Oct. 8, 2009
Sacred Heart Pioneers (0-4, 0-2 NEC) vs. Saint Francis Red Flash (1-4, 0-2 NEC)
Game #5 - Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009 - 12:00 pm Fairfield, Conn. - Campus Field (4,000)
Setting the Scene... The Sacred Heart Pioneers return home to Campus Field for the first time in three games as they play host to the Saint Francis (PA) Red Flash Saturday afternoon. The Pioneers are still searching for their first win of 2009 after falling to 0-4 with last week’s 24-12 loss at Central Connecticut State. SHU led 12-0 at half but surrendered 24-straight points in the second half en route to the loss. The Saint Francis (PA) Red Flash are 1-4 on the year but come in having lost three-straight. SFPA is coming off a 27-6 loss at home to Albany last weekend.
The SHU - SFPA Series... Sacred Heart leads the all-time series, 8-5. The Pioneers snapped a two-game Red Flash win streak with a 41-24 win on the road last season. The Pioneers and Red Flash met for the first time during the 1993 season with Saint Francis posting a 16-14 win at SHU. Sacred Heart rebounded in 1994 with a 22-13 win on the road and the two teams wouldn’t meet again until 1998 when the Pioneers joined the NEC. The Pioneers own a pair of shutouts in the series in 2000 (20-0) and 2001 (54-0). Sacred Heart is 3-3 in the series at home and 5-2 on the road in Loretto, Pa.
SHU in the NEC... The Pioneers are in their 12th season of competition in the Northeast Conference. SHU holds a 35-43 record in NEC competition since joining the league in 1998. The Pioneers won their only league championship during the 2001 campaign, finishing a perfect 8-0. SHU finished second to Robert Morris in 2000, going 7-1 in the league. The Pioneers are coming off their first winning season in conference action since 2002 after posting a 4-3 mark to finish tied for third.
Up Next... The Pioneers stay at home and play host to the Monmouth Hawks next Saturday on “Sacred Heart Family Weekend”.
The Head Coaches... Sacred Heart head coach Paul Gorham (New Hampshire ‘84) is in his sixth season on the Pioneer sideline. Gorham was named the school’s seventh head coach in June of 2004 and owns a 23-34 record in his six year career. Prior to becoming the Pioneer’s head coach, Gorham had stops at UMass, Brown, New Haven and his alma mater New Hampshire. Saint Francis (PA) head coach Dave Opfar (Penn State ‘83) is in his eighth season at the head of the Red Flash football program and owns a 16-63 record at the school and overall. Opfar had coaching stints at Washington and Jefferson College, Duquesne and his alma mater, Penn State. Opfar was a starting defensive tackle on the Nittany Lions National Championship team in 1982. He had playing stints in the USFL (Philadelphia Stars), the NFL (Pittsburgh Steelers) and the Arena Football League.
Last Meeting with the Red Flash... The Sacred Heart Pioneers ran their winning-streak to six-straight to open the 2008 season thanks to a 41-24 win over the Saint Francis (PA) Red Flash on the road last October 11th. The Pioneers got big days from quarterback Dale Fink, who threw for four touchdowns and senior running back Evin Jones, who ran for 127 yards and a touchdown in the win. The Red Flash turned the ball over three times in the second half helping lead to 24 Pioneer points. The Pioneer offensive attack put up 40 points or more for the third time on the season as they finished with 363 yards of total offense in the win. The defense came up with timely turnovers, picking off two passes and recovering a fumble, all in the second half, to help break open what was a seven-point game. Steve Tedesco was held without a catch in the first half but came up with six grabs for 71 yards and two scores in SHU’s big second half. Fink completed 20-of-31 passes while throwing to eight different receivers in the win. SHU place kicker Joe Schroeder nailed a pair of field goals, topping his career-longs with 45 and 42 yard make. Defensively, sophomore Rashod Underwood led the Pioneers with eight tackles, a forced fumble and fumble recovery while junior Chansler Davis recorded his fifth sack of the season.
Last Time Out... The Central Connecticut Blue Devils scored 24 unanswered points in the second half highlighted by a 100-yard interception return by Marcus Dorsey to drop the Sacred Heart Pioneers 24-12 last week. The Pioneer defense did a solid job of holding the Blue Devil offensive attack in check in the first half, limiting senior running back James Mallory to just three yards rushing on nine carries. SHU’s offense did all of their scoring in the first two quarters as r-junior Dale Fink hit sophomore Garry Coles on a 26-yard screen pass for six and senior Steve Tedesco on a 35-yard “Hail Mary” as the first half clock ran out. The second half belonged to the Blue Devils who pounded their way to 180 yards on the ground behind Mallory on their way to 24-straight points. Central Connecticut wasted little time, taking the second half kick-off and putting together a 14-play drive to get on the board. Mallory led the way carried the ball seven times on the drive and finished it off plunging it in from a yard out to trail 12-7. CCSU settled for a field goal on their next drive and after a mishandled the snap on a punt attempt gave the Blue Devils first and goal, on the 10-yard line, Mallory need just one play, dragging a pair of defenders into the end zone to give his team its first lead, 17-12, with 6:40 to play. The Pioneer offense finally hit their stride and moved the ball to the Central Connecticut five-yard line looking for the go-ahead score. Facing a third and goal at the five, Fink, under a heated pass rush, toss the ball toward the right corner of the end zone where Dorsey picked it off three-yards deep and returned it the full 100-yards for six, clinching the win. Junior Marcel Archer was the Pioneer’s leading rusher, picking up 63 yards on 16 carries. As a team, SHU was held to nine yards on the ground.
League Leading Passing Attack... The Pioneers passing game led by quarterback Dale Fink, running back Garry Coles and wide receivers Steve Tedesco, Tony Patterson, Rick Rossi and Jo Jo Jamiel are atop the NEC rankings producing 241.0 yards through the air per game. Fink leads the NEC in passing yardage, averaging 211.5 yards per game. Tedesco is the team’s top receiver with 22 catches, second among league leaders, for 267 yards and two scores. Coles and Patterson have pulled down 16 balls apiece to rank ninth in the NEC for receptions per game (4.00). Rossi and Jamiel both have double digit catches with 15 and 11, respectively.
Slow Start... The Pioneers return home to Campus Field for the first time since the September 5th opener against Marist. The road has not been kind to the Pioneers as SHU comes in at 0-4 after a 24-12 loss at Central Connecticut last Saturday. The Pioneers are 0-4 to start a season for just the third time in program history. They started 0-4 in 1998 and in the winless 1992 season (0-9). The 1992 season was the only time SHU has opened 0-5.
Too Many Turnovers... Through the first three games in 2009, the Pioneers rank last in the NEC in turnover margin at -4. Quarterback Dale Fink has thrown seven interceptions this season, three for touchdowns. Running back Garry Coles has lost a pair of fumbles on the year. Last season, the Pioneers finished the year +1 in turnover margin.
Offensive Struggles... The Pioneer offensive attack has struggled out of the gates in 2009. After averaging 29.1 points per game last season and 26.6 points in 2007, SHU is posting just 13.5 per outing through three games this season. The Pioneers are coming off their first game since the 2006 season being held without a touchdown (24-0 L at Monmouth) after settling for three field goals in a 22-0 loss at Albany. SHU ranks last in the NEC in scoring (13.5) and in rushing offense (63.5 ypg)
No Flags Down... The Sacred Heart Pioneers have been the least penalized team in the NEC through four games this season. SHU has been flagged 23 times on the season and enters their match-up with Saint Francis (PA) averaging a league-low 36.0 yards in penalties per game.
Gary Coles an All-Purpose Kind of Guy... Sophomore running back Garry Coles is second in the NEC rankings in all-purpose yards averaging 139.0 yards per game. Coles has piled up a league best 243 kick return yards to go with 153 on the ground and 144 through the air.
LB Chris Mandas Leading the D... Sophomore inside linebacker Chris Mandas has stepped into a starting role in 2009 and is taking full advantage leading the team in tackles. Mandas has 37 tackles on the season, ranking fifth among league leaders (9.2 per game).
CB Titus McIntosh ... Sophomore Titus McIntosh is ranked ninth in the NEC in tackles with 34 on the season. He is the team leader and with four pass break-ups and has a forced fumble and fumble recovery on the year.
Searching for their Running Game... The Pioneers come into Saturday’s match-up next to last in the league in rushing averaging just 63.5 yards per game and 2.2 yards per carry on the year. The Pioneers are coming off their lowest output of the season, netting just nine yards on 35 carries as a team against Central Connecticut State. Sophomore Garry Coles is the Pioneers leading rusher with 153 yards on 44 carries on the year. The Pioneers entered the season needing to replace a 1,000 yard rusher for the second-consecutive season. (1,174, Evin Jones - 2008 & 1,282, Jason Payne - 2007).
Special Teams Speedsters... The Pioneers feature two of the top kickoff return specialist in the NEC in sophomore Garry Coles and freshman Brett Swider. Coles is leading the league averaging 30.4 yards per return with a 99-yard return for a touchdown on his ledger through four games. Swider ranks fifth in the conference averaging 21.5 yards per return this season.
Fink Nabs Two More Records... R-Junior quarterback Dale Fink added two more school records to his already impressive resume in last week’s loss at Central Connecticut. Fink now holds the career passing records for yardage (4,678 yards) and career passing attempts (725). Fink already holds the school marks for career touchdown throws (51), career completions (464), touchdowns in a game (4 - 2x), completions in a season (215 - 2008) and completion percentage in a season (.678 - 2008).Fink opened the season completing 30 passes in back-to-back weeks against Marist and Holy Cross, tying his career-high and the school record for completions in a game (Tyler Arciaga – 30 vs. Stony Brook 10/21/06). His 53 attempts at Holy Cross set a school record. He previously shared the mark with former Pioneer Tyler Arciaga at 47.