Sioux Falls, SD
A four-time NAIA champion, the University of Sioux Falls football program is eager to contend in the NSIC and division II. The Cougars posted their 20th consecutive winning season last fall, but another six-win season isn't going to suffice.
The USF football team has lofty expectations, but the goal is to finish 1-0 every week.
"If you're not 1-0 the first week, your playoff hopes are almost diminished right off the bat. So, our focus is on Minot only, and that's what we're going to prepare for because we've got to be better than what we were last year," head coach Jed Stugart said.
"We're just looking to be 1-0, 1-0 every game. We're looking to excel as an offense and excel as a team…pretty much win the day. Just beat whoever comes our way and just go 1-0 every week. Go game-by-game and just have fun with it," senior running back Nephi Garcia said.
A year ago, Sioux Falls lost three games by a touchdown or less. This fall, the Cougars are counting on their new-look defense to close the gap, and help put them among the NSIC's elite.
"The foundation, and the fact that these guys have bought into a system and they're playing together, they're playing with enthusiasm defensively. We've getting turnovers in practice. Creating those things, and that's the thing we have to emphasize, and so, I'm like the direction we're heading," Stugart said.
"The entire off-season, and all of camp so far, they've just been energy all the time, doing great things and listening to their coaches. Just discipline, that's how I'd describe our defense. Discipline and energy, and they're bringing it every day, and that's awesome," sophomore wide receiver Josh Angulo said.
As a whole, the Cougars enter the season with high hopes, and no excuses.
"We can sit and talk about adversity and the injuries and everything we overcame last year, but the reality is we were 6-5, and that's not good enough, especially for here," Stugart said.
"We've got too much experience and too much leadership on this team to let something slip through the cracks like that, so we're going to be ready for everything that crosses us," Angulo said.
"There were a lot of times last year when we self-destructed. It wasn't that we really lost to our opponent, but we lost to ourselves. I think that's going to be the difference this year, if we can come together as a team and overcome the adversity that we face," sophomore quarterback Luke Papilion said.
USF opens the season against Minot State on Saturday at Bob Young Field. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.