Aug. 18, 2009
The 2009 Northeast Conference Preseason Coaches was released on Tuesday afternoon with Sacred Heart tabbed to finish fourth in the nine team league while six Pioneers were named to the Preseason All-NEC team. The two-time defending NEC Champion Albany Great Danes were picked to defend their title receiving eight first place votes. This is the fourth-straight season the Great Danes have occupied the top spot heading into the season. The Monmouth Hawks were picked second with one vote while Central Connecticut State was slotted to finish third ahead of the Pioneers.
Filling out the rest of this year's poll was Robert Morris in fifth, Duquesne in sixth, new conference member Bryant in seventh, Wagner in eighth and Saint Francis (PA) in ninth. "We are looking to just continue to get better here in camp and as the season moves forward," commented head coach Paul Gorham on this morning's conference call.
"We have all our focus on that Marist game to open up and getting off to another strong starts and take it from there."
Sacred Heart was the most improved team in the NEC a year ago, coming off an 8-3 record and 4-3 league mark after going winless in conference play in 2007. SHU bolted out of the gates last fall winning six-straight and seven of their first eight games. The Pioneer offense returns nine starters heading into the season with four players earning a spot on this year's All-NEC preseason team. Leading the way is the two-time all-conference tandem of r-junior quarterback Dale Fink (Swansea, IL) and senior wide receiver Steve Tedesco (Mission Viejo, CA). Fink begins his third season as the Pioneer's signal caller after leading the SHU offensive attack to 29.1 ppg in 2008 and 26.6 ppg in 2007 at the helm. He was the NEC's most efficient passer (140.3 rating) last season, completing 67.8% (215-317) of his passes for 2,102 yards and 24 touchdowns. He will once again have his favorite target back in Tedesco who is coming off a record setting campaign in 2008. Tedesco set the conference and school single-season record for receptions with 77 catches last fall while also grabbing 10 scoring strikes.
Up front, the Pioneer offensive line kept Fink upright for the first seven games of the season last year, not yielding a quarterback sack. Four of the five offensive linemen who provided premium protection are back, including second team all-league center Justin Smith (Binghamton, NY). The SHU running attack and return game will also benefit from the return of Preseason All-NEC back Garry Coles (Southington, CT). Coles earns a spot as a kick returner after being named all-conference at the position as a freshman. He is slated to return to the SHU backfield while also returning kick-offs and punts. His 25.0 return average last season led the NEC.
On the defensive side, the Pioneers welcome back seniors and preseason all-NEC selections, defensive end Bill O'Brien (Lafayette, NY) and corner back Andre Isla (Brookhaven, NY). O'Brien made 61 tackles, 8.0 for a loss, from his lineman spot while Isla made 50 tackles and four interceptions at corner while also picking up a spot on the All-New England team.