Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Football sets tone for successful season

Warhawk football press conference, from left to right: Jeff Isotalo-McGuire, Tamir Thomas, Hawk Heffner, Roy Panthier.

As usual anticipation swirls around the Warhawk football program as the 2023 season gets underway. First year head coach Jace Rindahl earned his first win of the season with the program, 27-23, in a thrilling second half comeback against John Carroll University (Ohio). Alec Ogden completed the game-winning touchdown to wide receiver Nick Wind, followed by a dagger interception from Thomas Wojnowski.

Along with the team’s new head coach, the story for the Warhawks this season will be the options at the quarterback position. Ogden earned the starting quarterback position in the season opener against John Carroll after spending the season as a student-manager in 2022 while the NCAA reviewed his application for playing eligibility. Jason Ceniti and Jackson Chryst are also both viable candidates for the position for the Warhawks, which gives the option of two quarterback formations and makes it difficult for defenses to game plan. 

Whitewater showed off this versatility against John Carroll with a 46 yard touchdown run by Ogden who lined up as receiver and took a jet-sweep handoff from Ceniti lined up in the quarterback position. 

Rindahl has emphasized the competition between these three quarterbacks that could continue even as the season progresses, however Ogden set the tone in game one with 230 yards through the air, two passing touchdowns, a rushing touchdown and no turnovers. 

Rindahl has embraced his new role as Whitewater’s head coach and is familiar with the ins and outs of the program’s legacy. Rindahl joined the Warhawks as a linebacker in 2005, and won a national championship with the team in 2007. The Cambridge native has also been a part of the Whitewater coaching staff since 2015 when he joined as a run defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. Rindahl worked his way up to defensive coordinator, and served as the assistant head coach to Kevin Bullis last season. Understanding the way Warhawk football runs its program has proven to be an advantage for Rindahl in his new position. 

“Coach Berezowitz, Coach Leipold, and Coach Bullis are one text away,” Rindahl said. “You have these people in your corner who understand how to compete at a high level within this conference. Having our staff filled with people who have been around this place and wear that Warhawk with pride on their chest is definitely an advantage.”

Another new but familiar face on the coaching staff in the 2023 season is Marcus McLin, who serves as the associate head coach and co-defensive coordinator. McLin is another individual who understands the significance of the program. The Cleveland native played the role of defensive back and return specialist from 2011-2014 for the Warhawks. He earned two All-American honors at the defensive back position and All-Region honors as a return specialist, he also was a part of three national champion teams in 2011, 2013, and 2014. 

According to McLin the defense will have the same level of intensity as before despite the coaching carousel. He explained how the team has continued to emphasize the importance of playing fast, physical, and disciplined on the defensive side of the ball. The Warhawk defense takes inspiration from their mantra, “play with a dark-side mentality.”

“We like to say get one percent better everyday, find something that you can get one percent better at every single day,” senior defensive lineman Roy Panthier said. “That way we don’t get ourselves thinking too far ahead.”

The defensive prowess and experience of both Rindahl and McLin bode well for the defensive side of the ball, but the offense is poised to be successful this year as well. Junior running back Tamir Thomas finished the 2022 season with 699 yards and three touchdowns, and is set to carry a much bigger load for the Warhawk offense. At 6-feet tall and 179 pounds, Thomas is a lean, quick running back with the ability to spark the offense with an explosive ground attack. Thomas recorded 83 yards on 15 attempts against John Carroll.

 “I have really studied the playbook this off-season,” Thomas explained. “Once you understand all of your run schemes, what the offensive line is doing and what your quarterback is looking for, reading the plays becomes so much easier and more understandable.”

Also expected to see some higher usage this season will be sophomore running back Alijah Maher-Parr. Maher-Parr only saw eight carries for 61 yards and one touchdown in the 2022 season, but is also likely to inherit a big role in the backfield this season. Maher-Parr showed what he could do against John Carroll, running for 93 yards on 13 attempts.

The new additions to Whitewater’s football program will get the opportunity to prove themselves early against several tough matchups to begin the season. 

The Warhawks next matchup will be their home opener against No. 6 St. John’s University. Whitewater will enter this contest with a chip on their shoulder after suffering a tough loss to St. John’s in last year’s season opener. Kickoff for that game will be set for 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9 at Perkins Stadium.

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About the Contributor
Mikey Rottier
Mikey Rottier, Men's Sports Journalist

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