Through the first few weeks of the football season, the Augustana Vikings were working hard and keeping a good attitude despite not having a victory to show for it.
The approach was positive, but a lack of execution was among the missing pieces that cost them a couple of wins.
With last Saturday's 24-19 victory over Elmhurst, the 1-4 Vikings had their first win and a little bit of the payoff as well.
“It felt great,” senior captain Travon Aldridge said. “We had been so close the past couple of weeks. It changed the attitude of some of the players on the team. We were definitely happy to get the 'W.'"
“We know we're a good football team and can compete with anybody,” senior defensive lineman and captain Luke Stoutenour said. “It was nice to see that finally play through.”
While the win was enjoyed, it was right back to work and business as usual for the Vikings come Sunday morning.
As coach Steve Bell said, there's plenty of season left and more good teams to face, including Saturday's foe, Illinois Wesleyan, which comes to Lindberg Stadium for the 1 p.m. CCIW clash.
“We're going to use it as momentum,” said Geneseo junior running back Ryan Pitra, a team captain, after the victory. “It's nice to get the win, but by no means can we get complacent. We have to keep working hard.”
All fall, the Vikings have remained positive and stoic in their resolve to not only change the culture within the program but again become a feared force in the league the Vikings once dominated.
“Everyone believes in the program. Everyone believes we can win. Everyone believes we can shock the CCIW in the next couple of years,” said Aldridge.
If not already in place, the building blocks are delivered and ready to be cemented — if not this year, in the very near future.
“It's been an experience, but I honestly believe that people will be able to look on our class, the class below us and the class that came before us and say, 'These guys provided a pivotal change in the program,'” Stoutenour said. “We really pushed things in the right direction. It's more about creating better people rather than just great football players.”
While the win was nice, those in the program know that it doesn't miraculously make everything better. As Bell said, the margin of error remains slim as the minutia gets ironed out and the base solidifies.
“We still have plenty of things to correct,” Bell said.
He has applauded this team for its approach through everything — good or bad — with the exception of a bad week of practice for Carthage that resulted in a blowout home-opening loss.
“This week has been good,” added the coach.
Bell is defiant, knowing his team should be 3-2, at worst. Chances at victories were washed away in different ways and usually in late-game situations.
"The thing is, we finally finished a game,” said Bell of last week's victory. “Minus the Carthage game, we had chances to win every game. We really threw away two of those."