Pioneers Ready to Kick-off 2008 Season Saturday Night
Aug. 28, 2008
Sacred Heart Pioneers (0-0, 0-0 NEC) vs. Assumption Greyhounds (0-0, 0-0 NE-10)
Game #1 - Saturday, Aug. 30, 2008 - 6:00 pm - Fairfield, Conn. - Campus Field (4,000)
Radio: WICC 600 AM Video: SacredHeartPioneers.com
Setting the Scene... The 2008 season kicks-off Saturday night as the Sacred Heart Pioneers usher in a new era of night football games on Campus Field playing host to Assumption College. The Pioneers are hoping to shake off a 3-8 2007 starting tonight with a re-match of last season's opener. SHU opened last season 2-0 beginning with a 41-20 win at Assumption but went on to finish 1-8 the rest of the way including a winless Northeast Conference slate (0-6). The Greyhounds finished last season 4-7 overall and 3-6 in the Northeast-10 as they begin 2008 under the direction of new head coach and SHU alum Adam Fuller.
The SHU - Assumption Series... Tonight's game marks the 11th meeting between the Pioneers and Greyhounds. SHU holds a 7-3 lead in the all-time series after opening last season with a 41-20 win at Assumption. The series dates back to the Pioneers Division II days and 1991, the program's inaugural season. Sacred Heart and Assumption met every season from 1991 through 1997, taking 1998 off before facing each other again in 1999 and 2000. The Pioneers beat Assumption, 13-0, during the 1991 season delivering the University the programs first-ever win and shutout. SHU quarterback Dave Vogt hooked up with Garrett Butler for a 65-yard first quarter score and running back Ron Stopkoski sealed the win with a late 73-yard jaunt to deliver the 13-0 win. The Pioneer defense came up with five sacks, an interception and forced four fumbles. The series saw another SHU shutout during the 1997 season, a 27-0 win at home.
SHU in the NEC... The Pioneers are in their 11th season of competition in the Northeast Conference. SHU holds a 31-38 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 last winning season in conference action was 2002, finishing tied with Stony Brook for second place at 5-2.
Up Next... The Pioneers will host Bentley of the Northeast-10 Conference next Saturday night on "SHU Employee Day".
The Head Coaches... Sacred Heart head coach Paul Gorham (New Hampshire `84) is in his fifth season on the Pioneer sideline. Gorham was named the school's seventh head coach in June of 2004 and owns a 15-27 record in his four year career. Prior to becoming the Pioneer's head coach, Gorham had stops at UMass, Brown, New Haven and his alma mater New Hampshire. Assumption head coach Adam Fuller (Sacred Heart `97) was named the sixth head coach in the history of the Assumption College football program this past February. Fuller spent the last three seasons as the special teams coordinator and linebacker coach for the University of Richmond. As a collegian, Fuller was a four-year letterwinner at Sacred Heart University playing for Coaches Gary Reho (1994-96) and Tom Radulski (1997). He earned Football Gazette all-American honors as a linebacker in 1996. He played against the Greyhounds four times in his career.
Last Meeting with Assumption... The Pioneers rang up 487 yards of total offense and scored touchdowns on six of their first eight possessions en route to a 41-20 win at Assumption in last season's opener. The SHU offensive attack finished with 26 first downs and was 10-of-15 on third down, converting nine of 11 through three quarters. Quarterback Dale Fink had a stellar collegiate debut completing 16-of-25 pass for 238 yards and four touchdowns, tying the school record for TD tosses. Wide receiver Steve Tedesco caught three of Fink's four touchdown tosses, also tying a school record. Sacred Heart tailback Jason Payne ran for a pair of scores while fellow running mate Evin Jones carried the ball 19 times for 89 yards in the win. Defensively, the Pioneers held the Greyhounds to just 58 yards rushing and just five-of-14 on third down, including a pair of three-and-outs in the first half that set up SHU scores. Pioneer linebacker Matt Dorosh finished with a game-high nine tackles, six solo. The win marked the first opening day victory for Sacred Heart since a 24-19 win on the road at Saint Peter's in 2003.
Pioneer Openers... The Pioneers have struggled in season openers, compiling a 5-12 mark in 17 seasons. Sacred Heart is 4-6 in openers since joining the Northeast Conference in 1998. SHU is 3-6 when opening the season on the road and 2-6 when opening in Fairfield. SHU is 9-8 all-time in home field openers and 9-6 in home openers since the opening of Campus Field in 1993. SHU is 3-1 in home openers under Paul Gorham.
Preseason NEC Polling... After completing an undefeated run through its 2007 league schedule, defending Northeast Conference champion Albany finds itself atop the conference's 2008 preseason football coaches' poll. The Great Danes, who are in search of a fourth league crown, garnered five first-place votes in the annual survey of the league head coaches. Attracting two first-place nods, five-time league champion Monmouth finished second in the poll followed by 2007 NEC runner-up Central Connecticut State, and its one first-place vote, in third.
Tedesco a Preseason All-NEC Pick... Sacred Heart junior wide receiver Steve Tedesco was named to the 2008 All-Northeast Conference Preseason team. Tedesco led the league in receptions per game (5.36), while ranking second in receiving yards per game (67.0). Effectively utilizing his size and speed, the 6'1" Tedesco, who made 26 catches for 355 yards during the final five games of his rookie campaign, finished 2007 with a league-high 59 catches for 737 yards and a conference-best 11 touchdown grabs. Tedesco, a first team choice at receiver last season, is also a feared punt returner as evidenced by the 18.2 yards per return he averaged. The junior wideout set a new school record last season for receptions in a season (59) and twice tied the school mark for touchdown catches in a game nabbing three against both Assumption and Saint Francis (PA).
Return of the Rookie of the Year... 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 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.
Young Leads the Defense... Seniors Steve Young is the Pioneers top-returning tackler from 2007 after registering 68 total tackles last fall, 42 solo, from his safety position. He tied for the team lead with six pass breakups while also registering four tackles for losses including a sack. A three-year starter at safety, Young leads an experienced defensive backfield that also welcomes back starting corners in senior Rishard Brown and junior Andre Isla. The duo played in all 11 games last season with Isla totaling 41 tackles and an interception and Brown making 39 stops with a pick 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. Senior Jeff Hodges has successfully made the transition from corner to safety this off-season and will lineup next to Young with redshirt-sophomore Rashod Underwood returning to add depth after missing all of 2007 with an injury.
Jones Ready to Lead SHU Ground Game... 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. Ready to shoulder that load is the senior Evin Jones who has three years of game experience under his belt as he starts the season ready produce right out of the gates. Jones ran the ball 77 times last season for 334 yards (4.3 ypc) in a backup roll to Payne but his experience doesn't end there. In his three years, 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. Also lining up in the backfield is junior fullback Brian Friedman who returns after a productive 2007 in his first season in the Red & White. Friedman ran for 162 yards on 35 carries and a pair of scores last fall. Senior Ed Gurrieri and freshman Garry Jones will add depth to the backfield.
Record Breakers... Last season, the Pioneers saw nine individual school records tied or broken. Junior wide receiver Steve Tedesco heads into 2008 with a chance to set new school records in career receptions, career receiving yards and career touchdown receptions. Tedesco heads into 2008 with 85 career catches, 37 away from the mark that Corey Bundy set last season. He has amassed 1,092 career yards in two seasons, 666 yards behind Bundy's mark, also set last season. His 16 career scoring grabs sits just three away from DeVeren Johnson's mark of 19, a record that has held since 2001.
History of Sacred Heart Football... This is the 18th football season at Sacred Heart University. The program is 73-100 (.422) all-time and 53-45 (.541) since joining the Northeast Conference (NEC) and Division I FCS (formerly I-AA) in 1998. The program has had seven head coaches starting with Gary Reho (1991-96) who led the team to a 5-4 record in their inaugural season. Jim Fleming led the Pioneers to a 21-1 mark in his two seasons as head coach (2000-01) including the 11-0 2001 campaign that delivered the university and NEC title. 2001 also saw the Pioneers lone post season appearance, beating Duquesne in the ECAC Bowl, 31-15, laying claim to the Division I-AA Mid-Major National Championship.