With so much turmoil on campus due to the statewide strike, the attention has been taken away from Homecoming and the annual homecoming football game. Even with all the controversy surrounding them, the Slippery Rock football team has not forgotten the importance of this game, especially the seniors.
This game is more than just redemption or adding another win to the season. For the seniors, who consist of the class of 2012 redshirts and class of 2013 athletes who played as true freshman, this game is protecting a legacy. They have not once lost a game at home since becoming active members of the roster.
Since the beginning of 2013, The Rock has won 20 straight home games. It is the longest active home winning streak in division II football. This senior class has also contributed to three out of seven straight homecoming victories. Redshirt senior defensive end Cody Conway said that his team does not lose at home.
“It’s not a thing here at The Rock,” Conway said. “We don’t lose at home, especially on homecoming.”
The Rock’s winning streaks are at risk this weekend. After coming off a tough loss to IUP, SRU takes on the 2nd ranked team in the West, Edinboro. Conway says that the loss doesn’t make this game anymore or less important, but they need to get back to the team they are known to be in order to keep their home record clean.
“Coming off of a loss, you just want to bounce back,” Conway said.
Despite the negativity swarming around SRU, a strong home field tradition can be seen as a positive at SRU. While many staff and students are picketing outside of campus entrances, alumni are returning to see their alma mater defend their home turf once again.
Rock head coach Shawn Lutz said he takes this game personally. He said he wants to see his seniors continue to build on their perfect at-home legacy, but he also sees what positivity it can bring to the campus during a rough time.
Lutz said he is seeing what the strike is doing to the campus. He said the school lacks a lot of good morale, but thinks the homecoming game, especially a win, will bring some positivity to the school.
“School’s not going on and the students are in limbo a little bit right now,” Lutz said. “This is a positive thing for everybody. We can come together and bring alumni back. A win would normalize what is going on with this strike right now.”
Athletic Director Paul Lueken said that all sports teams would continue to play and participate in athletic contest. He hopes to see the win streak continue, as he said it is one of the most valuable parts of the Slippery Rock experience.
Lueken has high hopes for the weekend, regardless of the distractions.
“Sometimes, you have to fight through adversity,” Lueken said. “This isn’t adversity, it’s just different. It’ll all work out.”
No one knows when the strike will end, but one thing that is certain are the two Rock winning streaks are on the line.
In an after-practice huddle on Wednesday evening, Lueken sat in front of the Slippery Rock football team to let them know that they will be defending Mihalik-Thompson stadium this week: “There will be a homecoming.”