Buoyed by victories, Quaker football looks to program’s future

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This past Saturday the Quakers football season ended with a 38-10 loss at Emory & Henry College. Although the season finished on a low note, there is more to take away from this historic season.
The Quakers finished the season with a record of 5-5, their best record since 2007, and tied for third in the final Old Dominion Athletic Conference standings. The 2012 season saw the Quakers have huge upsets over conference foes Randolph-Macon College and The Catholic University of America.
The season could have been one filled with loss and despair, since the Quakers were tabbed to finish last in the preseason poll.
“Going from preseason picked last place to possibly finishing in first place is huge for us,” said second-year Head Football Coach Chris Rusiewicz.
Rusiewicz’s coaching style was instrumental to the team’s newfound success. Every day, Rusiewicz stressed the importance of competing and team unity.
“There’s more competition out there,” said sophomore wide receiver Juquan Tellis. “Every year you try and bring in a group of guys who will compete in the ODAC.”
This year, the team was one of the most close-knit in recent memory. Every Friday before games, the players would have a team unity session so everyone could become closer, on and off the field.
“The fact that (the players) are all together and on board with each other, playing as one rather than as individuals, (meant that) you could start to see the success as the latter part of the year came through for us,” said Rusiewicz.
This year’s team has also been one of the youngest teams as of late. On a team of 87 players, there are only nine seniors. One of those seniors, Thor Pate, was extremely proud of what his team was able to accomplish.
“Without a doubt, I’m proud of our team’s growth for being so young,” said Pate. “We (have) come a long way.”
Coach Rusiewicz stressed this year that it was crucial to be a close team –– especially with such young players –– in order to be successful. Rusiewicz beseeched his players to eat together and speak their minds in front of one another in order to build trust.
Rusiewicz also noted that all of his players share common goals.
“They are all there for two common purposes –– (to) graduate in four years, and to build a general fraternity around themselves,” said Rusiewicz.
Rusiewicz believes that winning requires coming together as a team and working as a unit.  As Pate put it, “Our team is not a bunch of cliques like it used to be.”
All signs point to a bright future for the program in the next couple of years. A large majority of the team returns next year, along with a few key players.
First-year quarterback Matt Pawlowski, who threw for 2,443 yards and 15 touchdowns, will return alongside first-year wide receiver Adam Smith, who hauled in 65 catches for 874 yards and five touchdowns.
With the team growth that took place this year, and the number of players returning, Rusiewicz expects immense success for next year’s team. But for that success to come, he believes a lot of work rests on the player’s shoulders.
“Off-season success needs to come from hard work, team unity, staying together in the off-season, working out together and pushing each other, not only in the weight room, but the (in) classroom as well,” said Rusiewicz. “(The athletes) are the ones who need to do it.”
Although Pate will not share in the team’s future successes, he foresees unlimited possibilities for the team.
“I’m ecstatic for what could come in the future,” said Pate.