Sports Talk: Pioneer football team seeking improvement

Marietta College first-year head football coach Andrew Waddle has his finger on the up button as the Pioneers can’t go down any lower than last season’s winless mark.

Big Blue’s next triumph will be its first since it defeated Otterbein 30-27 in the ninth game of the 2011 fall campaign. MC also beat Thiel 32-24 in that year’s lid-lifter.

With the exact same schedule as last season, the Pioneers have a lot of scores to settle on the gridiron, starting with Case Western Reserve University on Sept. 7 and finishing against Muskingum University Nov. 16 – both road games.

After Case Western, it’s all Ohio Athletic Conference opponents.

Needless to say, Waddle – who is succeeding Jeff Filkovski (now at North Carolina Wesleyan College) – and his staff have plenty of work to do on both sides of the football.

It helps, though, having an experienced quarterback in fifth-year senior Tom Fulton taking center snaps. Last season, the 6-foot, 225-pound native of Pittsburgh completed 151 of 325 yards for 1,850 yards and 14 touchdowns.

If Fulton falters, there is Thomas Hinkle and Lucas Havens, who each saw action in 2012.

On MC’s 2013 tentative roster, eight signal callers are listed, so the Pioneers are very deep at the position.

Marietta also has a couple of quality receivers expected to return in Kirby Harris and Tannon Roberts, both of whom were All-OAC honorees last season. Harris led the team with 47 receptions for 682 yards and seven TDs, while Roberts had 39 catches for 560 yards and two scores.

Like last season, MC should be able to throw the ball, but can Big Blue sustain a balance and run it?

That’ll all depend on the development of an offensive line and running back(s).

Marietta had only one rushing TD all last season – and that has to change this year.

On the other side of the ball, All-OAC linebacker Jake Hammer is back, and that’s a plus. Last year, the 6-foot, 201-pounder was credited with 115 stops (47 solo, 68 assists), 3.5 tackles for loss, and one interception.

Defensive back Robert Brown led the team with three interceptions, and linebacker Franklin Holmes is a three-year letterwinner.

But this trio of Pioneer defenders, of course, won’t be able to do it alone. They’re going to need help and lots of it.

With the graduation of former Marietta Tiger Sean Munfield, the Pioneers will have a new punter on special teams this upcoming season.

While he wasn’t listed on the Marietta College tentative roster, Warren’s Chas Miller is expected to be one of the Pioneers’ place-kicking candidates.

Miller, who owns the Warriors’ school record with a 47-yard boot between the uprights, has a strong leg and good range on the gridiron.

Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor, and can be reached at 376-5441 or at