Macon native Joseph Courson didn’t have much to work with when he took over KSU’s club football team with one game remaining in last year’s schedule. The team was dressing just over 20 players per contest, and was struggling with even the most basic fundamentals of football.
The team that thumped Rollins College last Sunday was far from it. The Owls (1-3) defeated Rollins in a shutout, 41-0, at home to earn the program’s first win in fashion, and a newfound confidence heading into this weekend’s roadtrip to face a Middle Georgia State team (formerly Macon State) that is ranked No. 1 in the National Club Football Association standings with an unblemished 6-0 mark.
“It felt great for the organization, for the coaches, for the players,” Courson said. “That’s what we were looking for was that signature win. We’re very happy it came in a shutout, the way it did. We actually ran the ball the whole third and fourth quarter, so we probably could have put a lot more on the board. We thought we would keep it respectful.”
The Owls had been close. They led Columbus State in both games earlier in the season. For running back Aaron Duncan, who is playing as a grad student after spending four years playing Division III football with LaGrange, the key was the fact that the team finally found a way to finish. “We had leads before, but that’s not the same as learning how to win,” said Duncan.
“It felt like everything came together and we finally played a complete game.”
“The offense was clicking on all cylinders. The defense pitched a shutout. You really can’t ask for more than that,” said junior guard and defensive tackle, Asante Henderson.
Courson, who also owns the semi-pro Georgia Panthers, had no doubt the Owls’ signature moment shines brightest in his coaching memory.
“It’s a building process,” Courson said. “I had more pride winning this game because these guys are playing with heart. They’re out there to try to get better.”
“The majority of our team is made up of people who never really had any experience,” said Courson. “So, it means a lot.” It’s been a long way coming for the Owls. While their record isn’t much prettier than that of last year’s, the players can speak for themselves on the improvement and foundation building. KSU is now dressing about 50 players on gameday, and also building a reputation that extends beyond the white lines.
“Last year we had some issues,” Courson said. “This year we’ve been out of town. We get letters of recommendation now. We’ve been getting accolades for when we travel.”
“Columbus State’s coach pulled me aside and told me, ‘we love playing you guys because you’re high class.’ I took that as the first win for KSU club football.”
KSU will test its wits against the top team in the land when it travels to face the Knights on Sunday. The Owls have another contest with the Knights in waiting before the season is over, along with a rematch with Rollins and a game against either Clemson or the University of South Carolina’s club team.
For now, the sky is the limit for the Owls, who are building confidence after started at rock bottom just over a year ago.
“The pressure is not on us,” Courson said. “(Middle Georgia State) is number one in the country. They’re undefeated. We have no pressure.”