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Watch now: Experienced Millikin football opens season at Greenville

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Millikin University on senior leadership and Cal Pohrte.

DECATUR — For Millikin head football coach Dan Gritti, his players are about to complete the world's longest bye week when they open their fall season against Greenville University on Saturday. 

The sixth-year head coach of the Big Blue views the COVID-19 rescheduled spring season and this fall season as one long 13-game season with a long bye in between. With a roster that includes 19 seniors and six fifth-year players back for their extra year of eligibility, bridging the seasons is a possibility. 

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Head coach Dan Gritti during football practice at Frank M. Lindsay Field

"It's awesome (to have the fifth-year players). They are just finishing up their degrees so they don't have the class obligations that they usually have. They have more time to spend really getting into the fine-grained details of what we're doing offensively and defensively. It has really been a pleasant occurrences to get to spend more time with them," Gritti said. "I think what's positive is that our guys remember that we ended on a loss (41-19 vs. Carthage College) where we didn't play very well. Those guys have realized what happened in that game and had been very mindful of it for the entirety of the preseason going into the season."

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Senior Cal Pohrte (14) during football practice at Frank M. Lindsay Field

A key member of that large senior class is quarterback Cal Pohrte, who returns to run the Big Blue offense for a third season. 

"Cal's biggest strength is his brain and we have been able to add to what we normally do, especially after the spring," Gritti said. "With him being well ingrained in our offense, we have been able to get him a lot more responsibility than we have other quarterbacks here. As a result, I think he's going to have a breakout season." 

Millikin was 2-1 in the spring and defeated Illinois Wesleyan, 38-28, to open the season, which broke a 10-game losing streak against the Titans.  

"We have a lot of momentum from the spring because of the wins against Wesleyan and Augustana," Pohrte said. "We hadn't (beaten both of them) since 1999, when I was born. It was pretty magical to have those two wins and, honestly, we would have loved to be 3-0.

"The most experience we have this season is on the offensive line. They played their butts off this spring, giving up zero sacks in three games. The credit goes all to them."

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Chord Miller, left, and Tristan Weglarz during football practice at Frank M. Lindsay Field

Backing up Pohrte this season will be freshman and former St. Teresa quarterback Chord Miller. Miller will be the holder for the kicking game on Saturday and Gritti has been pleased with Miller's development in his short time with the team. 

"(Chord) is way ahead of schedule. He's been doing a great job. He's learning the offense and I have been pleasantly surprised by how well he's mentally been able to understand the complexity of the college offense," Gritti said. "Physically, we knew there wouldn't be any issue there, but mentally he's as far along as any freshman I have had."

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Chord Miller, left, and Tristan Weglarz during football practice at Frank M. Lindsay Field

Miller credits the St. Teresa program with preparing him for the college football experience. 

"(Head coach Mark Ramsey) ran a lot of his practices towards what a college practice was like and it was a good prep for college ball," Miller said. "Everything is coming to me mentally and I'm focused. I have been keeping my head into the playbook a lot and it is coming to me. I've been learning the plays and recognize how to read a defense better and figure out where the ball needs to go. "

Pohrte can relate to Miller's experience, backing up Nicco Stepina in his first season at Millikin. 

"When I came in as a freshman, I was scared and I was freaking out. Whatever decision I had to make, I was scared of it," Pohrte said. "I know (Chord) comes from St. Teresa and they are a great program. The development I have seen from him, I'm happy that he is growing."

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Colton Lockwood (11) during football practice at Frank M. Lindsay Field

Pohrte has outstanding receiving talent to throw to in Eisenhower graduate Colton Lockwood, who was a All-America Second Team selection in the spring, and senior Patrick Cooper. 

"Colton was an All-American and I would expect some more numbers from him. Patrick Cooper is the reliable possession guy that Cal knows if everything else is breaking down, he can find him. He's going to catch the ball in traffic for us," Gritti said. "Both of their personalities bring a quiet leadership to offense. With so many freshmen coming in that can contribute, (Colton and Patrick) are able to bring them around really well."

Although the Big Blue roster has a ton of experience, Miller felt right at home among the group. 

"They definitely make it feel just like family. They respect me and I need to respect them and do what they need to be done," Miller said. "(On Saturday), obviously I will be a little nervous. Hopefully I will get the nerves out and I can settle in and do my thing." 



Contact Matthew Flaten at (217) 421-6968. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFlaten


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