Union College head football coach Andre Linn released the 2018 schedule, and it features a new wrinkle to being the campaign.
Union opens the season with a Thursday night game when Cincinnati Christian (Ohio) comes to Williamson Stadium on Aug. 23.
“I think it’ll be a good game; very competitive,” Linn said of the season opener. “Having it on Thursday night will help build some excited for the season within the community. And with classes just getting started, we can hopefully build some great energy as we kick off the new season.”
Kickoff for the Cincinnati Christian game is set for 7 p.m.
Union posted a 5-5 overall record and went 3-3 in Mid-South Conference (MSC) Appalachian Division play.
The 2018 slate features 10 games in all with five at home and five road contests. In addition, the Bulldogs are set to play five night games with four being at home.
“We’re excited about next season,” Linn said. “I think it’ll be a pretty competitive team, and I encourage everyone to come out.”
Here is a complete look at the 2018 schedule:
- Aug. 23 – Cincinnati Christian – Home – 7 p.m.
- Sept. 1 – Cumberland (Tenn.) – Away – 2:30 p.m.
- Sept. 15 – Faulkner (Ala.) – Away – 2:30 p.m.
- Sept. 22 – Webber International (Fla.) – Home – 1:30 p.m.
- Oct. 6 – Cumberlands (Ky.) – Home – 7 p.m.
- Oct. 13 – St. Andrews (N.C.) – Away – 1:30 p.m.
- Oct. 20 – Pikeville (Ky.) – Away – 6 p.m.
- Oct. 27 – Bluefield (Va.) – Home – 6 p.m.
- Nov. 3 – Point (Ga.) – Away – 1:30 p.m.
- Nov. 10 – Reinhardt (Ga.) – Home – 6 p.m.
Union will once again be competing in the MSC Appalachian Division along with Cumberlands, St. Andrews, Pikeville, Bluefield, Point, and Reinhardt. While Reinhardt are the favorites to repeat as division champion – especially after advancing to the NAIA National Championship game, it will be a fight among the rest of the league.
“Reinhardt is going to be the team to beat. There’s no doubt about that,” Linn said. “The rest of the conference; you can’t sleep or walk through any of them. You’re going to have to be ready to play. That’s just the nature of our conference.”
Union recently wrapped up its spring practice, and Linn is pleased with the team’s progress.
Offensively, the Bulldogs return a wealth of talent at the running back and wide receiver positions, including three All-MSC Appalachian Team members. Izayah Riettie led the team in rushing with 735 yards and nine touchdowns, while Tyler Toombs hauled in 29 passes for 949 years and 10 scores. Linn noted Samondre Johnson looked good during spring practice. He ran for 248 and two touchdowns on 44 carries.
The Bulldogs also return Bradley Elkins and Darian Patterson at wideout. Elkins recorded 27 catches for 251 yards and three touchdowns, while Patterson caught 26 passes for 515 yards and nine touchdowns.
With the graduation of All-MSC quarterback Alex Bell, there is a battle for the new signal-caller. Line noted the depth at the running back and wide receiver positions will go a long way in helping whoever gets the job. Kendrick Furness, Austin Beltzler, and Connor Marchionda are vying for the starting spot, and the Bulldog coach is confident that whomever ends up under center will excel.
“I think all of them have made multiple improvements,” Linn said. “With the talent we have at wide receiver, all of those guys will be successful. We’ve just got to figure out which guy we will have lead this team.”
The other area of concern is the left side of the offensive line, especially with the loss of All-MSC lineman Kermit Gibbs as well as Ryan Bernhard.
“Losing the whole left side of our offensive line is always tough to replace,” Linn said, “but some of our younger guys have stepped up and are getting more consistent with their play.”
Defensively, the team is making some changes but returns a number of starters.
“We’ve made a lot of changes, and I feel like we’re going to be faster than we have been in a long time,” Linn said. “There’s been marked improvement.”
The Bulldog coach noted Anthony Kelsey has come a long way and showed great improvement this spring, while Seth Nichols is the team’s “rock back there in the secondary.” Linn added that Justice Bishop, Tyler Wright, and Justavious Robinson all had good springs.
“I feel like we are in a good spot with where our freshmen are going to come in and compete for some playing time, but we have some older guys with two years of experience, and that’s going to be invaluable to our success next year,” Linn added.