#1 A Wolverine football season like no other

Top 10 Stories of 2023From now until Dec. 31, Grove City College is counting down our top news stories of the year. This story was published in the December 2023 GēDUNK.

By Emma Rossi ’25

In the last week of the 2016 football season, then-senior wide receiver Brett Pinson ’17 got ready for practice. The Grove City Wolverines were 0-9.

Pinson had gone 0-30 in this collegiate career. Someone asked him, “Why are you going to practice?” He replied, “To compete for a PAC Championship.”

Head Coach Andrew DiDonato ’10 and his football team have competed each season for a PAC Championship and this year they’ve won it. The Wolverine football team did the historic, the extraordinary, the incredible: They finished the regular season with an undefeated 10-0 record, secured the PAC championship, and advanced, for the first time in College history, to the NCAA Division III playoffs. The Wolverines won a hard fought first round game against Susquehanna, 21- 20, and made it to the “sweet sixteen” before falling to SUNY Cortland, 25-24.

This season has been years in the making, and with each win, the excitement, anticipation, and hope that they could take this all the way grew.

The team was ranked fourth in the preseason poll, which many deemed a major underselling. This, paired with a daunting schedule that seemed engineered to trip up the Wolverines, created a narrative that those on the outside would call doubtful.

But on campus, there was no doubt. The familiar preseason sentiment that “we’re looking pretty good this year” began to evolve into something much more ambitious: “This could be the year they win it all.”

The team’s energy is infectious. It’s present in every pass, every tackle, each play and each drive. From the minute they run out onto the field to the last second on the play clock, their passion for the game is on display. It spreads from the eleven players on the field, to their teammates on the sideline and up into the bleachers of Robert E. Thorn field.

Every home game, students, parents, professors, staff, and people from the community pack into their seats, always overflowing onto the grassy hillside of the stadium and the sidewalk by the press box. The thousands of faithful fans are a testament to what Wolverine football means to this school.

“One of our phrases as a program is, ‘Each of us needs all of us’. That phrase is clearly lived out in our home game atmosphere. A home game at Grove City College is second to none when it comes to small college football. The support of the campus and Grove City community has helped us be a very tough team to beat at home,” said DiDonato.

From Thorn Field all the way to upper campus, the team feels the support. Senior captain Dominic Magliocco said that the College community encouraged the team.

“When you have a community behind you it really helps you strive to not only do your best on the field, but also in the classroom.

Also, they help us to build relationships between the team and the community through the support that they show week in and week out,” said Magliocco.

This year, week in and week out, the Wolverines kept winning.

What began as 1-0, then 2-0, became 3-0 after a hair-raising overtime win against the Case Western Reserve Spartans. On Saturday night, Sept. 23, the Wolverines were set

to take on their season’s most formidable opponent, the previously undefeated Carnegie Mellon University Tartans.

Last year, the Tartans took the PAC and made it to the second round of the NCAA playoffs, where they eventually fell to the top ranked team in the nation, reigning D III champions North Central Illinois.

The Tartans are a good football team, but that night, in front of a night game crowd of 5,000, the Wolverines were better. They held the Tartans scoreless until late in the third quarter and took the win 21-14.

Once the final buzzer sounded and all was said and done, students stormed the field to celebrate with their undefeated Wolverines.

The feeling was unforgettable, with the assembled Grovers singing the Alma Mater and looking back at the scoreboard, feeling that this really could be the year.

That feeling wasn’t just inspired by the team’s winning record, but deeply embedded in the very foundations of DiDonato’s program.

When DiDonato returned to his alma mater in 2016, the football team was coming off of two consecutive 0-10 seasons. Despite the odds stacked against them, DiDonato and his team tore down each obstacle and began rebuilding, brick by brick.

The Wolverines went 0-10 in his first year, but the foundation was laid, and string line was set. Wolverine football had a vision: “To glorify God in the pursuit of earning a degree, building lasting relationships, and competing for PAC championships.”

“I have seen this team come a long way through the guys before us trusting the vision day in and day out. It has just been an honor to go out there and be able to be a part of this program. Without these guys before us believing in the vision we would be sitting nowhere close to where we are today,” Magliocco said.

With a program almost as old as Grove City College itself, the team serves as a reflection of the campus it represents. At their very core, the Wolverines live by a historic tradition of excellence, a clear focus on glorifying God and a firm foundation in unwavering principles that define who they are.

Emma Rossi is a Communication Studies major from Bel Air, Md. She is Editor-in-Chief of The Collegian and the newspaper’s former Sports Editor.

#1 A Wolverine football season like no other

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