This season hasn't gone the way St. Ambrose expected.
What started with high expectations and thoughts of a possible conference championship has instead resulted in five straight losses.
But despite that adversity, the level of maturity and dedication to the program has been evident to the coaching staff.
"I have been impressed with the older guys," head coach Mike Magistrelli said. "Obviously the season hasn’t lived up to our expectations, but their approach, morale, mindset have been great throughout, and I’m really impressed with that."
Twenty seniors will play their last game at Brady Street Stadium today when the Fighting Bees host Robert Morris for Senior Day. The Bees still have a chance to finish with a .500 record, but today will also be a chance to recognize those who stuck with the program despite not collecting as many wins as they'd hoped.
"You’re looking at a senior class that has provided great leadership and work ethic and in the last couple of years has not necessarily been rewarded with wins," Magistrelli said. "That’s the tough part because they certainly deserved more wins than what we’ve got over the last two years to where, to send them out in their final game at Brady would mean a lot to them and a lot to us as a program."
Jake Platt is among those seniors, and it's been a busy final year for the Bees free safety. The Tinley Park, Illinois, native and brother of former Bees long snapper Doug Platt has two interceptions on the year and leads the team with 47 tackles.
That a free safety leads the team in tackles is a sign of the struggles the Fighting Bees defense has endured this season but also shows the hard work and attitude of Platt.
"You kind of get that preconceived notion that at free safety you’ll just be backpedaling all game, but I don’t know, I enjoy it," he said. "Whether it’s a good thing or bad thing I’m in this position, I enjoy it and just embrace that I have the chance to make plays for my team."
Along with his production, Platt has also been the leader of a Bees secondary that has fostered plenty of youth. Through most of the season the Bees have had freshmen and sophomores flanking Platt, tough for the present but hopefully a sign of positive things to come.
"It’s promising for the future of Ambrose football because once I go, here it’s going to be up to those guys to step up and give those guys under them a chance to play," Platt said. "I think a lot of the playing time they got this year will help them be leaders. Hopefully they can look at me and some of the examples I’ve set and apply it forward."
Platt is making the most of his senior year. After seeing the field sparingly as mainly a special teams player last season, Platt got his chance in spring ball, and the coaching staff recognized what he brought to the field.
"Jake is an extremely smart young man, in the classroom, on the football field, very intelligent," Magistrelli said. "The thing you know about Jake is he’s going to be in the right spot doing the right thing, kind of helps get us lined up back there, helps us recognize formations and runs the show on the back end."
Platt brings plenty of versatility to the field. He has the tackling ability of a linebacker and the coverage abilities of a defensive back. He's also brought a never-quit attitude that has been needed as the Bees have gone through this adversity on the field.
"We had high expectations coming in, and obviously some of those expectations haven’t been met, but I think overall it’s just playing hard and having that mentality of it doesn’t matter where we’re at in the season, every play should be played hard and play Ambrose football through and through," Platt said. "It’s been tough, but I think we kind of rallied around each other."
The Bees can still salvage what's left of their season, starting today against Robert Morris. The Eagles won the conference last year but are 2-6 this season, in a similar situation as St. Ambrose.
The Bees know they're going to be tested but hope they can snap their skid and hopefully finish the season strong.
"With our expectations, we haven’t met them where we want to be," Platt said. "But I think if we can finish out the season with three straight wins, I think we’d be pretty satisfied overall with the season."