EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Sacred Heart football team was picked to finish fifth in the 2017 Northeast Conference Football Preseason Coaches' Poll, which was announced at the league's Social Media Day at Metlife Stadium Thursday.
The Pioneers posted their fourth consecutive winning season in 2016, going 6-5 for the second straight year. SHU also defeated a ranked opponent for the third time in as many seasons with a 38-10 win at #20/24 Stony Brook. SHU returns 16 starters from last year's squad, nine on offense and seven on defense.
Duquesne was picked as the preseason favorite by the NEC coaches, garnering four first-place votes. The defending champions Saint Francis U is second in the poll with one first-place vote. Wagner, picked third, got two first-place votes with Central Connecticut fourth. Bryant and Robert Morris round out the poll.
Sacred Heart had two selections to the Preseason All-NEC Team. Fifth-Year Senior linebacker Kevin Barry was selected to the squad after earning his second All-NEC Second Team honor in 2016. He was also an All-NEC Second Teamer in 2014 when SHU won its second straight NEC title. Barry was third on the team in tackles in 2016 with 62, adding 9.5 tackles for loss and a team-high four sacks. Senior defensive end Dylan Ackerson was also named to the Preseason All-NEC Team. Ackerson had a career-high 34 tackles in 2016 with 5.5 tackles for loss, playing in all 11 games. As a junior in 2015, Ackerson set career highs of four sacks and nine tackles for loss.
The NEC also released its 2017 ESPN3 schedule on Thursday. The Pioneers' game against Central Connecticut on Sept. 30 will be broadcast on ESPN3.
2017 Northeast Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll
1. Duquesne (4)
2. Saint Francis (1)
3. Wagner (2)
4. Central Connecticut
5. Sacred Heart
7. Robert Morris