This year Wittenberg football was placed at No. 27 on ESPN’s list of “50 best college football programs over 150 years.” While the varsity team has done well in past years fighting to earn that spot, so too has its junior varsity team, both working hard to collectively create a successful program.
So far, the varsity team has started the season off strong with a record of 3-1. JV has held their own as well, winning two of their three games, one of which was against Ashland University, a Division II program. Justifiably proud of the win, Head Coach of the JV program, Thomas Meshcer, was “pleased to see our guys come out and compete against a program of that caliber.”
Mescher has coached at Wittenberg for 15 years, eight of which as the Head Coach of JV Football. As a coach, he told The Torch his most important goal for incoming freshman playing on his JV team is for them to graduate.
“Coach Fincham has put an emphasis on that goal ever since I came here 15 years ago,” Mescher said. “Our focus is to turn these 17-18 year old ‘boys’ into responsible ‘men’ when they graduate. We do that through teaching them to be responsible men, who can always look back and say, ‘I played four years of football at a high level program, and I didn’t quit.’”
This year the Tigers added 49 freshmen to the roster, the majority of whom have played with the JV team. In practice, both teams practice together. According to Mescher, “We need the JV players for our varsity practices. They will often be on the scout teams running the plays of the team we play that week. That is very valuable. A lot of the varsity starters played JV, so they know how important the young players are to the program.”
While in the past, JV games have numbered as many as five games in a season, Mescher cited a small recruiting class and injuries as why they’ve only played three. But along with continuing to practice with varsity, new recruits will be able to prove themselves in an inter-squad game later on in the season, where they will play with and against members of the varsity team.
In the past, players who’ve started on the JV team have gone on to make a name for themselves at Wittenberg.
As Mescher points out, “senior All-American Linebacker and Conference Player of the Year, Jonathan Seay, played in JV games as a freshman as did the 2009 Division III Defensive Player of the, Year Eddie Vallery. Our Offensive Coordinator, Reed Florence, was the 2013 Offensive Conference Player of the Year, and played in JV games as a freshman. There are numerous guys that played JV and became great players for us on Saturdays.”
With the varsity team’s strong start to the season, the prospects of a fourth Conference Title for the seniors certainly remains in the cards.
Mescher wants the “freshman class… to realize they can’t win four in their career if they don’t put the work in to win the first one this year.”
But playing football at Wittenberg University is about more than just winning titles.
Commenting on experience gained playing Wittenberg football, Mescher said, “I think that’s why we have such successful former players out there in the world today. Anything that life throws at them, they can fall back on the values they have learned in our football program.”