The Indiana Indians are intimidated no more.
Maybe last fall, as they stumbled through a 3-6 season, they might have been overwhelmed or intimidated against a rugged, physical opponent.
But Indiana coach Mark Zilinskas hopes his team is beginning to take on that identity, and he likes what he saw in the preseason scrimmages.
“The good thing is we were much more physical against Hempfield than Mount Pleasant, on both sides of the ball,” Zilinskas said, referencing his squad’s scrimmages over the past two weeks. “We started taking on blocks a lot more physical and we played with a lot more attitude.
“It was a striking difference between the two scrimmages. To me that is going to be key, our mindset and the amount of intensity we bring.”
The Indians get their first chance to show how far they’ve come from a trying season Friday night at Hampton.
Senior quarterback Sean Thompson headlines the offense and will have a pair of tested receivers who figure to tower over most defenders in 6-foot-5 Darrious Carter and 6-4 Riley Stapleton.
With a host of returning starters on both sides of the ball, Indiana might be a slight favorite on paper heading into the opener, but Zilinskas didn’t buy into that.
Zilinskas said he has seen tape of the Talbots’ scrimmages and they don’t look like a team that lost its leading passer and rusher from last season.
“They look like they did last year,” he said. “They’ve got a guy that can run the ball hard. … They’ve got a guy who hasn’t played a lot of quarterback, but he can run around and make some plays. They’re going to be dangerous as always.
“(On defense) they play that 3-3 stack and they run it well. We know we’re going to have execute against them. Typical Hampton team.”
With traditional Greater Allegheny Conference powers Franklin Regional and Mars coming up on the schedule after the opener, the Indians need to get off to a good start Friday to avoid a possible 0-3 start and falling behind the eight-ball.
“When you’ve got Franklin Regional and Mars, those are big challenges real close down the road,” Zilinskas said. “It’s especially important (to start with a win), get some confidence, especially after losing like we did last year. There is a lot more focus and a lot of guys back that have been there and know what it’s like. They know the importance of every single game.”