On every team, there will be ups and downs. This season has proved to show a little of both. On Aug. 29, the season opener against Culver-Stockton, the Pioneers managed to set a new program record for points scored with a final score of 80-34. Those points were earned in a variety of ways including a fumble returned for a touchdown by Malcolm Majors. The Pioneers then faced William-Penn on Sept. 5, when they lost in triple overtime. Most recently, the team dropped another away game against Grandview in another overtime thriller. Starting the season at No. 8 in the NAIA preseason poll, the No. 21 Pioneers have expectations built on last year's success.
For the MidAmerica football team, 2014 was a successful season, to say the least. The Pioneers performed consistently during the season, had running back Javon Taylor win the Heart of America Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year award and won the HAAC title. The Pioneer coaches and players proved that 2014 was definitely not going to be a “rebuilding year.” But head coach Brian Willmer says that all of this success was a team effort.
“I’ve got great coaching staff,” Willmer says. “Guys that understand the vision. They’re working hard to continue to improve, just like the players."
Last year, Willmer said his main vision for the team was to build well-rounded men who "lead from the front" in a way that God has equipped them to. He says that the senior class of 2015 is deserving of most of the credit for the continued growth toward that vision.
“We have a great senior class. We have over 20 men. Some have been here for two years, some for five. They’re doing a great job of leading the team. The conversations that happen away from when I’m around are what define a culture and program, and those guys are getting it. I’m very pleased with their growth,” Willmer said.
The conversations that happen away from when I’m around are what define a culture and program, and those guys are getting it,” Willmer said.
One aspect that Willmer credits to the successful growth is the team’s diversity.
“We are a very collective group,” Willmer said. ”We have men from all over the place. Most of them are very broken men. What’s unique about this team and the culture that we’re trying to create is that it’s a brotherhood. It’s a bonding. It’s something that until you’re actually in the middle of it and participating you can’t truly understand. It’s fun to see the guys begin to buy into that. All of these guys have made a sacrifice to be here. Financially, geographically…they’ve made a sacrifice to come here and be a part of something that’s bigger than themselves"
However, Willmer said there is plenty of room for growth.
“We want to get better in every area,” Willmer said. “I want to see these guys be really well-rounded in all the details of life. Whether that’s locker room cleanup, or doing a certain assignment for academics. I want to see these guys continue to grow in those areas, on and off the field. I want this program to represent the university well."
The next game for the Pioneers will take place on Saturday, Sept. 19, where they will be hosting Benedictine. Kickoff is set for 11:00 a.m.