This Saturday marks the 2012 regular season opener for seven of the eight football playing members of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The University of La Verne will be the lone exception.
Due to its bye week falling on the first league date of competition, La Verne will wait an extra week to open its regular season when it plays host to Whitworth in the Grand Re-Opening of Ortmayer Stadium on September 15. The contest also marks the first-ever home night game in the history of Leopard football.
In fact, the Leopards will be the last of the Division III schools on the west of the Mississippi River to open their season. Only the 10 schools from the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), who begin their respective seasons on September 22, have a later start date.
The Leopards, with a current roster of 121 players, have been gearing up since the first day of practice on August 20. After nearly three weeks of drills and scrimmages while battling triple-digit temperatures, the squad will continue to prep as the rest of the conference officially begin their regular seasons this weekend.
Whitworth, La Verne's opponent in the season opener, will have the luxury of already playing two games prior to the Leopards' debut. The Pirates earned a 28-13 road win over St. Scholastica (Minn.) last Saturday and face Whittier this weekend.
Second-year head coach Chris Krich says there are both pros and cons to the extra week of preparation.
"You go through camp so long, we are going through same routines without a game to play so we're simply tired of hitting each other," he said. "It'll also be Whitworth's third game and our first so they'll have game experience while we'll be trying to overcome the first-game anxiety that normally occurs."
Nevertheless, Krich noted the late start gives the Leos an advantage of having a healthy team hit the field for next weekend's game, while also citing the continuity of playing the remainder of the season without the worry of a bye.
Krich says the squad is looking forward to September 15 and making history as hosting La Verne's first-ever night football game in the renovated stadium. "To have a brand new field is great," he said. It's also nice to bring back two other sports on campus with men's and women's soccer which is a bonus for our athletic department."
Last season, La Verne posted four victories in Krich's first year to equal the win total of the previous four years of Leopard football.