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To kickoff its 150th season, the Harvard football team will face the St. Thomas Tommies (1-1) at Harvard Stadium this Saturday. The Crimson has had previous luck with its season openers, remaining undefeated in the previous 11 seasons against opponents at home.
Harvard heads into the 2023 season ranked fourth in the preseason poll by the Ivy League. Yale collected the number one spot, with Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) ranked third and fourth, respectively.
In 2022, the Crimson retained a strong defense, ranking nationally in several categories: fourth in rushing defense, ninth in first downs defense, 12th in sacks, 21st in tackles for loss, and 29th in total defense. On special teams, Harvard continued to earn recognition, ranking first in blocked punts allowed, third in blocked punts and fourth in blocked kicks.
At the head of this defensive team was senior defensive lineman Thor Griffith, who earned preseason All-American honors from several different media outlets.
“To start off the season, we want to come out with a strong performance and shut this team out,” said Griffith about the team and individual focus for the game. “Personally, I just want to do everything I can to help this defense and this team win.”
The Crimson finished its 2022 season with a 6-4 record and 4-3 Ivy League record. Harvard earned 14 wins total, and nine within the Ivy League over the course of the past two seasons. Both numbers are program records for the most wins over a two year period since the 2015 and 2016.
“As a defense, we’ve been really working on limiting what the St. Thomas’ offense will be able to do against us, then being able to completely shut down their remaining options,” said Grifith about how the defense has been preparing for the upcoming season. “As far as Quarterbacks go, it will be pretty standard for us.”
Last season, Harvard’s chance at sharing the title with Yale was lost at the historic Harvard Stadium, where the Bulldogs edged the Crimson by five points. Looking forward to the season opener this Saturday, Harvard is looking to set the tone for the rest of the season.
“We want to dominate St. Thomas and show the Ivy League we’re here to dominate each and every team we play this year,” Griffith reflected.
On the offense, junior Charles Deprima will lead Harvard as quarterback. He’s joined by two of the Crimson’s top three pass catchers, junior wide receiver Ledger Hatch and senior tight end Tyler Neville, who was named first-team All-Ivy. In preparation for facing off against the Tommies, the Crimson’s offense is focused on working together and being a cohesive team.
“We’re worried about [our team] and what’s going on with offense vs. defense and stuff like that,” said Deprima about the offense’s objectives. “In the preseason, everybody took big steps. In the offense in particular, we learned to grow together, we learned to play with each other more and more from the spring, through the preseason and now to game week.”
“The gears have shifted now recently in the last few days,” he continued, “but the preseason in general was just huge steps forward for everyone.”
Harvard will have home advantage for four of the first five weeks this season, playing six games in Cambridge The Crimson won’t hit the road until Oct. 21st, where it will face the Princeton Tigers in Princeton, N.J. When it comes to playing at home, Harvard understands the importance of being on its own turf.
“Opening any season at home is always really refreshing and being able to come from the long preseason and just playing on your home turf with your guys — there’s nothing really better than that,” said Deprima about having their first game at home.
At the helm of the Crimson is head coach Tim Murphy, marking the start of his 30th season with the program. Under Murphy, the team has a 19-9 record in first games.
“Just [following] the game plan in general,” said Deprima about his coach’s advice going into the game. “Similar to previous years, now being in the position I am, those details have to be tended to a little more. Just trusting each other, trusting the coaches with the game plan was just the biggest emphasis going in.”
Harvard and St. Thomas will take to Harvard Stadium this Saturday, with kickoff at 1:00 pm EST..
— Staff writer Nadia A. Fairfax can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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