Four years ago when the current seniors on the King’s College football team were freshman, the team was beginning a rebuilding process. Not just on the field, but off as well, as leadership was in flux.
Today, as the Monarchs (5-4 overall, 5-3 MAC) get ready for their season finale against crosstown rival Wilkes (4-5, 3-5) this afternoon at McCarthy Stadium, players point to a leadership reconstruction as the biggest difference in helping turn the team into a contender.
“There was more on an ‘I’ effort and people looking out for themselves,” senior running back Judens Goimbert said. “Now we’re saying that to win games we have to put differences aside and it started clicking from there. After my sophomore year, it’s got better and better.”
Goimbert, who was on the King’s campus during coach Jeff Knarr’s first day on the job four years ago, has been a big part of the change in leadership. So has fulback Slade Eigenmann, one of the team’s captains.
The biggest impact has probably been made on offense, where there’s been a drastic turnaround. A year ago, the Monarchs averaged just 18.3 points per game and were eighth in the MAC in that category. Entering this afternoon’s Mayor’s Cup rivalry game, the Monarchs are fifth in the conference, improving by more than 10 points from last year — now averaging 28.7 points per game.
“We used to be in the huddle arguing a little more like ‘come on you gotta make your block,’” Eigenmann said. “Now it’s just ‘alright, you made a mistake let it go, let’s go, keep going, forget about it, we’ll get it back.’”
The emergence of quarterback Tyler Hartranft and his go-to receiver Dan Kempa have also paid off for the Monarchs this season. Hartranft has gone two games without throwing an interception, while passing for 519 yards and five TDs in that period to go along with a completion percentage of nearly 60 percent.
“I think Tyler really took control of the offense. He’s a great leader, a great quarterback,” Eigenmann said. “He’s obviously gotten more confidence as time’s gone on. More comfortable, more relaxed.”
While Goimbert has been oft-injured during his four years at King’s and is trying to play a fifth-year, Eigenmann will be wrapping up his career today. One thing the two have in common are that they have never beaten the Colonels. Wilkes has won three in a row, including a 44-32 victory last season.
Up until last week, the Monarchs were in contention for the MAC title, while Wilkes is near the bottom of the conference. The stakes are still high, though. In addition to the Mayor’s Cup being up for grabs, the Monarchs could have the program’s first winning season since 2006, while the Colonels are trying to avoid their second losing season in the last three.
“To me, this is the difference between a .500 season and a winning season,” Eigenmann added. “And when was the last time King’s had a winning season? I can’t even remember. So to get a winning season together, I’m more than happy with that.”
As for Wilkes’ dominance in the series by winning nine of the last 10 games, including the last three, Eigenmann says:
“I’m tired of it.”
If that shows from him and the rest of the team, King’s could finally be looking at a win over its rival.