Jul. 26—KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Another season has arrived for Pittsburg State's football team.
And as always, expectations are high.
The Gorillas, who went 8-3 last year, were picked third overall in the MIAA coaches and media polls released Tuesday ahead of the 2022 league football media day inside Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City.
"We're excited about this season," PSU head coach Brian Wright said. "We're certainly building off a good season, but not a great season. Last season wasn't up to our standards. We played good football, good enough to win eight games, but that's not the goal at Pittsburg State.
"That's not what these guys work for. We've talked about closing the gap this off-season, and our guys have worked to do that. I'm excited to kick off the season."
Entering his third year with the Gorillas, Wright welcomes back 15 players (eight offense and seven defense) who started four or more games during the 2021 campaign and 11 players who received All-MIAA accolades last season.
Graduate linebacker P.J. Sarwinski and sophomore placekicker Cross Holmes each garnered honorable mention Division II All-America recognition, while junior offensive lineman Trase Jeffries joined the duo as first-team All-MIAA honorees.
Fifty-eight letter winners (21 offense, 32 defense and five special teams) will seek to provide veteran leadership to blend with a group of newcomers who are set to join the program for the 2022 campaign.
"I think a big motivator for us is just that we get to play the game of football," said Sarwinski, the Galena product. "It's a fresh year and we're all excited for the opportunity. I have faith in our guys and we're going to have a lot of energy and be prepared for every game."
Standing at 6-foot-1, 207 pounds, Sarwinski accumulated 84 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and had 3 1/2 sacks last season.
Sarwinski, the son of Galena football coach Beau and brother of former Bulldog standouts Nick and Brett, has a pretty good story.
"You look at P.J. — from walking on to this team, to earning a scholarship, becoming an All-American and then being voted as a captain," Wright said. "What a model that is to our program and our community, to see that hard work pays off if you stick to something and work hard and have a great attitude. P.J. is a testament of that."
Being a Gorilla, Sarwinski said, is a dream come true.
"When we do the Gorilla Walk every home game, I see the kids and I think of myself," Sarwinski said. "I think of a kid from Galena, Baxter Springs, Girard, Pittsburg, who wants to grow up and be a Gorilla. It's so surreal, and it's a dream come true to be where I'm at."
PSU opens the 2022 campaign by hosting Central Missouri on Sept. 1 at Carnie Smith Stadium.