When the Eisenhower Knights take the field Friday, Sept. 11, they’ll be thankful for the opportunity to play.
They’ll also be looking to make a statement. These Knights are ready for a big season.
Eisenhower lost only two seniors from a team that finished third in the region and advanced to the postseason. Having all that experience back should be beneficial in an abnormal off season.
“It really helps us expand on things we already know, rather than having to teach newcomers the playbook,” senior quarterback Owen Trumbull said. “It also goes beyond the playbook. We have expectations that we didn’t meet last season that we are determined to make happen this year.”
Eisenhower’s passing attack, led by Trumbull, is a big reason for the high expectations this season. Trumbull completed 66 percent (128-194) of his passes for 1,446 yards, 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He also carried the ball 50 times for 224 yards and five scores.
He’ll have his favorite target, senior wide receiver Dillon Benson, back as well. Benson hauled in 62 passes for 821 yards and eight scores in 2019. Both Trumbull and Benson ranked in the top 10 in District 10 last year at their respective positions, and both want to be better this season.
“Me and Owen are very proud of our performances last year,” Benson said. “And we have improved a good amount and worked hard (to get better).”
“As a duo, we just have to find new ways to get Dillon open,” Trumbull said. “As a team, we have to spread the ball to others. We have a lot of play makers on the team and the ball needs to be in their hands as well.”
One of those play makers is senior running back, Zane Alexander. Alexander led the Knights with 119 carries for 459 yards (3.9 ypc) and five touchdowns. He was also the second leading receiver with 34 receptions for 323 yards and a score.
While Alexander provides the speed, junior Cael Black provides the power out of the backfield. Black ran 50 times for 211 yards, and caught seven passes for 83 yards.
Caleb Robinault could be an x-factor for the Knights. The speedy senior caught 16 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns a year ago, but could emerge if teams try to focus solely on Benson.
The biggest question for this iteration of Eisenhower football is whether the defense can slow opponents. The Knights gave up an average of 30.8 points per game last season.
Junior Gannon Jaquay led the team with 64 tackles. Senior Jared Beers was right behind with 57 stops and led the team with 11.5 tackles for loss. Colby Hagg had 47 tackles and a team-leading three sacks. As a team, the Knights had just 10 sacks on the year.
This team went right to work in the off season, despite the challenges presented by COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
“As soon as the weather broke this spring, we were having player organized get togethers,” Trumbull said. “We were also participating in Zoom group chats with the coaches, getting our minds back onto football. It was difficult, but personally, it taught me how to better communicate with my teammates and coaches.”
District 10’s region realignment puts the Knights in Region 5 with Iroquois, Seneca and Union City. Each team will play each opponent twice, home and away. If District 10 opts not to have a postseason, Eisenhower has also added Cochranton and Titusville to its schedule.
“Me and my teammates are very grateful to be gifted any season at all,” Benson said. “And we look forward to making the best out of the short season.”
Regardless of playoffs or season length, the goal for the Knights is simple, win.
“If we are given the opportunity of playoffs, we want to win D-10,” Trumbull said. “If we don’t get playoffs, we want to go undefeated. Basically, we have one thing in mind, and that is to win.”
Eisenhower opens its season at home against Union City, Sept. 11, with kickoff set for 7 p.m. The game will be streamed on the Your Daily Local Facebook page, with airtime set for approximately 6:30 p.m.