SELINSGROVE — The first four senior day football games of the Tom Perkovich era have all gone the way of the Susquehanna River Hawks, and Perkovich hopes Saturday’s 6 p.m. kickoff against McDaniel is no exception.
“Let’s make it 5-for-5,” Perkovich said. “This is one of the senior classes that has really been a big part of what we’re doing here.”
Susquehanna, ranked 19th in the nation and winners of five in a row, enter Saturday evening’s contest with a 7-1 overall mark and 6-1 record in Centennial Conference play. It’s the fourth consecutive season the River Hawks have won at least six Centennial games.
“We’ll have to match their physicality,” Perkovich said of McDaniel (3-5, 2-5). “We will have to match that with good technique, taking care of business and executing. We cannot afford any letdowns.”
Four of McDaniel’s five starting offensive linemen check in at 280 pounds or more, but the Green Terror find themselves facing a terror of a different sort Saturday — Susquehanna’s stingy defense.
The River Hawks’ last three opponents — since their mid-season bye — haven’t recorded more than 50 yards rushing or gained more than 275 yards for the game. The Susquehanna defense, which Perkovich has called the finest he’s ever seen as a coach or player, has made life miserable for opponents game after game.
Linebacker David Simpson is one of the seniors who will be honored prior to Saturday’s game.
“The last four years went by in the blink of an eye,” Simpson said. “I’m so proud to be a part of this class. The guys before us set everything in motion, and we’ve helped put it together.”
Focus has not been hard to maintain, because the River Hawks have kept themselves grounded thanks not only to the leadership of the team captains, but many other voices within the locker room.
“I think that’s been the ultimate factor in all of the success,” Simpson said. “You have guys that aren’t captains who might not have the title, but lead like they do. That’s why we’re such a good football team.”
Simpson said this season’s River Hawks are a close-knit and confident group.
“This is the best team I’ve ever been on and the most fun I’ve ever had playing football,” Simpson said. “We play every call, right or wrong, and then line up and play the next play. There’s definitely a lot of trust.”
While Saturday will be a tribute for the senior class, a couple of River Hawk underclassmen are approaching individual milestones. Sophomore quarterback Michael Ruisch needs 77 yards to attain 4,000 offensive yards for his career and 200 yards passing for 2,000. Meanwhile, junior running back Da’Avian Ellington needs 118 yards rushing to become the second Susquehanna back in the last three seasons to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.