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Football Schedule Features A Grand Opening

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Photo by Ken Williams
Azusa Pacific opens the 2013 season on the road at NCAA Division II power Grand Valley State on Saturday, Sept. 7.

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November 29, 2012
Joe Reinsch

2013 Azusa Pacific Football Schedule - CLICK HERE

AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific will open the 2013 football season with a Saturday, Sept. 7 visit to NCAA Division II power Grand Valley State before diving into its second season of competition in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.

The 7 p.m. night game at Grand Valley State in Allendale, Mich., is the first of a two-year series between the programs, with Azusa Pacific hosting the Lakers to open the 2014 season. Grand Valley State, which won eight consecutive NCAA Division II Directors’ Cups before Grand Canyon claimed the 2012 Directors’ Cup, has one of the most successful Division II football programs over the past decade.

Since 2001, the Lakers have claimed four national championships along with two more title-game appearances. Grand Valley State missed the playoffs the past two seasons despite posting back-to-back 8-3 campaigns. In both seasons, the Lakers opened with non-conference victories over Western Oregon.

“We’re excited to continue to expand our experience in the Division II landscape against a perennial powerhouse in Grand Valley State,” Azusa Pacific head coach Victor Santa Cruz said. “We have a great deal of respect for what they’ve accomplished, and it’s our vision to grow our program to compete at the level they’ve established for themselves within the national landscape.”

Following the season opener, the Cougars host Humboldt State in the conference opener, kicking off its second season of membership in the GNAC. In 2012, Azusa Pacific rebounded from an 0-6 conference start (0-7 overall) before closing out the year with four consecutive wins, including a thrilling Homecoming win over eventual GNAC champion Central Washington.

“It’s great being a part of league where our foes are now familiar, but you have to take that with a grain of salt,” Santa Cruz said. “These foes are tough, tough opponents. Week in and week out, our hands are going to be full, so it will be exciting for our fans to see another year of great Division II football.”

The Cougars finished fourth in the six-team GNAC in its inaugural season in the conference, posting road wins over Western Oregon and Dixie State before wrapping up the year with a 41-28 victory at home over Simon Fraser. The 2013 conference schedule follows the exact same order of opponents as the 2012 season, with only the game sites reversed.

This marks the second consecutive year in which Azusa Pacific faces an entire 11-game schedule against NCAA opponents, and it’s the first time that the Cougars have played an entire season against foes of a common affiliation.