FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – Last spring, all Methodist University football did was take names and dish out Ls in the shortened season. The Monarchs only had one bad quarter of football, but it cost them that game, their perfect season, and a conference championship.
“Kind of bittersweet. You know, undefeated regular season, but it’s not the end result we wanted,” said Monarchs quarterback Brandon Bullins. “That’s the main goal we are going into this fall”
“They had a terrible taste in their mouth at the end of that last game, and that’s all they have been talking about all summer. And that’s all I’ve been stressing to the guys,” said head coach Keven Williams. “The theme of the year is unfinished business for us because we got there, but we couldn’t finish, so now we get a chance to shake that off and get right back at it.”
“We’re on a revenge course,” said Monarchs safety Nate Jones. “We got goals, we got expectations, and we are going to meet them.”
The written word doesn’t do justice to the intensity by which the first question about last season was answered. Jones was as passionate about what he said as he was brief.
If the Monarchs seem confident, it’s because they have every reason to be. They return all but one starter on both sides of the football. Everybody but one guy, and his backup played half the snaps last year. They even have their kicker and punter back from a team that almost won it all.
“Last year we were great, and now we have to become perfect. In the spring, we had all those practices and some great games and good showings,” Bullins said. “Now it’s about perfecting every T perfecting every I. There isn’t any detail too small, there isn’t any detail too big that we can or cannot miss.”
“Our ‘Monarch Made’ philosophy of living by our five words of being unselfish, tough, committed, disciplined, and detailed obviously being the last word, so some of that we have been driving home for five years now,” Williams said. “But a lot of it comes from that last game. They know we should have and could have had a chance to win that last game if we would have done the little things right.”
Bullins enters his third year with Methodist. More than comfortable in the system, the coach wants to see him take on more of a leadership role. They are incorporating more fast-tempo plays and allowing Bullins to change plays as he sees fit at the line of scrimmage.
“We have the ability to have him be field general on the field,” Williams said. “Not just staying with the play we have called, so if Brandon sees something on the field or one of our guys sees something on the field, we have the ability to adapt that.”
“We have a lot of experience returning, and that’s the best thing we could ask for,” Bullins said. “The biggest thing that we’re going to be is aggressive, be explosive, and we’re going to strike fast. That is our motto on offense. Strike fast, strike first, and be aggressive — that’s what we are going to bring to the table.”
Using the motto of WWII US Navy fleet admiral William “Bull” Halsey of “Strike fast, strike hard, strike often” should make for a load of highlights and scores for this year’s team.
On the defensive side of the football, their strength last season was their secondary. With an offseason to heal and recruit this unit is now solid from top to bottom. Pushed around up front at times due to a lack of size and healthy players, they come into the season with one purpose above all else.
“We want to stop the run,” Jones said. “If we stop the run, we’re going to take the ball out of the air. It’s inevitable.”
“We went through last year with a bunch of our defensive lineman either hurt or not available, and this year we have that,” Williams said. “The physical freshman we have coming add depth, and we are doing some different things upfront to stop teams from running the ball on us.”
Coming within a quarter of winning the conference championship last year and returning all but one starter means the goal for the Monarchs is pretty clear. Jones summed it up:
“A conference championship, going to the playoffs — as a team we trying to get to the top.”
A man of few, but intense words.
Methodist opens its season on Sept. 4 at Shenandoah University.