KENNESAW -- Over its first four years, Kennesaw State's football programs had a lot of firsts.
The Owls had a first win, a first Big South Conference title, a first Football Championship Subdivision playoff appearance. They have achieved nearly every first a team could have -- with one exception.
Kennesaw State has yet to win a season opener at home. That could change Saturday when the 10th-ranked Owls host NAIA-level Point for a 6 p.m. kickoff at Fifth Third Bank Stadium.
Kennesaw State, however, has not had many opportunities to win an opener at home. In their first four years, the Owls have only once opened at home, losing 20-17 to East Tennessee State in 2016.
Overall, Kennesaw State is 1-3 in openers, with the only win coming in 2015 in the program's inaugural game at East Tennessee State. The Owls lost at Samford to open the 2017 season, then lost at Georgia State to open 2018.
In those first four seasons, Kennesaw State's roster was dominated by players who became mainstays, but the names in the lineup entering the 2019 season have changed from the likes of quarterback Chandler Burks, offensive lineman C.J. Collins and wide receiver Justin Sumpter, to Daniel David, William Nana Fabu and Ryan Pontrelli.
It should provide a different feel for everyone involved.
Coach Brian Bohannon said the team is excited to finally get a chance to play a game and to hit somebody in a different-color uniform, but even after a full offseason and 25 fall camp practices, there is still a lot of work to do.
"You are never ready," Bohannon said, "but you have to go play."
Kennesaw State has played Point twice in the past, winning 56-17 in 2015 and 49-3 the following year, but with all the new pieces, Bohannon said it is an opening football game, and no one knows what they are going to get.
"It's a Super Bowl game for (Point)," Bohannon said. "They have nothing to lose and everything to gain."
Two of the biggest challenges Kennesaw State had coming into the season was replacing the entire offensive line and finding a new receiving corps. Heading into the opener, neither unit has been completely solidified.
Junior college transfer Jake Lassiter (6-foot-1, 240 pounds) will open the season at left tackle, with Chris Dye (6-3, 296) at left guard, Terrell Paxton (6-foot, 304) at right guard and Zion Katina (6-2, 282) at right tackle and Nana Fabu (6-1, 274) at center. Paxton and Katina are redshirt freshmen and will be making their first starts Saturday.
Bohannon had good things to say about all of the linemen, but he said the group could be fluid, especially early in the season.
"It's going to take some time to get where we need to be," Bohannon said.
Starting at receiver will be Pontrelli and Caleb O'Neal. O'Neal, a former preferred walk-on quarterback, switched positions last year and worked his way into a scholarship earlier this month, while Pontrelli caught one pass a year ago.
David will be joined in the backfield with Shaquil Terry, Isaac Foster, Kyle Glover and T.J. Reed, among others. While Terry may be the only returning starter, everyone in the group has played a lot of football in the last few years and should bring a calming effect to the offense.
One thing that should be a strength for Kennesaw State early this season is its defense. After allowing only 15 points per game last season, the unit brings back eight starters, and it should be able to make up for some early growing pains for the offense.
ABOUT THE SKYHAWKS
Point, which went 3-8 out of the Mid-South Conference last season, features a number of Cobb County players who will be making their homecoming Saturday. On the Skyhawks' numerical roster are linebacker Roman Jones (Kell), kickers William Aldridge (North Cobb) and Logan Flesher (Kell), offensive linemen Jacob Longacre (North Cobb) and Noah Winstead (Kell) and wide receivers Jeremiah Menzies (Wheeler) and Rashaad Maynor (Kennesaw Mountain). All are freshmen except the sophomore Longacre.
The university is offering Owl Town, a free tailgate to fans each home game. It is located at the Owls Nest, across the street from the stadium and will be open three hours before the game.
Owl Town will feature live music and activities, and the first 200 fans will get free food from J.D's Bar-B-Que. Owl Town will close 30 minutes before kickoff.
ON THE AIR
The game will be broadcast by ESPN+. It can also be heard on 1230 AM and 106.3 FM, Atlanta's Sports X, and it can also be streamed on the TuneIn app.