Thirteen seniors took part in their final home game for the Kent State football team last Tuesday, but snow and apathy toward a then 3-7 team kept the fans away in droves.
Maybe the Flash football backers were just waiting for the final road game at Buffalo this Friday to show up and bid farewell to the seniors.
Really, it’s a shame because this class featured some of the most talented and consistent players in the history of the football program, not just quarterback Julian Edelman and a bunch of no-names.
The discussion needs to start with Edelman though, as the transfer from the College of San Mateo probably lit up more defenses and polarized more fans than any player in recent Mid-American Conference history. The scrambling specialist put a huge stamp on the Kent State record books, but could not lead the Flashes to a winning season in his three years.
Edelman almost single handily made Kent State a MAC contender in the 2006 season, leading the Flashes to a 6-6 record. Then in 2007 he played a key role in the program’s most impressive win in recent memory, a 23-14 victory at Iowa State, before lingering injuries either removed him from the lineup or made him ineffective.
By the start of his senior year, some fans and media members were wondering if the Flashes would be better off by starting sophomore Giorgio Morgan as quarterback.
To put it simply, they were wrong. The Flashes recorded another losing season this year, but without Edelman the Flashes might not have won a game.
Edelman’s performance this season was reminiscent of Al Rollins, the former Chicago Black Hawks’ goalie who won the Hart Trophy, given to the NHL’s most valuable player, despite playing for a team that went 12-51-7. Voters used the rationale that the Black Hawks would have been much worse without him.
Sure, the Flashes were never in contention this season, but in the two games they did win in the MAC, Edelman carried them. He sparked the offense of this team, and often made up for mediocre performances by the special teams and defensive units to keep the team in the game.
Edelman was not the only senior of note, even though he had the biggest impact on the team.
Senior wide receiver Shawn Bayes put together his best season this year, and often filled the role as the only wide out Edelman could trust. No other Flash could be trusted to catch and hold onto the ball.
Coach Doug Martin promised a talented group of young receivers will revitalize the position next season, but Bayes will still be missed.
The Flashes are not just losing an offensive explosion at quarterback and a steady wide receiver, but also three leaders on the defensive side of the ball: senior linebackers Derek Burrell and Cedrick Maxwell and senior cornerback Rico Murray.
Burrell and Maxwell exemplified two of Martin’s favorite football virtues: consistency and toughness.
Burrell leads the Flashes in solo and total tackles this season with 46 and 109 and recorded his second consecutive 100-tackle season this year. Martin often pointed to Burrell as a player who gave consistent effort every game.
Maxwell showed great heart, missing only two games with a broken shin, then returning to the Flashes’ defense. Originally, Martin thought he had lost Maxwell and sophomore linebacker Cobrani Mixon for at least six games if not the season, but both decided to return as early as possible.
Murray took over the leadership role in the secondary left vacant when former Flash Jack Williams was drafted by the Denver Broncos. Murray played solidly all season, leading the team in pass breakups with six.
No, the Flashes did not break through in the MAC this season like they were capable of. No, they did not finally put a tradition of losing out of their minds and keep unforced mistakes to a minimum.
Instead Kent State fans could once again start off every game by guessing what stupid mistake would cost the team the game this time.
The senior leaders were one of the few groups that never let the Flashes down. Even when it became clear this season would not be the year, they still plugged away, hoping they could set an example of what this team and program could be.
Contact sports reporter Thomas Gallick at [email protected]