The Skyhawks went 5-6 last season, including 4-5 in the Northeast-10 Conference. Their opener is Sept. 5 in Pennsylvania against Bloomsburg University
BY Jim Fenton
Brockton Enterprise Staff Writer
Senior captain Anthony Masucci leads the Skyhawks defense into the 2015 season. (PHOTO BY Emily Reynolds)
One year after reaching the Northeast-10 Conference championship game, the Stonehill College football team dipped below .500 last season.
With 16 starters returning, coach Robert Talley is optimistic about which direction the Skyhawks are headed this season.
"We feel good,'' said Talley, now in his ninth season. "We have a lot of experience coming back.
"I think we can contend for the championship. That's our goal and I think it's a realistic goal. We have to catch some breaks, but we're going to get the effort.''
Stonehill went 8-3 and 8-1 in the NE-10 in 2013, losing to American International College in the title game. Last season, the Skyhawks fell to 5-6 and 4-5 in the conference as they struggled offensively and dropped three close games.
"There's more of a sense of urgency,'' said Talley. "I think we have a clear understanding of why we weren't successful last year. The kids realize what we need to do to try to get back.
"It was disappointing only because we didn't play as well as we could have. We didn't take advantage of opportunities and give ourselves the best opportunity to be successful.''
Stonehill plays its first two games on the road, traveling to Pennsylvania a week from Saturday to face Bloomsburg University and then to North Andover to meet Merrimack College on Sept. 11. The home opener is Sept. 19 against Pace University.
Senior Colin Markus returns after leading the NE-10 in rushing in 2014. (PHOTO BY Emily Reynolds)
In the NE-10 preseason poll, Stonehill is picked tied for fifth place with Saint Anselm College.
The Skyhawks' had one of the top Div. 2 defenses in the nation last season, allowing 284 yards per game.
The unit lost all-conference players Brian Harrington of Rockland, a linebacker, and defensive backs Sterry Codrington and Nate Morris and tackle Taylor Russell to graduation.
Stonehill will have depth on the defensive line, which Talley calls "probably our deepest position.''
Eric Schneider, who missed last season with an injury after earning all-conference honors in 2013, returns to the Skyhawks.
"That,'' said Talley, "is going to be huge.''
Linebacker Peter Catal (54 tackles, two sacks) is "probably going to be one of the best players in the conference,'' said Talley, who also has Ryan Doherty (73 tackles, 41/2 sacks) returning to that position.
Captain Anthony Masucci (66 tackles) is an experienced player in a young secondary.
"The probably we're where least experienced,'' said Talley. "We have some talent there. It'll be interesting how that group comes together and plays.''
Sophomore Matt Foltz has earned the starting job at quarterback for the Skyhawks. (PHOTO BY Emily Reynolds)
Sophomore Matt Foltz, who started three games late last season, will get the nod at quarterback. He was 46 of 72 for 609 yards and two touchdowns.
"He's just really progressed and come along,'' said Talley. "He feels a lot more comfortable with the offense than he was at the end of last year.
"He's 6-7, so that's always a good start when you have a quarterback who can really see down the field and linemen aren't going to get in his way. He has mobility. He's not a 6-7 kid who is just a pocket kid. He can run.''
All-conference running back Colin Markus returns after leading the NE-10 with 712 rushing yards, despite missing two full games parts of two others with an injury
He enters the season ranked sixth on the school's all-time list with 1,569 rushing yards.
" He's just a heckuva football player,'' said Talley. "When he was going last year, it was huge for us. When he got hurt, that put more pressure on the quarterback.''
"There's a lot of potential there,'' said Talley of the offense. "We have a lot of good football players. We have to come together as one unit.''
Jim Fenton may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JFenton_ent.