(Ann Arbor, MI) Joshua Schumacher was promoted to head football coach on November 15th and it's been non-stop for him and the Cardinals ever since. Schumacher has hired two full-time staff members along with graduate and volunteer assistants, recruited a talented 2017 class, completed the 2017 schedule, prepared and held a successful spring season, hosted two summer prospect combines, and just completed his first preseason camp – just to name a few.
Despite the transition, the mission of Concordia football has not wavered. The development of student athletes, as men, Christians, and football players was a priority of Coach Pries and will continue under Coach Schumacher.
As the reigns are handed over the expectations will not change either. Last year the Cardinals either received votes or were ranked in 4 of the NAIA Coaches Top 25 polls and set the program record for wins with 7.
The Cardinals will first take flight on the west side of the state as they clash with the Davenport Panthers. 2017 will be only the second year of football for Davenport, and their first while aligned to a conference. Davenport played as an independent last season and made the jump to NCAA DII this offseason where they will play in the GLIAC.
The next two weeks the Cardinals will find themselves in the Chicago area facing off against two of the schools in the Midwest League of the Mid States Football Association (MSFA). Week two will be in Deerfield, Illinois, as the Cardinals will play the Trinity International (TIU) Trojans for the seventh year in a row. The first four matchups against TIU went in their favor, but the Cards have had the advantage as of late, punctuated by a 41-24 trouncing in 2017.
Concordia will challenge the Tigers from Olivet Nazarene (ONU) in their third week of the season. The last time these two teams met was in 2014 in Bourbonnais, Illinois, and the Cardinals came home victorious, 24-21.
Starting in week four, Concordia will open up a two game homestand in Ann Arbor. The home opener will be on September 23rd and feature the Eagles from Robert Morris (RMU). RMU has received early recognition in the preseason polls as they are currently ranked 1st in the Midwest League of the MSFA and 15th in the NAIA Coaches' poll. The Cardinals have not faced the Eagles since 2014 and hope to secure their first win against RMU in program history.
The second game to be played at Cardinal Stadium will be Concordia's Homecoming game on September 30th against Lindenwood University-Belleville. Also a part of the Mideast League, Lindenwood has only squared off with Concordia the past two years. While the Lynx took the first matchup, the Cards came back with vengeance, winning by 43 points last year.
On the road in week six, the Cardinals will face perhaps their toughest challenge of the season. Concordia will line up across from the University of St. Francis, Indiana, for the seventh time. After winning the NAIA National Championship last year, the Cougars sit atop the preseason polls at #1
The Cardinals last road game of the season will require the team to head south to St. Louis, to play the Missouri Baptist (MBU) Spartans. The series record belongs to the Cardinals as they have yet to allow the Spartans double digits in both previous meetings.
Concordia will then return home and stay there for the remainder of the regular season. Week eight holds another esteemed opponent for the Cardinals as they will invite the Marian Knights up to Ann Arbor on October 21st. Last season the Knights were ranked 1st in the NAIA for the majority of the regular season and fell short of a championship in the quarterfinals to Eastern Oregon. Marian will begin 2017 ranked as 5th in the nation and 2nd in the Mideast League.
In week nine, CUAA will host Taylor University's Trojans on October 28th. Taylor is certainly a familiar foe, as 2017 will mark their seventh clash. The Trojans bested Concordia in the first five matchups, but the Cards bounced back last year to earn the 34-14 result over Taylor.
The last game of Concordia's 2017 regular season campaign will be against arch rival Siena Heights on November 11th. The Saints will come to town for their sixth bout with the Cardinals. Siena Heights claimed the first three games in this rivalry, but in what has become a trend, the Cardinals have since gained the upper hand. The prior two meetings with Siena were both highlights of the past two years. In 2015, the Cards erased a 20-point deficit on the road to edge the Saints, 28-27, in a game for the ages.
Coach Schumacher knows the challenge this conference brings, but looks forward to the competition. "The MSFA Mideast is the best conference in the country and we love playing the best teams. Competing in the MSFA gives us an honest and real look in the mirror. We have an opportunity every season to make our mark. Knowing the challenge is great, but we need to know ourselves honestly and humbly."
The Cardinals graduated a large senior class this past spring, but still have a majority of their starters returning.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Cards have all but one of last year's starters coming back. The offensive line lost All-MSFA 1st Teamer, Norman Cyr, but will look to continue on the success they found last year in pounding the rock. Seniors Darricle Jones (SR/Eastpointe, MI) (All-MSFA Honorable Mention) and Nathan Gifford (SR/Las Vegas, NV) will lead the line as they pave the way for a very talented group of position players. Captain quarterback Seth Suida (SR/Livonia, MI) is returning to lead the offense and distribute the ball to a bevy of playmakers. All-MSFA 1st Team running back Joe Conner (SO/Flat Rock, MI) will attempt to improve upon his record breaking 2016 season on the ground. Through the air, Suida will find fellow captain Bryant Hudson (SR/Flint, MI), All-MSFA 2nd Teamer Herman Mason (SR/Lansing, MI), and the speedy Roderick Dailey (JR/Detroit, MI).
On the other side of the ball the team returns six of last year's starters. The defense is led by captains Jay Koski (JR/Portage, MI) and All-MSFA 2nd Teamer, Kaleb Pohlman (SR/Liberty Center, OH). Joining the captains in the front seven are two Cards that earned All-MSFA Honorable Mention honors last year; Andrew O'Hara (JR/Cleveland, OH) and Keith Rubin (JR/Whitmore Lake, MI). Over top, Concordia will be led by safety Ra-Heem Hill (JR/Detroit, MI) and Timothy Koehler (JR/Belvidere, IL) as they patrol the secondary.
In addition to the strong core of returners, the Cardinals have an exciting group of newcomers that will be added into the mix. The incoming freshmen and transfers have already augmented the depth of the roster and challenged for spots at every position group.
Cardinals recognized in the preseason polls
With the Cardinals improvement and success in recent years, recognition in the conference and on a national level has been well earned. In the MSFA Mideast League conference poll, the Cardinals were predicted 3rd based on votes casted by conference coaches. The Cardinals received 62 votes and find themselves behind the last two national champions – University of St. Francis (87 votes) and Marian University (81 votes). Last year the Cardinals were predicted to finish 5th but was good enough for 3rd at the end of the year.
The College Football America publication completed their annual NAIA preview and placed the Cardinals 29th in their top 30 poll. This is the first time the Cardinals were recognized by CFA. Other MSFA teams to earn a ranking in the CFA poll was St. Franics (1), Marian (4), Robert Morris (17), Saint Xavier (30).
The NAIA Preseason Coaches Poll was recently released and while the Cardinals were not honored, they are schedule to play three teams ranked in the top 25 -- St. Francis (1), Marian (5), Robert Morris (13).
Connect with the Cardinals
For the most updated information and news throughout the season follow Concordia Football on their social media platforms. The Cardinals are on Twitter (@CUAA_Football), Instagram (@cuaa.football), Facebook (@CUAAFootball), and Snapchat (@cuaafootball). Fans can also subscribe for text alerts and the Cardinals YouTube page for video interviews from players and coaches.