KANSAS CITY, MO (KSNT)- Tuesday was MIAA Media Day in Kansas City. Washburn and Emporia State players and coaches are anxiously awaiting the start of the season after their 2020 season was canceled.

The Ichabods finished 6-5 in 2019 and most recently took the field for a spring exhibition game against the Colorado School of Mines. Head coach Craig Schurig says the break from football taught his team not to take this game for granted.

“You have a new respect for, don’t take that for granted,” Schurig said. “Enjoy the practices, enjoy the meetings and fall in love with the games. But, you really have to enjoy the process even more.”

The group Washburn brings to the field this fall lacks no motivation.

“Just a motivated group of guys that want to prove people wrong and want to prove themselves right,” quarterback Mitch Schurig said.

“I would describe our group as wanting to exceed expectations,” linebacker Grant Bruner said. “I think, around the conference, we’re kind of thought of to be that middle of the pack team, which previous years we’ve been that, so I guess that’s rightfully so. But I think with the team we got here, we can really make a run at something.”

Washburn kicks off its season on the road, at Lincoln on September 2.

Emporia State finished 4-7 in 2019 and played two spring scrimmages against Southeastern Oklahoma and Southwestern Oklahoma. The Hornets return a group that offensive lineman Hayden Reed calls ‘explosive.’

“People keep asking ‘What’s it like to have such a young team?’ or ‘What’s it like to have all the returners on defense?’ It’s whatever you want it to be but we’re explosive,” Reed said.

The adversity of the pandemic has brought an already tight-knit group at ESU even closer together.

“I think we got a great group,” head coach Garin Higgins said. “We got a lot of guys with character, a lot of guys that care about one another. I think all those things are important when you’re playing in the MIAA. I really do.”

“Emporia isn’t the biggest name,” linebacker Jace McDown said. “We don’t get the biggest recruits, but we work and we become a family, and that’s what kind of leads to that success I think.”

Emporia State has its season opener September 4 at Northeastern State.