St. Ambrose will have to wait a week to open up its football schedule.
The Fighting Bees season opener scheduled for Saturday against Trinity Bible College has been canceled due to the Lions not having enough healthy players to satisfy one of their school policies.
"You feel like you've been kicked in the gut," said head coach Mike Magistrelli, who was informed of the decision Monday afternoon and had a meeting with his coaches and players shortly after. "You think you're in game week, all the excitement that goes with that to, shoot, we're not going to play a game this weekend. You feel deflated."
The Lions — who have 26 players listed on their roster — were added to St. Ambrose's schedule in late July to fill out a 10-game schedule after conference opponent Lindenwood-Belleville announced mid-July that it was dropping its football program prior to this season.
Magistrelli said the Bees are currently exploring whether this situation counts as an outright cancellation or as a forfeit.
The Bees were going to pay for Trinity Bible's travel costs but Magistrelli said no money exchanged hands between the programs. The only debt he's aware of that needs to be settled is the payment of the officials who were scheduled to work the game.
As a result, St. Ambrose is preparing to play a nine-game schedule, opening on the road against Missouri Baptist on Sept. 7.
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The Bees will play at seventh-ranked Marian the following week before kicking off its home slate at Brady Street Stadium on Sept. 21, part of homecoming weekend.
However, a nine-game schedule puts a bit more pressure on St. Ambrose, trying to win the Mid-States Football Association Midwest Division and move into the top 20 in the rankings to secure its first playoff berth since 2013.
"We talked about, Lindenwood-Belleville took a 10th game opportunity away from us and Trinity Bible did the same thing, but we can earn a 10th game that nobody can take away from us, that's winning the conference championship and qualifying for the playoffs," Magistrelli said. "The guys really responded well to that and it was a positive out of a negative."
The game against Trinity Bible would have served as a good way to find out more about certain positions, particularly quarterback.
Junior Dino Borrelli and sophomore John Benckendorf entered camp battling for the starting job. Both have played well to the point where Magistrelli plans to use both, at least at the start of the season.
"The nice thing there is, they both have a role," Magistrelli said. "They know, at any play, they can be in. Mentally, you're preparing to be in the very next play."