By Leah Brunette
ACU football is entering their fifth season as a program with a lot of accomplishments already under their belt: two Central State Football League Championships in 2015 and 2016 and winning records since their inaugural season in 2014.
Although graduating half of their starting roster from last season, head coach Jeff Bowen is excited for the future of the program moving forward.
“We are proud of what we have been able to accomplish in a short amount of time,” Bowen said. “It is a testament to the young men who have signed with us when it was just a vision, and we are looking to the next signing class to carry that legacy and success on.”
The 2018 signing class features 29 athletes with 19 from the state of Arizona. The offseason has already been rolling as the team looks to solidify some empty positions.
With the loss of senior quarterback Ryan Esslinger, Bowen says the two front runners for the QB spot are Adam Abbatacola and Maverick Gamez.
“It’s a win-win for us right now, we know they are both capable of getting the job done,” Bowen said.
Abbatacola got reps in all 10 games last season passing for 162 yards with three touchdowns. With that experience, Bowen says Abbatacola “understands what we want to accomplish with our offense.”
Gamez, a sophomore who Bowen considers a “natural leader” is battling for the starting spot as well.
Bowen recognizes his returners, saying “we have some good core guys to build around that will increase our level of competition.”
Wide receiver Kendrick Murphy will look to top his numbers from last year as he enters his senior season. Murphy led the team last season with 575 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Three-year starter Austin Schleier will lead the defense at the middle linebacker position. Last season, Schleier led ACU with 32 solo tackles.
With the start of the season only two short months away, the Firestorm continues to build their team off of one thing: their faith.
“We are a very unique university,” Bowen said. “We have built a core set of standards that we think are important live by and are important to bring to our football program.”