By Carey Phillips

 

Western Carolina’s football team will open its season at 6 p.m. Saturday with a Southern Conference game against Mercer at E.J. Whitmire Stadium/Bob Waters Field.

This will be the first time the Catamounts have opened the season at home against a league opponent since 1980.

Western started 3-0 last year but then lost eight straight games and finished 1-7 in the conference.

Mercer was 5-6 overall and 4-4 in the league.

WCU displayed a high-powered offense a year ago and averaged 31 points per game behind quarterback Tyrie Adams.

The problem was on the defensive side where the Cats yielded an average of 38.6 points.

Adams will likely establish two school career records early in Saturday’s game. His 9,389 yards of total offense are just 8 yards shy of the record, and his 7,279 passing yards are 75 short of the school mark.

Adams has received numerous preseason honors, including Southern Conference Player of the Year, and was named to three preseason All-America teams.

Teammates joining Adams on the preseason all-conference first team are tight end Owen Cosenke and defensive back Ronald Kent.

The Bears had seven players on the preseason all-conference team, including David Durden, who was first team as a return specialist and second team as a wide receiver.

Other Mercer players on the first team are running back Tyray Devezin and offensive lineman Austin Sanders.

Making the second team are tight end Chris Ellington, defensive lineman Dorian Kithcart, linebacker Will Coneway and defensive back Malique Fleming.

The media picked Mercer to finish fourth among nine Southern Conference teams this year, while the coaches had the Bears fifth. Both groups picked WCU eighth.

Coach Bobby Lamb’s team uses a spread offense and multiple defensive looks.

The Bears have won three of the previous five games in the series, including a 59-46 shootout last year. Adams set a school record in that game with 545 yards of total offense.

The game has been designated a “Purple Out” with fans encouraged to wear purple.

A postgame fireworks show is planned.

Ticket are available starting at 10 a.m. Saturday at gate 1. Ticket offices at other gates will open at 2:30 p.m.