UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Ohio -- The John Carroll football team is staying home for Thanksgiving weekend, and that is a very good thing.
John Carroll has never hosted a game this late into the season, but after a 37-12 thrashing of MIAA champion Olivet College in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs, the Blue Streaks will remain at home over Thanksgiving weekend and welcome Wesley College to Don Shula Stadium today.
“It’s exciting,” Blue Streaks coach Tom Arth said. “We talked to the guys when we met about the opportunity to play Thanksgiving week and practice on Thanksgiving.
“It’s something we’re incredibly grateful for and something that we would never, ever take for granted. Very few people have the opportunity to practice and play Thanksgiving week. We’re fortunate. We’re blessed, and we’re just trying to make it as fun and as exciting as we can for our program.”
Champions of the Ohio Athletic Conference after running off a perfect 9-0 slate that included an upset win over the No. 1 team in the country, the Mount Union Purple Raiders, in the final week of the regular season, the Blue Streaks got things rolling early and kept Olivet from mounting any type of comeback.
The last time they played this late into the season, the Blue Streaks had to go on the road twice, first to Wheaton College in suburban Chicago, and then, to Alliance, where Mount Union put to an end their 2014 season.
“Being home is nice,” Arth said. “A couple years ago, in 2014, when we were practicing this week, we had to go on the road. We had to go to Chicago the week of Thanksgiving, so the time off from when practice ended on Thursday until they were back bright and early Friday morning was a quick turnaround, and then, we were on the road Friday afternoon.
“To be able to give the guys off really after practice Thursday until Friday afternoon will be really good for their psyche. I think they’re going to come back and feel great, fresh, incredibly well rested and ready to play on Saturday.”
And the Blue Streaks are going to need that rest when they host Wesley in second-round play.
On their way to a 9-2 record, the Wolverines averaged 39.9 points, 207.6 rushing yards and 262.2 passing yards per game, and they bring an eight-game winning streak into University Heights.
“We’re excited for the matchup,” senior wide receiver Nico James said. “Having home-field advantage is huge for us. We love our home stadium, our home fans. This opponent’s very balanced. They’re a very good team. I think every opponent we face from here on out is going to be a good team, and we know they’re going to have athletes. We know we’re going to match up well with them.”