It has been said that there is nothing comparable to a football game on homecoming weekend.
It is a tradition-laced celebration that reunites members of a student body, past and present, into one social fabric, a fabric intertwined with reminiscing, hope, and aspirations for the future.
This fabric, this collective group of individuals, celebrates during the parade, admire the new homecoming king and queen, but lives for the football game.
The aura that surrounds the stadium is electric.
The electricity can cause extra jitters in visiting opponents and can provide added momentum for the home team.
Over 6,000 fans will provide that electricity when they flock into Seth Grove Stadium on Saturday as the No. 16 Shippensburg University football team hosts LIU Post at 1 p.m.
Throughout the week, SU’s campus has been a confluence for students. Signs have sprout up, while events and pep rallies are scheduled to entice the SU community to come together as one Raider nation to support SU as it prepares for a match-up that will be its biggest test since Week 1 against Shepherd University.
“We got the best game atmosphere in the league,” Coach Mark Maciejewski said. “I think we have a good following here, not only from the university but from the community as well. That’s something we’re trying to foster and grow every week for the rest of the year.”
That atmosphere will be needed as SU tries to march to 6-0 and win its fourth homecoming game in five tries.
Led by quarterback Zach Zulli, tailback Mike Frenette and a defensive core that is coming together at the right time, the Raiders have been virtually untested since its opening week win against Shepherd. Their wins have come against teams that have a combined record of 5-14.
LIU at 2-2 will offer a better measuring ground for the Raiders as it prepares for the upcoming three-week gauntlet with games against Kutztown University, one loss West Chester University and undefeated Bloomsburg University.
LIU has given the Raiders problems throughout the last three years, sending SU to losses in all three and outscoring the Raiders 111-60. It is looking to do the same and spoil SU’s homecoming weekend.
“They’re [LIU] going to come in here ready to play football,” Maciejewski said. “They’re ready to get down to business and I don’t think homecoming is a big distraction for them.”
The Pioneers, voted to finish third in the preseason PSAC rankings, enter the game with the best turnover margin ( 14) in the nation and averages 35 points per game behind star quarterback, Steve Laurino
If not contained, he has the potential to give the Raider defense fits.
Laurino, a dual-threat quarterback has 722 yards passing, nine touchdowns and one interception. He has also used his speed, netting 300 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. He is coming off a 259-yard two-touchdown performance in last week’s 31– 24 loss against Edinboro University.
SU enters the game ranked fifth in the nation in sack totals (averaging four per game) and will rely heavily on its defensive front seven to get pressure on Laurino and stop any offensive attack.
If Laurino is shut down early, the obvious advantage lies to the Raiders. The Pioneers’ defense remains highly suspect, giving up 27 points per game, and struggles mightily against the passing game, allowing 230 yards per game.
Zulli will be able to utilize a poor secondary to his fullest advantage. The junior has passed for 1866 yards, 22 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in five games this season and leads the nation’s No. 1 offense that averages 564.4 yards per game.
The Raiders will have an electric crowd behind them but so far in practice SU has put homecoming on the back burner. The players know that this is a special week, but are putting distractions to the side and focusing on the task at hand.
“We’re trying to stay in the same rhythm,” Maciejewski said. “We don’t overemphasize homecoming as far as its big this or big that. We still got to play football.”
Fans are encouraged to wear red for the 1 p.m. game on Saturday.