NEW WILMINGTON — When Scott Benzel took over as head football coach at Westminster College in 2014, the program had not had a winning season in 11 years.
The Titans had not won the Presidents' Athletic Conference championship since joining the league in 2000.
Now entering his seventh season, Benzel has rattled off five consecutive winning campaigns — including 8-3 last year — but Westminster is still seeking that elusive PAC crown.
“The last three years, we've fallen a win short,” Benzel said. “Now we're just trying to get over the hump.”
Five Butler County area players may help them get there.
Seneca Valley graduate Jake Rocco (6-foot-3, 284 pounds) will be a senior third-year starting tackle. Union graduate Dana Logue is a senior defensive end. Dalton Anderson, a senior from Moniteau, has moved from the secondary to receiver.
North Catholic graduate Joe Meinert, a junior, has moved from running back to linebacker. Seneca Valley graduate Brandon Millward is a junior linebacker.
“All of those guys are in the mix to start for us and lead us toward that championship,” Benzel enthused.
Of course, they will have to wait until spring.
With the PAC postponing all fall sports until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Titans are in extended practice mode for the next few months.
“We're fine with that,” Logue said. “It's like we're having our spring football now. We're running new schemes and this gives us more time to get everything down.”
Rocco assuredly will be. With former Slippery Rock University player and New Castle graduate Mike Bongivengo taking over as offensive coordinator, the Titans offense will operate at a much quicker pace.
“Ten plays in 10 minutes time ... That's what he's looking for,” Rocco said.
And he's up for it.
“Absolutely. I love it,” Rocco said. “It will be a challenge to be conditioned for that faster pace, but that's where the extended fall practice time will come in handy.
“When you see the defense beginning to tire and wear down, that's when you know you're succeeding as an offense.”
Granted an extra season of eligibility because of the 2020 campaign's postponement, Rocco has a chance to be a four-year starter should he return next year.
“That's pretty rare for any level of college football,” Benzel said.
Anderson has been stellar in track and field at Westminster. He faces an interesting challenge with football moving to spring.
Previously a linebacker/defensive back for the Titans, Anderson has been moved to wide receiver.
“Dalton can be an asset there with his athleticism,” Benzel said. “We'll have to see how everything works out. He's got a chance to be an All-American in track.
“He may have to choose one sport over the other. It'd be hard to do both. I'm not sure what his availability will be to us.”
Meinert and Millward both figure to see action at linebacker for the Titans.
“Joe is a very talented kid who came in here as a running back,” Benzel said. “But we had three senior backs and he wasn't going to see much time, so we converted him to linebacker.
“He's brought the athleticism of a running back to that position. He's a very explosive player and gives us more versatility on defense.”
Benzel said Millward is another “'tweener,” but has definite strengths the team can use.
“He's an under-sized guy, but his skill-set is the pass rush,” Benzel said. “He's a stand-up, rush end and he can be effective that way.”
Westminster only hopes spring football turns out to be worth the wait.
“I want to win a PAC championship and I want to be an all-conference player,” Rocco said. “Neither of those things has happened yet.”