The Bearkat football team’s offensive seniors leaders – quarterback Brian Bell, running back Timothy Flanders and wide receiver/wildkat back Richard Sincere – have put up some impressive numbers during the past three years:
* 31 victories in 39 starts together
* Consecutive Southland Conference championships and trips to the national championship finals
* 7,017 yards and 85 touchdowns rushing
* 6,234 yards and 66 touchdowns passing
Those rushing, passing and receiving yards together add up to a total of nearly seven and a half miles of explosive offense for Sam Houston State University.
No wonder this year’s team motto is “The Highest Expectations.”
The Kats are in the midst of preseason camp, preparing for the first contest of a demanding 12-game regular season on Saturday August 31 at Elliott T. Bowers Stadium.
Sam Houston head coach Willie Fritz looks to Bell, Flanders and Sincere to provide something special for the Bearkats.
“You couldn’t ask for better senior leadership than these three,” Sam Houston head coach Willie Fritz said. “Timothy is our university’s all-time leading rusher. Brian is the program’s all-time leading passer. Richard is one of our all-time leaders in all-purpose yards.
“They excel in the class room as well. All three already have completed their bachelor’s degrees. All three have played a lot of football for Sam Houston. They know what it takes to be successful.”
After winning back-to-back Southland Conference titles by taking 13 of 14 league games while out-scoring foes 643 to 168 and leading the league in rushing offense, scoring, pass efficiency rush defense, total defense and scoring defense both years, expectations naturally are high again in 2013.
Sam Houston already has been tabbed as the favorite to repeat as Southland champions again and stands No. 4 in the 2013 national preseason coaches’ poll.
“Really, we just expect to win. That’s the main thing,” Bearkats running back Timothy Flanders said. “We expect to go out and win conference. That’s one of the things coach Fritz has preached since he first got here.”
A member of the “watch list” for the 2013 Walter Payton award as the outstanding FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) player of the year, Flanders has rushed for 4,234 career yards and scored 55 touchdowns.
The senior from Midwest City, Okla., knows the Bearkats have a target on their back going up against an improved Southland Conference.
“It’s gotten to the point to where everybody gets better each year in this league,” Flanders said. “You can’t look past anybody because everybody gets better each year.”
The Bearkats return 40 lettermen including 12 starters from last year’s 11-4 championship team. That includes seven players who earned All-Southland honors in 2013. In addition, seven other players who have started at least one game in their careers and have seen extensive playing time as reserves are back.
“We’ve got a lot of our fans really looking forward to this year,” Bell said. “We have a lot of things we kind of owe to them, I’d guess you’d say. We know this season is going to be a challenge. There’s not an easy team in our conference. We’re excited about playing each and every game. To win the title outright we know we’re going to have to come to play each and every week.”
The senior from China Spring who stepped on to the field as a starter in the third game of his true freshman season in 2010, has thrown for 6,165 yards and 65 touchdowns as a Bearkat.
“I can’t stress enough how good our conference is going to be,” Bell added. “Our conference is going to be competitive nationally this year. Hopefully we’ll get a couple of teams will make it deep into the playoffs. This year, we’ve got a new team and a new motto. We’ve got a new outlook on things. We’re really looking to come in and have the highest expectations, but take it one week at a time.”
With another big target on their backs, the Bearkats know what the expectations will be and how to manage it in 2013.
“Going into our sophomore year (in 2011), we were picked fourth in the league,” Sincere recalled. “So we knew we were the underdog pretty much every game. But, last year as defending champions, we had that X on our back and everybody was going to be gunning for us.
“When we let the game at Central Arkansas slip away and lost, our eyes were really opened from that point on. This year, we really have to bring our ‘A’ game each and every week.”
The senior from Galveston begins the 2013 season ranked No. 10 in Bearkat career all-purpose yards (2,791) and is one of only 29 Bearkats to amass more than 1,000 career rushing yards (1,868). He is 93 yards away from cracking the 1,000 mark in receiving yards as well.
After playing on the road 11 of their 15 games last season, the Kats won’t have to go far from home with seven home games played at Bowers Stadium.
“It’s great to play in front of the home fans,” Sincere said. “All the noise pumps us up so much.”
Bell, Flanders, Sincere and the head coach all agree the team must stay focused on the present and continue to have a strong work ethic to achieve success again in 2013.
“I’m excited about the upcoming year. I’ve got a bunch of guys I’ve been with for four years, who are really quality football players, people and a great staff. We’re looking forward to the challenges this year,” Fritz said. “We’ve got the highest expectations and that’s our motto for 2013. We’re happy with our accomplishments but we’re not satisfied. The prize is to achieve a national championship, but to do that we have to be a conference champion first. We’re looking forward to the challenge. It’s going to be a fun year.”
Both single game and season tickets for all seven home games at Bowers Stadium this year plus the 88th “Battle of the Piney Woods” rivalry contest with SFA Nov. 2 at Reliant Stadium are on sale online at www.gobearkats.com now.
Tickets may also be purchased by telephone at (936) 294-1729 or in person at the athletic ticket office located in the Ron Mafrige Field House in the south end zone of the stadium. Ticket office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.