Workers installed “The Steemer” logo on the east side of Wittenberg University’s new indoor facility last week. Six years after Wittenberg began to consider building the structure and 31 months after the groundbreaking, it opens its doors to the public Friday and Saturday on homecoming weekend.
Stanley Steemer founder Wes Bates, whose donation helped make the facility possible, has predicted the Steemer will help the football team win a national championship. First, though, coach Joe Fincham and his staff have to figure out how to best utilize their new indoor home.
The one thing Fincham does know is it will help in recruiting because not many Division III programs can offer a warm and dry place to play football on the worst weather days.
“Now you have a facility that guys can train year round in,” Fincham said. “It’s hard in the Midwest for guys to find a place to throw and catch in the middle of January.”
There will be times in the future Fincham will have to decide between practicing indoors or outdoors. It’s just not a decision he’ll be able to make at the last second.
“We have 20-something sports,” Fincham said. “It’s not like we can say, ‘Well, it looks like a rainy day, we’ll just go inside.’ The field hockey team will have something to say about that. Both soccer teams will have something to say about that. We all share the facility.”
Game preview: The Tigers (4-2, 4-1) play Denison (5-1, 4-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Edwards-Maurer Field. Both teams have suffered double-digit losses at Wabash. Denison lost 34-20 on Sept. 28. Wittenberg lost 31-13 in Crawfordsville, Ind., last week.
While Wittenberg still controls its North Coast Athletic Conference championship hopes and can at least share the title by winning its last four games, it will need Wabash to lose at some point to earn the league’s automatic playoff berth. Wabash will be big favorites the next three weeks against Oberlin, Kenyon and Hiram but plays its biggest rival, DePauw, in the Monon Bell game in the regular-season finale on Nov. 16.
For now, the Tigers can’t dwell on the loss to Wabash because Denison is too strong to overlook.
“I think the first thing you’ve got to do is learn from the disappointment from the previous Saturday and try to correct the mistakes you made and become better for it,” Fincham said. “You’ve got to refocus pretty quick.”
Wittenberg beat Denison 68-66 in four overtimes last season in Granville. Denison senior quarterback Canaan Gebele threw two touchdown passes and rushed for five scores, while Wittenberg senior quarterback Jake Kennedy threw seven touchdown passes.
This season, Denison leads the NCAC with 42.8 points and 456.8 yards per game. Senior Alex Minton leads the conference with 117.5 rushing yards per game and 11 touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Drew Dawkins averages 217.2 passing yards per game.
“They’ve got a tremendous run game,” Fincham said. “I really hoped after the last quarterback graduated there would be a drop off, but holy smokes, it doesn’t look like much at all.”
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