Waynesburg, Seton product gunning for a perfect season
This Saturday, Dave O'Brien has a chance to be part of history.
O'Brien, a Seton-La Salle graduate, is a sophomore quarterback with the Waynesburg University football team.
The Yellow Jackets are 9-0 overall this season, and 7-0 in the NCAA Division III Presidents' Athletic Conference.
The Yellow Jackets have zipped past Muskingum, Frostburg State, St. Vincent, Thomas More, Thiel, Grove City, Bethany, Geneva and Westminster this season.
On Saturday, they will host rival Washington & Jefferson (7-2, 6-1) in a battle for the PAC championship.
If Waynesburg wins, it will be the program's first conference title since 2003, and first undefeated regular season since 1966. Additionally, the winner will enter the Division III playoffs.
O'Brien likes his team's chances and said there's something special about the Yelllow Jackets squad.
“There's a lot of team chemistry,” he said. “It seems like we're all tight. We're just a close group of guys, and we're focused.”
While the 6-foot-1, 190-pound O'Brien is a backup at this point in his career, he has seen plenty of action during this season.
He's appeared in four games, completing one pass for 3 yards. He played a key role when injuries forced him into the game against Muskingum College in the 2012 season opener on Sept. 1.
“Dave came in the game in Week 1 against Muskingum and won the game for us,” Rick Shepas, Waynesburg's head coach, said. “Dave's made great progress within our offense this year.
“His understanding of the game and his recognition of the defense are his best assets. He recognizes blitz situations.”
Shepas has used five quarterbacks this season, and said he “would not hesitate” to put O'Brien into Saturday's crucial game.
“Dave is a confident kid,” Shepas said. “He gets equal reps during practice. He has equal preparation going into the game (as the starter). I wouldn't hesistate at all.”
With that kind of confidence in O'Brien's ability, the Yellow Jackets' field boss added that the local product being a full-time starter at some point in time is a strong possibility.
“Absolutely, he has that kind of ability,” Shepas said. “He was coached well in high school; he has made significant progress and showed us what he can do.”
A true competitor, O'Brien is waiting that chance.
“It's always on my mind, how I can help the team win games,” he said. “I got a lot of playing time this year early in the season. I talk to (Waynesburg's starting quarterback) all the time about what they see on the field and on film. We have a great relationship.”
For now, though, he's focused on helping the Yellow Jackets prepare for Washington & Jefferson and, if need be, going into the game to help his team secure a win.
“It's going to be a tough football game,” O'Brien said. “When we play W&J, you never know how it's going to go.”
Shepas is emphasizing that his team not get focused on the historical significance and buzz surrounding the game.
“The tone around the team is very business-like,” he said. “For us, we've truly tried to maintain a routine … we have a philosophy of taking it one week at a time. It's just another game on the schedule, and they (W&J) are another team that stands in the way of a win.
“We script for a win, and prepare for that during the week,” Shepas said. “We don't care who contributes to the cause, and each week, a few guys step up. This week is no different.”
In terms of the on-field matchup, Shepas likes what he sees.
“I think it's a good matchup on both sides of the ball,” he said. “There are similarities between the teams … on defense, we recruit smaller, more athletic players.
“They've got great skill players. Going head-to-head will be a great matchup.”
The opening kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast live at Waynesburgsports.com.
Brian Knavish is a freelance writer.