August 15, 2008

Football Training Camp in Full Swing

Aug. 15, 2008

TRAINING CAMP PHOTO GALLERY

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (August 15, 2008) - The Sacred Heart football team is the midst of preseason training camp as they gear up to kick-off the 2008 season in just two short weeks playing host to Assumption College under the lights. The Pioneers reported to SHU's campus just over a week ago to start preparations for the university's 17th season of competition.

Sacred Heart welcomes back lots of offensive talent from a team the scored the third highest total of points in a season (293) last year. Led by the 2007 Northeast Conference Offensive Rookie of the Year in quarterback Dale Fink (Swansea, IL) the Pioneers looked poised to put up some big numbers again in 2008.

Fink took hold of the reigns on offense and never let go, throwing for 1,730 yards and a NEC leading 23 touchdowns in his first season under center. The redshirt-sophomore threw four touchdowns in his first career game at Assumption and went on to pass for 10 scores against two picks in his first four games. An ankle injury forced him to the sidelines for two games but the rookie signal caller didn't miss a beat upon his return throwing for three scores in each of the season's final four games.

In charge of the NEC's third ranked scoring offense (26.6 ppg), Fink collected a league-best four Rookie of the Week awards on the way to also earning All-NEC Second Team honors. Fink will welcome back a favorite target in junior wide receiver Steve Tedesco (Mission Viejo, CA) who earned himself All-NEC First Team honors after a stellar sophomore campaign.

Tedesco had a breakout sophomore season, picking-up right where he left off his freshman year. After coming up with 26 catches for 355 yards and five touchdowns over the final five games of his rookie campaign, Tedesco turned in a monster 2007 with a NEC leading 59 catches for 737 yards and a conference-best 11 scoring grabs.

The junior wideout twice tied the school record for touchdown catches in a game last season, hauling in three scores against both Assumption and Saint Francis (PA). He came up just one reception shy of tying the school mark for catches in a game when he pulled down 11 balls for 143 yards in a Week 5 match-up at Wagner. He set a new school record for receptions with 59 last year and heads into his junior season needing just three touchdowns to set a new school mark. He is also closing in on the school records for career receptions and career yards.

SHU have a group of talented receivers ready to step in and start opposite Tedesco starting with redshirt-sophomore Tony Patterson (Groton, CT). Patterson battled a shoulder injury for part of last season but came up with 12 catches for 159 yards, an impressive 13.2 yards per catch... Fellow redshirt-sophomore Mark Uyeno (Setauket, NY) is looking to increase his role in the offense while freshman newcomers Rich Rossi (Moosic, PA) and Jo Jo Jamiel (West Yarmouth, MA) could also push for playing time.

The tight end position will once again be held down by junior Chris Rapp (Ridgefield Park, NJ) and redshirt-sophomore Tom Stripe (Mahwah, NJ). Also in the mix is redshirt-sophomore Matt Maguire (Madison, CT) who is making the move over from the offensive line.

Possibly the biggest question on the offensive side of the ball is how the Pioneers will replace the 1,282 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns lost by the graduation of running back Jason Payne. The cupboard doesn't appear bare with the return of senior Evin Jones (Pennsauken, NJ) who has the experience and skill to step in and produce right out of the gates. Jones ran the ball 77 times last season for 334 yards (4.3 ypc) in a back-up roll to Payne but his experience doesn't end there having been a part of the SHU offense since his freshman season.

In his four year, Jones has had 218 carries for 980 yards, an average of 4.5 yards per carry. He finished with three touchdowns last season and also showed a knack for catching the ball out of the backfield with 17 receptions on the year giving him 67 catches for his career. Jones is also a threat on special teams returning kicks as he ran one back 90 yards for a score as a sophomore and averaged 15.2 per return last season.

Junior fullback Brian Friedman (Point Pleasant, NJ) returns after a productive first season in the Red & White and could also see some his touches increase this season. Friedman ran for 162 yards on 35 carries and a pair of scores in 2007. Senior Ed Gurrieri (Manalapan, NJ) adds depth to the backfield after rushing for 112 yards on 28 carries last fall.

Anchoring the offensive line is the return of a trio of starters in senior and three-year starter Ryan Arroyo (Florence, NJ) at left tackle and redshirt-sophomores Justin Smith (Binghamton, NY) at left guard and Dan Plunkett (Quincy, MA) at right guard. Fellow redshirt-sophomore Jason Pfalzgraf (Fairfield, CT) moves into the center position with redshirt-senior Aaron Thomae (Westford, MA) looking to slide in at right tackle. Junior Abel Malae (Pacifica, CA), redshirt-freshmen Mike Reho (Naugatuck, CT) and Peter Pulaski (Stratford, CT) and freshman Bill Romaniello (Monroe, CT) will bring depth across the line.

Defensively, the Pioneers will benefit from the return of six starters as well as returning some injured players from last season as they look to improve on last year's 32.9 average points and 386.4 yards allowed per game last season. Leading the way is a defensive back unit that returns three of the four starters from a year ago.

Seniors Steve Young (Brooklyn, NY) and Rishard Brown (Miami, FL) along with redshirt-junior Andre Isla (Brookhaven, NY) are the incumbent starters with senior Jeff Hodges (Royal Palm Beach, FL) back and redshirt-sophomore Rashod Underwood returning after missing all of 2007 with an injury.

Young is the Pioneers leading returning tackler after registering 68 total tackles last fall, 42 solo, from his safety position. He tied for the team lead with six pass break-ups. Brown and Isla will once again lock down the corner positions after appearing in all 11 games last season. Isla had 41 tackles with an interception while Brown made 39 stops and picked off a pass as well. Underwood saw action in 10 games at safety as a freshman and finished the year with 12 tackles, two sacks and a blocked punt.

Junior defensive end Bill O'Brien (Lafayette, NY) will anchor the defensive line that will feature all new starters. O'Brien saw significant action last season in the line rotation and ended the year with 37 tackles, five for losses, and two sacks. Redshirt-sophomore Andrew Costantino (Abiagton, MA) played in all 11 games last season finished the year with 13 total tackles. Sophomore Vinny Branchini (Longmeadow, MA) and redshirt-sophomores Elijah Dixon (Patterson, NJ) and Adam Conger (Randolph, NJ) are all expected to be a part of this year's defensive line rotation.

The linebacker corps will be led by senior Rich Marrone (Brooklyn, NY), junior Chansler Davis (Islip Terrace, NY) and sophomores Brian Flumere (Milford, PA) and Will Veix (Pipersville, PA), who all saw significant time last season. Marrone is behind Young as the team's top tackler from a year ago registering 60 stops in 11 games. Veix appeared in all 11 games as well, lined up inside with Marrone, and had 26 tackles on the season.

Both Davis and Flumere were hampered by injuries for parts of last season but heading into this season as the perennial starters. Davis played in seven games and had 18 tackles to Flumere's 17 stops in nine games. Both registered a sack on the season. Senior Anthony Mortali (Branford, CT), 24 tackles in 2007, and freshman Michael Zambarano (Natick, MA) can back up inside while redshirt-freshman Paul Graziadei (Little Falls, NY) and freshman Richard Barche (Bellingham, MA) can back-up on the outside.

The special teams unit welcomes the return of senior punter Derek Marks (East Lyme, CT) and junior place kicker Joe Schroeder (Jackson, NJ). Marks punted 36 times last fall for an average of 37.2 yards per kick. He placed nine inside the 20 on the year. Schroeder was four-of-seven on field goal attempts and also had six touchbacks on kickoffs.

The 2008 season will get underway on Saturday August 30th under the lights against the Greyhounds and continue with five more games on Campus Field throughout the year. SHU will host Bentley on September 6th in a 6:00 pm start and get the live TV treatment on Friday, October 31st when they host Wagner at 7:00 pm on the MSG Network.

Sacred Heart's 2008 Homecoming Weekend is slated for October 4th with SHU hosting Robert Morris in the NEC opener at 1:00 pm. The defending conference champion Albany Great Danes will pay a visit on "Family Weekend" taking on the Pioneers on October 18th in a 1:00 pm start. The season finale will be November 15th hosting Central Connecticut at 1:00 pm.