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It must have been 455 days between football games for the state of East Tennessee, and Bucs offensive lineman Tremond Shorts says that has been more than long enough.

It’s been a long time, Shorts said, a choice for all conferences and the man expected to anchor the line this year. It feels like a long time ago. A whole year passed without playing football. Wow. Thats crazy.

The madness ends and football kicks off on Saturday when ETSU hosts Samford at Greene Stadium at 1pm. It will be Bucs’ first football game since they closed the 2019 season with a 38-0 loss at Vanderbilt.

A lot has happened between then and now. That loss covered a season in which ETSU finished last in the Southern Conference a year after winning part of the title.

After no SoCon games were played in the fall of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Bucs were chosen to finish at the bottom again this season. Only Western Carolina was selected among them in the nine-team league.

I feel like no team wants to be chosen at the bottom, Shorts says, but it always gives us motivation where we know if we were No. 1 or No. 9. We always want to win and we always want to fight, get out and beat every team that’s in the SoCon, everyone that’s on our schedule.

Buc’s linebacker Blake Bockrath was quick to point out what happened the last time ETSU was so low in the preseason rankings. That 2018 team was picked eighth, finishing 6-2 in the conference, sharing the league championship with Wofford and earning an FCS playoff berth.

We love that, said Bockrath. You know, we were chosen last, I think, or second to last when we were champions of the conference, so people can say whatever they want and keep our heads straight and on task.

The Southern Conference called off the football season in the fall and tried to play in the spring if possible. Four teams played a handful of non-conference games and ETSU wasn’t one of them, so the Bucs rehearsed through the fall.

The fruits of that training will be on display on Saturday as the team faces a Samford team that has won the last three games in the series.

They call it a spring season, even though the area was under a winter weather advisory because the team was working and spring is only starting another month.

ETSU coach Randy Sanders, who has admitted how anxious he has to start training games again, doesn’t care what season it is as long as his football season.

There is no difference for us that we will play in February, Sanders said. It is uncommon to play the first game if you are concerned about the possibility of snow. Most of the time, you worry about fans, air conditioning, and keeping the team hydrated. Other than that, it is just like any other game.

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