FAIRFIELD, Conn. – The Sacred Heart football team clinched its fourth Northeast Conference title in program history on Saturday afternoon after grinding out a hard-fought 13-7 victory over Saint Francis U. at Campus Field. The co-championship is the Pioneers' third in the last six seasons. SHU finishes the 2018 season with a 7-4 (5-1 NEC) record, their most wins since 2014, and shares the conference regular season title with Duquesne (8-3, 5-1 NEC), who will represent the NEC in the FCS Playoffs after they defeated Central Connecticut on Saturday with a late touchdown.
Going up against Saint Francis' conference-leading defense, Sacred Heart grinded out 223 yards of total offense. But SHU's defense stepped up and answered the call, allowing a season-low 162 yards of total offense and forcing a season-high four turnovers.
Senior running back Jordan Meachum rushed for 119 yards on 26 carries and scored the Pios lone touchdown. Fifth-year senior Andrew O'Neill had three catches for 39 yards, and grad student Kevin Duke completed seven of his 19 passes for 70 yards, while rushing for 36.
Defensively, SHU came away with nine tackles for a loss, including three from grad student Aaron Donalson, who had two sacks, and forced a fumble that led to the winning score. Sophomore Jayden Jordan hauled in two interceptions, and senior captain Christian LoDolce also forced a fumble. Fellow senior captain Kevin Sears and RJ Trimble-Edwards each had fumble recoveries.
- On SFU's second possession, Robert Steffe came away with a sack on second down, then Jordan hauled in his first pick off a tipped pass to set SHU up at its own 37-yard line.
- Duke put together back-to-back runs of 23 yards and five yards, before finding O'Neill down the right sideline for 22 yards to set up first down at the SFU 18.
- Gettman then connected on a career-long 33-yard field goal from the right hash to give SHU the early 3-0 lead at the 8:19 mark.
- SFU put together a long drive before attempting a 24-yard field goal on the opening play of the second quarter, which sailed wide right.
- However, the Red Flash took the ball right back two plays later, intercepting Duke at the SHU 18-yard line. SFU scored three plays later on a 22-yard pass from Bear Fennimore to Ra'Shaun Henry with 12:50 to go until halftime, putting them on top 7-3.
- SHU punted on its next possession and received a golden opportunity when the kick was muffed and recovered by Sears, but the Pioneers were eventually forced to punt.
- Jordan added his second pick of the half, and returned it 25 yards to the SHU 36.
- O'Neill followed with a nine-yard catch on 3rd-and-12, and drew a targeting penalty to give SHU a fresh set of downs at the 18.
- Gettman put a 27-yarder through the uprights to make it a 7-6 ballgame with 2:53 left until halftime.
- SFU missed their second field goal of the opening half as time expired, coming up short from 42 yards out.
The two teams were both held under 100 yards of offense in the first half, with SHU totaling 93 yards on 47 yards rushing and 46 passing. Both teams combined for six first half turnovers.
- SHU took the lead early in the third quarter, scoring on a three-yard run by Jordan Meachum on 1st-and-goal to go up 13-7 at the 8:01 mark.
- The play was set up after Donalson sacked Fennimore and forced a fumble on 3rd-and-long, which Trimble-Edwards fell on at the SFU 14-yard line.
- Saint Francis took the ball at 9:16 of the fourth quarter and drove to the SHU 12, before facing a 4th-and-8. SHU's defense rose to the occasion, with Donalson breaking through for a huge sack to force the turnover on downs.
- After holding the Pios to three-and-out on the ensuing possession, SFU took the ball with one last chance at its own 40 with 3:18 remaining.
- Sacred Heart forced four consecutive incompletions, causing another turnover on downs with a fourth down pass breakup from Salaam Horne.
- Meachum sealed the win with a game-long 36-yard run to pick up a first down with one minute remaining.
- SHU held opponents to under 300 yards of total offense on five occasions this season, and under 200 yards of total offense three times.
- The 162 yards allowed by SHU was the fewest since Sept. 2, 2017 against Stetson (145).
- Sacred Heart's Northeast Conference Championships:
2001: 8-0 (outright),
2013: 4-2 (co)*
2014: 5-1 (co)*
2018: 5-1 (co)
*FCS Playoff appearance