be done,” said Murnyack. “I’ll make sure they stay motivated along the way but I think they all know what they want.”

The Cadets suffered a crushing playoff defeat against Albright College, located in Reading, Penn., losing 49-0 to end their season after a 6-4 regular season record (6-1 champs within the conference). “I was pretty upset after the game. I really wanted to keep this team going but Albright was just a good team,” said captain and middle linebacker Ben Hummer, a 20-year-old junior criminal justice major from Annapolis, Md.

“I will tell you though, I’m pretty excited to get back to work. I want to get stronger and faster for next season,” said Hummer.

The offseason-lifting program is held in Plumley Armory’s gym, starting in December and ending in May when school gets out. The program focuses on strengthening the players through core workouts such as benching, squatting, and deadlifting.

“This is always a fun time of year for me, I get to see the team more often then when they were in-season,” said strength and conditioning coach Jeff Kruger. “The first few weeks are always difficult since the guy’s bodies are still a little beat up from the season.”

“The whole point of this though is to strengthen the body to help protect them from injury the next time around,” said Kruger. “If they want to keep competing each season, this is where it starts.”

Not only will the team lift when they go to Plumley, but they will compete against each other in fun activities such as tug-of-war or races to keep the team in the competitive spirit.

“I want the team to work when they come down to the gym,” said Mark Murnyack. “Monday through Thursday when they are here I’m going to hold them to the goals they have set for themselves.”

“I always tell the team, every other school out there is gunning for us and we need to work the hardest to be the best,” said Murnyack. “This isn’t just sports we are talking about, we have to stay humble in everything we do and keep working as hard as we can.”

Along with lifting this offseason the Cadets will be taking advantage of Sabine Field for 5:30 a.m. running sessions to help keep them in shape for the next season. These morning practices will be paired with the afternoon lifting sessions.

“The 5:30 practices are always difficult because of the running aspect,” said senior captain and middle linebacker Eleazar Rausseo, a 22-year-old architecture major from Cooper City, Fla. “Getting up in the morning when it’s freezing cold out is just not something anyone wants to do, but it has to be done,” he said.

“I just try to think of it in the most positive way as possible though, if I want to be something great, I have to put in the work,” said Rausseo.

Along with the strength and conditioning aspect, the offseason is where the future captains of the team are sorted out. In the spring during the last offseason practice, the cadets run up Paine Mountain and the captains are announced.

“This is the time where we see the leaders emerge from the group,” said assistant head coach Bill Russell. “The guys who have a true dedication to this team and want to see us do better will stand out. This is also the time where we see who actually wants to be on the team and who’s just hanging around to wear a jersey.”

“I find this to be a very important time in our program, we are graduating 13 seniors – which every college program does – and we need to find some new guys to step up. In Division III you can’t play actual football during the offseason, it is just not allowed, so we see our standouts in the gym and during the morning sessions,” said Murnyack.

“We are losing a bunch of key players like Rausseo, Chaves, Finney, and Labelle but I am quite sure the guys that want to play next season will work hard now so they can show us they want to be the guy to play,” said Murnyack. “My philosophy for this team is the best guy is going to play, and to be the best you have to work hard.”

Motivation is high for the team moving into the offseason after the playoff loss. Bringing pride back to the school by winning the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) gives them the fuel to keep working, said running back Nick Benoit, a 20-year-old criminal justice major from Saugus, Mass.

“I’m excited for the offseason, it gives me a chance to get healthy but also to get stronger and faster than last season,” said Benoit. “I have some big shoes to fill with Sam Chaves leaving but I’m going to do my best.”

“Obviously us as coaches have some work to do this offseason. With the recruiting and changing around of the playbook, I think we’ll be ready for what the conference has to throw at us,” said Murnyack.

With hard work and dedication, the Cadets hope to do what needs to be done to end up with a winning record for the upcoming season. “Our goals are not going to change, we expect to win the ECFC again and go back to the playoffs and get ourselves a post-season win,” said Murnyack.

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