Oct. 9, 2008
Sacred Heart Pioneers (5-0, 1-0 NEC) vs. Saint Francis-PA Red Flash (0-5, 0-2 NEC)
Game #6 - Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008 - 1:00 pm - Loretto, Pa. - DeGol Field (3,450)
Radio: WICC 600 AM, SacredHeartPioneers.com
Setting the Scene... The Sacred Heart Pioneers take their 5-0 record on the road this Saturday to Loretto, Pennsylvania to face the Saint Francis (PA) Red Flash. The Pioneers are fresh off a 31-28 "Homecoming" win over Robert Morris last week, a win that snapped an 11-game Northeast Conference losing streak that dated back to the 2006 season. The Pioneers went 0-6 last season and were 1-5 in 2006 in conference play. Sacred Heart are looking to end a two-game losing skid to the Red Flash as they look to match their highest win total since the 2004 campaign (6-4), Paul Gorham's first on the sidelines. Saint Francis is still searching for their first win of 2008 having lost five-straight. The Red Flash are 0-2 in league play with loses to Duquesne (21-7) and Monmouth (42-15).
The SHU - SFPA Series... Sacred Heart leads the all-time series, 7-5. The Red Flash have won two-straight in the series, winning 21-14 at home in 2006 and 35-30 in Fairfield 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 4-2 on the road in Loretto, Pa.
SHU in the NEC... The Pioneers are in their 11th season of competition in the Northeast Conference. SHU holds a 32-38 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... Sacred Heart returns to Campus Field next Saturday for a match-up with the defending NEC Champion Albany Great Danes on "SHU Family Weekend".
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 20-27 record in his five 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 seventh season at the head of the Red Flash football program and owns an 15-53 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 Saint Francis (PA)... Sacred Heart scored three-straight fourth quarter touchdowns but couldn't overcome a 25-point deficit, coming up short, 35-30 to visiting Saint Francis (PA) last fall. SFPA's Tyler Gillmen rumbled his way for 19-yards on a fake punt with just over two minutes left to pick up the game clinching first down and help deliver his team their first win of 2007. Senior Jason Payne recorded his second-straight 100-yard rushing game pounding out 183 yards on 22 carries and ripped off a 75-yard touchdown run in the loss, the fifth longest touchdown run in SHU history. Wide receiver Steve Tedesco hauled in nine catches for a career-high 184 yards and for the second-time on the season caught three touchdowns, which tied the school record. His 184 yard day ranked fourth all-time for receiving yards in a game. The Pioneers struggled on special teams, allowing their third blocked punt on the year, second for a touchdown while also mishandling two punts that led to turnovers. The SHU offense piled up 460 yards and 21 first downs on the day. A 61-yard interception return for a touchdown by Saint Francis linebacker Matt Parker gave his team a 35-10 lead with 10:27 to go. SHU responded with three-straight scores and looked like they would get the ball back for one final drive but the call for a fake punt on fourth down salted the game away for the Red Flash.
Last Time Out... The Pioneers got 187 yards rushing from senior Evin Jones as they improved to 5-0 on the season with a 31-28 win over Robert Morris in front of 3,019 fans at Campus Field last weekend. Quarterback Dale Fink threw for a pair of touchdowns and wide receiver Steve Tedesco became Sacred Heart's all-time leader in career touchdown receptions in delivering the "Homecoming Weekend" win. The Pioneers played their fifth-straight game without allowing a quarterback sack as the SHU offensive line helped guide Jones and his backfield mates to a 204 day on the ground. On the defensive side, the Pioneers gave up 441 yards of offense but once again on came up with big turnovers, recovering a fumble and getting an interception for cornerback Andre Isla, his third on the year. Junior kicker Joe Schroeder nailed a 35-yard field goal, tying his career-long, that proved the deciding margin of victory. For the Colonials, quarterback Erik Cwalinski threw for 260 yards, completing 19-of-31 with two scores and an interception. Running back Myles Russ finished with 126 yards on 16 carries, a 7.9 average per rush.
Win Streak Hits Five-Straight... The Pioneers ran their winning streak to five-straight to start this season after last week's NEC opening 31-28 win over visiting Robert Morris. This is SHU's first five-game winning streak under head coach Paul Gorham. The Pioneers won four-straight under Gorham during the 2004 campaign, his first on the Sacred Heart sidelines. The win gave Coach Gorham 20 career wins on the SHU sidelines, just one behind former coach Jim Fleming for the all-time lead in coaching wins at Sacred Heart.
+6 In the Turnover Battle... The Pioneers won the turnover battle 2-1 last Saturday and improved to +6 on the season. SHU has won the turnover battle in four of the five games. On the season, Sacred Heart has seven interceptions and seven fumble recoveries as a team. Last season, SHU finished the year -14.
Bend But Don't Break... The Pioneer defense is giving up a league-low 19.8 points per game but have twice allowed more the 400-yards of offense in a game this season. Sacred Heart is allowing an average of 362.4 yards per game and is coming off giving up 441 yards to Robert Morris. Despite that, SHU continued to find a way to get big plays, picking up a fumble on a punt and getting an interception while also notching a pair of sacks in the win. R-Junior Andre Isla picked up his third interception of the season. Junior linebacker Chansler Davis recorded his team-leading fourth sack last week while sophomore Brian Flumere got his third and forced a fumble in the win.
Pioneer Offense on a Roll... The Pioneer offensive attack heads to Loretto averaging a NEC best 33.2 points per game after hitting the 30-point mark for the third time this season in a 31-28 win over Robert Morris. Sacred Heart's offense is averaging a league-best 399.6 total yards per game. SHU continues to shine in the red-zone, scoring on four of five chances against the Colonials. The Pioneers have scored on 85.0% of their red-zone chances, scoring on 17 of their 20 visits with 15 touchdowns. SHU is second in the NEC on third down, converting 43.3%.
Offensive Success Starts Up Front... Five games into the 2008 season and the Pioneer offensive line has yet to surrender a sack of quarterback Dale Fink putting SHU as the only team in the NEC not to allow a sack this season. Under the guidance of assistant coach Kevin Bolis, the Pioneer front-five of senior tackle Ryan Arroyo, junior tackle Abel Malae, r-sophomore guard Dan Plunkett, r-sophomore guard/center Justin Smith, freshman guard Will Martin and freshman center Dylan Larson continue to impress not only protecting the quarterback but paving the way for the SHU ground game. The Pioneers are averaging 180.4 yards per game on the ground, third among NEC leaders.
Ground Game led by Evin Jones... Senior running back Evin Jones has found lots of room to run in the early going and has hit the century mark in three of the five games this season with a 200-yard game to his credit. . Jones carried the ball a career-high 33 times last week against the Colonials finishing with 187 yards, second only to his 210 yard night against Assumption in the opener as a career bench mark. Jones picked up his seventh touchdown in the win and is second in the NEC in scoring. His season-opening performance against Assumption earned him NEC Offensive Player of the Week honors. Jones now has 685 yards rushing this season on 111 carries, a career-high for carries in a season for the running back. He is averaging 6.2 yards per carry and averaging 137.0 yards per game, ranking him fourth among NEC rushers.
Dale Fink, SHU's Field General... R-Sophomore Quarterback Dale Fink is completing a NEC best 68.5% (102-149) of his passes this season while throwing for 1,065 yards and 11 touchdowns. Fink has thrown a touchdown in 14-straight games and has thrown for two or more scores in 11 games in his young career. The sophomore signal caller picked up his first career NEC Offensive Player of the Week award after throwing for a season-high 281 yards and three scores the win over Marist. Fink, the reigning NEC Rookie of the Year, has shown no signs of a sophomore slump, posting a passing efficiency rating of 144.8 on the year. He is averaging 220.2 yards passing per game and has completed a league-high 102 passes.
Tedesco Rewriting the SHU Record Book... Junior wide receiver Steve Tedesco caught a pair of touchdowns against Robert Morris last week and became the Pioneer's all-time leader in career touchdown grabs. Tedesco moved into sole possession of the top-spot with 20 career scores, passing DeVeren Johnson (2000-01). Tedesco is on the cusp of becoming the school's all-time career reception leader, needing just three catches to pass former teammate Corey Bundy's (2004-07) record of 122, set last season His 1,503 yards ranks him third behind both Bundy (1,758) and Johnson (1,748).
Fink in the SHU Record Book... Quarterback Dale Fink, just 14 games into his collegiate career, is climbing his way up the Pioneer all-time passing lists. Fink has completed 262 passes and thrown for 2,795 yards and 34 touchdowns in his short career, placing him third all-time on all three lists. His career completions percentage of 64.5% currently has his atop that all-time list. The two quarterbacks he is chasing, Tyler Arciaga (2005-06) and Justin Holtfreter (2000-01) rewrote the SHU record book in just two years with Fink on pace to equal their feats in just his first two years under center as well.
Pioneer Receiving Corps... On the season, junior Steven Tedesco has 34 caches for 411 yards, a 12.1 per catch average. His four TD grabs leads all SHU receivers. The rest of the Pioneer receiving corps have been held their own as well with r-sophomore Tony Patterson hauling in 16 catches while averaging 11.9 yards per catch. Five different receivers have caught Dale Fink touchdown passes this season.
Fullback Friedman's Golden Arm... Junior fullback Brian Friedman got into the act of tossing touchdowns last weekend, hooking-up with Steve Tedesco on a 25-yard strike on a halfback pass in the third quarter. Friedman was looking for his second late in the third when he hit QB Dale Fink on trick play that came up short of the goal line. It was the second career touchdown throw for Friedman who hooked-up with Fink on a halfback toss in last season's win over Marist.
Garry Coles, Sacred Heart's Impact Rookie... Freshman Garry Coles has scored five touchdowns this season and has provided the Pioneers with a spark on both offense and in the return game. Coles is averaging 118.2 all-purpose yards this season, racking up 146 yards rushing, 169 yards receiving and 262 kickoff return yards through five games. The rookie running back owns two NEC Rookie of the Week awards this season. He is averaging 6.3 yards per carry average and is the Pioneer's third leading receiver with 14 catches, 12.1 yards per catch. He is averaging 23.8 yards per return on kickoffs.
Mortali Brothers Win NEC Awards... In back to back games, the Sacred Heart brother combination of senior Anthony and sophomore Mike Mortali picked up a pair of Northeast Conference Weekly Awards. Anthony was the recipient of last week's Special Teams Player of the Week after recovering a blocked punt and returning it for a five-yard score in the win at Iona. In a Week 2 win over Bentley, Mike was called upon to step in for injured strong safety Steve Young and came up with a game-high nine tackles (four solo), a sack, a fumble recovery and three pass breakups to win the NEC Defensive Player of the Week award.
NEC Stat Leaders... The Pioneers have the NEC's leading scoring offense (33.2 ppg) and scoring defense (19.8 ppg). The Pioneers are tops in total offense (399.6), sacks allowed (0), kick-off returns (22.0), turnover margin at +6, rushing defense (109.8) and red-zone defense (57.9%). Senior Evin Jones is fourth in the NEC in rushing (137.0 ypg) and is second in scoring with seven touchdowns. Quarterback Dale Fink is fourth in yards per game (220.2) and third in passing efficiency (144.8). Wide Receiver Steve Tedesco is leading the league in receptions per game (6.80) and second in yards per game (82.2). Coles is the NEC's top-return man, averaging 23.8 yards on kickoffs. Junior Andre Isla is tied for the league lead with three interceptions while junior Chansler Davis shares the league lead in sacks with 4.0.
Former Pioneer Makes NFL 53-Man Roster... Former Sacred Heart standout Jon Corto became the first Pioneer in school history to make an NFL 53-man roster, suiting up for his hometown Buffalo Bills this season. Corto, a backup linebacker and special teams player, paid early dividends for the Bills, forcing a fumble on a kickoff during Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Corto spent last season on the Bill's practice squad. The Orchard Park, NY native, signed with the Bill's as an undrafted free agent last June after attending the team's rookie minicamp after the draft. Corto had a stellar four-year career as a Pioneer, earning All-American honors as well as first-team All-Northeast Conference accolades. He finished his career at SHU as the program's second all-time leading tackler with 300 tackles over four years.
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). Tedesco 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).
History of Sacred Heart Football... This is the 18th football season at Sacred Heart University. The program is 79-100 (.441) all-time and 59-45 (.567) 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.