Nov. 5, 2009
Sacred Heart Pioneers (1-7, 1-5 NEC) vs. Bryant Bulldogs (3-5, 2-3 NEC)
Game #9 - Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009 - 1:00 pm - Fairfield, Conn. - Campus Field (4,000)
Setting the Scene... The Sacred Heart Pioneers return to Campus Field for “Homecoming Weekend” facing new Northeast Conference member Bryant University. The Pioneers and Bulldogs will meet for the first time since the 2000 season and as NEC members. SHU returns home for the final two games of the season and are looking to end a three-game skid after a 9-7 loss at Robert Morris last Saturday. The Pioneers were held to a season-low seven first downs, 115 total yards and just one yard rushing in the loss to the Colonials. The Bulldogs are looking to snap a four-game slide coming off a 10-6 loss at Monmouth a week ago. Bryant’s last three losses have come by a combined eight points to the likes of Albany (20-17), Central Connecticut State (24-23) and the Hawks (10-6).
The SHU - Bryant Series... The Pioneers lead the all-time series, 2-0. Sacred Heart and Bryant will meet for the first time since the 2000 season, a 19-13 win by the Pioneers on Campus Field. The first meeting between the two schools took place during the 1998 season, a 42-28 win. The Bulldogs were still considered at club status in 1998, their first year of organized football. The program considers 1999 its first varsity season.
SHU in the NEC... The Pioneers are in their 12th season of competition in the Northeast Conference. SHU holds a 36-46 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... SHU will close out the 2009 season next Saturday playing host to the Duquesne Dukes. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:00 noon.
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 24-37 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. Bryant head coach Marty Fine (Western New Mexico ‘85) is in his sixth season on the Bulldog sidelines. After guiding the Bulldogs to back-to-back conference championships and NCAA playoff appearances in 2006 and 2007, Fine led the Bulldogs into their first season of Divison I play in the fall of 2008 and posted an impressive 7-4 record overall. He has led Bryant to a 37-23 record in his six seasons. Fine had assistant coaching stops at Iowa State, Indiana, Colgate and Indiana State.
Last Meeting with the Bulldogs... Sacred Heart quarterback Justin Holtfreter threw a pair of second half touchdowns to break a 6-6 tie at the half as the Pioneers posted a 19-15 win over Bryant at home on September 9, 2000. The Pioneers got a pair of field goals from kicker Tim Redican in the first half while the Bulldogs got a 24-yard touchdown run from Stewart Winston, but the extra point attempt missed the mark. Bryant took a 12-6 lead just over two minutes into the second quarter thanks to a 14-yard scamper by Andre McLeod for six, again seeing the point after fall no good. The Bulldogs rushed for 215 yards as a team, 76 yards apiece from Winston and McLeod, but were lost three fumbles and completed just two passes for 10 yards in the loss. Holtfreter connected on his first scoring throw with 9:30 left in the third, hitting Andy Gonzalez from 14-yards out for a 13-12 lead. The Bulldogs took lead back with 12:30 left in the fourth quarter thanks to a 31-yard Pete DiMartino field goal. Holtfreter led the Pioneers back once again, hitting wide receiver DeVeren Johnson on a seven-yard scoring strike for game winner with just over three minutes left. The junior quarterback completed 13-of-32 passes for 177 yards. Defensively, SHU got 13 tackles apiece from linebacker Kayode Mayowa and cornerback Pete Athans.
Last Time Out... The Sacred Heart Pioneers held Robert Morris to just three field goals but were held to just 115 yards of total offense coming up short, 9-7, in a defensive Northeast Conference battle last Saturday. Sophomore linebacker Chris Mandas led three Pioneers with double digit tackles making a career-high 15 stops, nine solo, in the loss. In addition to Mandas’ 15 tackles, sophomore linebacker Michael Zambarano and junior outside linebacker Brian Flumere had 12 tackles apiece. Flumere along with defensive end Justin Embler each had sacks while sophomore cornerback Ahmad Covington notched his second interception of the season. The Pioneers were limited to a season-low seven first downs, 115 total yards and just one yard rushing. Both teams punted six times in the game and were a combined five of 26 on third down. The Colonials had 241 yards of offense, 202 coming on the ground. Raphael Johnson led the ground attack with 115 yards on 27 carries. RMU junior place kicker Garrett Clawson hit the first of his three field goals with just 1:10 to play before halftime, connecting from 23 yards out, to give the Colonials a 3-0 advantage. Robert Morris racked up 144 yards of total offense in the first half but was able to muster just three points, while the Colonial defense held Sacred Heart to just two first downs and 40 total yards before halftime. In the third quarter, Clawson drilled a 35-yard field goal at the 5:28 mark to increase RMU’s lead to 6-0, and his second 35-yard field goal of the contest, this time with 7:17 to play, proved to be the difference. The Pioneers finally got on the board with 5:28 remaining when Dale Fink connected with Steve Tedesco for a seven-yard touchdown pass to trim Sacred Heart’s deficit to 9-7. Robert Morris ran out the final 5:20 of action behind Johnson, who rushed eight times for 47 yards in the fourth quarter alone. He started the final drive of the game with an eight-yard scamper and added his longest run of the afternoon, a 19-yard pickup, two plays later. Fink was intercepted three times on the afternoon, completing 12-of-23 for 117 yards. Down 6-0 to start the fourth quarter, Fink had the Pioneers on the move on a 10-play drive looking to take the lead. On third and six from the RMU 19 yard line, Fink was picked for third time on the day with Landers making the interception at the one yard line to thwart the drive. Tedesco caught four balls for 33 yards and a touchdown, his fifth-straight game with a score. The Colonials held Sacred Heart to 118 yards of total offense, including just one yard rushing.
Tedesco a Three-Time Academic All-District Choice... For the third-straight season, Sacred Heart senior Steve Tedesco (Mission Viejo, CA) was named to the CoSIDA ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District football team announced this week. Tedesco earns District 1 first team honors and will now be placed on the national ballot on November 10th for Academic All-American honors. Tedesco, a senior wide receiver for the Pioneers, is a History major with a 3.50 gpa. He is one of seven student-athletes from the Northeast Conference to earn Academic All-District honors.
Tedesco Closing in on Pricolo’s Scoring Mark... Senior Steve Tedesco enters the final two games of his collegiate career needing just one touchdown to tie the school scoring record of 33 career scores. Former Pioneer running back Ed Pricolo racked up 33 career scores out of the SHU backfield from 2002 through 2005. Tedesco has six scores this season and sits at 32 with two games to play.
Steve Tedesco, the NEC’s Top-Receiver... Senior wide receiver Steve Tedesco is again among the top ranked wide receivers in the NEC. The two-time All-NEC wideout leads the conference with 49 catches (6.12 cpg) for 645 yards (80.6 ypg) and six touchdowns. The senior receiver extended his streak to five-straight games with a touchdown catch in last Saturday’s loss at Robert Morris. Tedesco has three 100-yard receiving games this season and a pair of 11 catch games as well. He pulled down 11 balls for a season-high 168 yards and a score against Monmouth and also caught 11 passes earlier this season at Holy Cross.
Chris Mandas Racks Up the Tackles... Sophomore inside linebacker Chris Mandas is coming off his best day as a Pioneer defender. Mandas posted a career-best 15 tackles in last week’s 9-7 loss at Robert Morris, the highest total by a Pioneer this season. Mandas is leading the team in tackles with 67 stops on the season, ranking seventh among league leaders (8.4 per game).
Freshman Plescow Claims Kicking Job... Freshman Jason Plescow took hold of the Pioneer kicking job four games ago and has solidified himself in the role. Plescow is five-of-five on field goal attempts this season, hitting all three of his attempts at Wagner. Against Monmouth, Plescow buried his first two career field goal attempts, hitting from 25 and 22 yards.
SHU Pioneers through the Air... The Pioneers passing game led by quarterback Dale Fink is ranked first in the NEC producing 220.2 yards through the air per game. Fink leads the NEC in passing yardage, averaging 205.5 yards per game. He has completed a league-best 287 passes and has a NEC-high 1,644 yards through the air on his ledger.
Too Many Turnovers... The Pioneers rank last (9th) in the NEC in turnover margin at -6 on the year. Quarterback Dale Fink is leads the NEC with 13 interceptions this season, four have gone for touchdowns. The Pioneers are 0-3 in games where they won the turnover battle and 1-4 in games where they have more or the same number of turnovers as their opponents. Last season, the Pioneers finished the year +1 in turnover margin.
SHU’s Offensive Output... Sacred Heart ranks seventh in the NEC in scoring offense this season, averaging 17.2 points per game. The Pioneers averaged 29.1 points per game last season and 26.6 points in 2007, ranking second and third in the NEC those seasons. For the first time since the 2006 season, the Pioneer offense was held without a touchdown (24-0 L at Monmouth) in a game after settling for three field goals in a 22-9 loss at Albany. For the just the second time under head coach Paul Gorham, the Pioneers have had a pair of games this season being held under 10 points, losing to the Great Danes and a 9-7 loss to Robert Morris. During the 2006 season, SHU lost to Monmouth, 49-8, and Albany, 38-7, in back-to-back weeks.