College of Idaho vs Southern Oregon Football

College of Idaho quarterback Darius-James Peterson celebrates with fans after a touchdown against Southern Oregon on Oct. 20, 2018 at Simplot Stadium.

CALDWELL — While warming up before his first game at the College of Idaho, Nick Calzaretta looked into the stands and commented there weren’t many fans in the stands.

A teammate told the Yotes running back ‘just wait.’

“We went back in the locker room, we got some Gatorade and had some talk with the coaches,” Calzaretta remembers. “When we came through the tunnel and the Harleys went through, I looked up and went ‘Holy.’”

There were 3,587 fans in attendance during that 2017 game against Southern Oregon. Today, the Yotes are hoping to get nearly 2,000 more fans into the stands. The College of Idaho has been actively campaigning all week to get fans into the stands for today’s Homecoming game against Southern Oregon and break the Simplot Stadium attendance record.

The record currently sits at 5,356, which was set during the 2014 Homecoming game against Montana State-Northern, the first season for the Yotes after a 37-year hiatus.

“That’s probably one of the biggest factors that we play with,” sophomore defensive back Isaiah Abdul said about the Simplot Stadium crowd. “Just having that crowd here cheering, especially on big third downs really brings the defense together.”

Besides it being Homecoming, the Yotes (2-0) have other reasons to want to get the fans into the stadium for today’s 1 p.m. game. The Raiders (0-2), are ranked No. 20 in the NAIA and with the Yotes at No. 15, the NAIA has selected this game as its Game of the Week.

A win today would also give the College of Idaho just its first 3-0 since 1969, when it started 5-0. It would also give the team nine straight wins dating back to last season, which would only trail the 14-game winning streak which spanned between the 1952 and 53 seasons.

The Yotes believe a big home crowd could make the difference in extending that streak.

“We’re trying to break the record,” senior offensive lineman Josh Brown said. “Knowing that is a possibility with the community that we have — that everybody is here to support not just football but every sports that we have — its really special.”

It’s a difference that players say they notice when they play in road games in the Frontier Conference. In the season opener against Eastern Oregon, the College of Idaho drew 4,085 fans. That ranks the third-highest in the NCAA this season, behind Thomas Moore (Ky.) (5,622) and Edward Waters (Fla.) (4,622).

In comparison, last week’s win at Montana Tech drew 2,652 fans.

“I don’t know if I can put into words how it feels just having the crowd there,” Brown said. “Looking up and seeing everyone cheering and hopping and hollering, it definitely gives you energy on the field. If you’re tired, you can feel the energy from the crowd filling you and you just get really hyped.”

And as far as crowd size goes, if the College of Idaho breaks the record today, it could only be the beginning. With the College of Idaho aiming for its first Frontier Conference championship and first NAIA Tournament appearance since returning in 2014, College of Idaho coach Mike Moroski thinks the crowds could get even bigger.

“I think we could get up to 6,000 or 7,000 people sometime and it really would be a lot of fun,” Moroski said. “There would be a lot of people standing, that’s for sure. But I think that’s a good thing. If they’re ringing the field and the stands are full and the beer garden’s got to take on it’s share, we’ll figure it out, somehow. That’s a good problem to have.”

John Wustrow is the assistant sports editor of the Idaho Press. He is a Michigan native and a graduate of Indiana University.

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