Senior captain Ryan Doherty returns as the leading tackler on a defense which ranked 11th nationally in 2015. (PHOTO BY SportsPix)
Skyhawks aim to keep building under first year head coach Eli Gardner
EASTON, Mass. (August 23, 2016) – The Stonehill College football program has been picked to finish fifth in the Northeast-10 Conference by the league's ten head coaches, the league announced.
Stonehill received 44 points to sit fifth in the preseason poll, with defending NE-10 champions Assumption College picked to capture its second straight title with 79 points and seven of ten first place votes. The University of New Haven is picked second with 72 points and two first place votes, followed by LIU Post (61 points) and Merrimack College (58), collecting the final first place vote, with Stonehill rounding out the top five. The Skyhawks were also picked fourth by d2football.com NE-10 columnist Paul Falewicz in his preseason rankings.
Stonehill, under the direction of first year head coach Eli Gardner, returns 63 letterwinners from its 2015 squad which posted the program's second winning season over the last three years, finishing with a 7-4 record overall, including 5-4 in Northeast-10 play to finish fourth in the Conference standings. The Skyhawks have 16 starters returning, including four All-Northeast-10 selections, from last fall, with eight returning starters on each side of the ball.
Stonehill returns eight starters from a defensive unit which ranked second in the NE-10 and 11th nationally in Division II for total defense last season, allowing just 279.2 yards per game, and second in the Conference for passing defense (17th nationally) at 158.5 yards per game. Headlining the defensive returners are senior captains Ryan Doherty (Methuen, Massachusetts/Central Catholic) and Andrew Kibarian (Lynnfield, Massachusetts/Lynnfield), both of whom earned second team All-NE-10 honors last fall.
Senior captain Anthony Siciliano leads a veteran offensive line which returns four starters for 2016. (PHOTO BY SportsPix)
Doherty, who enters the season with 24 career starts at linebacker, finished 2015 with a team-high 76 tackles, including 24 solo, with 9.0 tackles for a loss of 45 yards, including 4.0 sacks for a loss of 28 yards, a team-high three forced fumbles, an interception, two pass breakups, three quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery. Kibarian, who has started 31 straight games for the Skyhawks, led the defensive linemen with 38 tackles last fall, including 16 solo, with 6.5 tackles for a loss of 28 yards, 3.5 sacks for a loss of 24 yards, a pass breakup and quarterback hurry.
Senior offensive lineman Anthony Siciliano (Monroe, New York/Don Bosco Prep) and junior quarterback Matt Foltz (Mount Joy, Pennsylvania/The Hill School) will also serve as captains this fall and lead the list of eight returning starters on offense. Siciliano, a second team All-Northeast-10 selection last fall, leads a veteran offensive line which returns four starters. Foltz aims to follow up a breakthrough 2015 season in which he completed 188-of-331 passes (56.8-percent) for 2,175 yards (197.7 yds/gm) with 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions, finishing as one of just two quarterbacks in program history to pass for over 2,000 yards in a season.
Sophomore tight end Kaleb Lutton (Middletown, Connecticut/Xavier) rounds out Stonehill's four returning All-NE-10 picks after earning second team honors as well as a spot on the All-Rookie Team. He made an immediate impact for Stonehill last season, leading the team with 50 points and eight touchdowns. Lutton finished the season second on the team with 28 receptions and 380 yards, averaging 13.6 yards per catch as he emerged as one of the top red zone players in the NE-10.
Stonehill opens its 2016 season on Friday, September 2, when it hosts perennial Super Region 1 power Bloomsburg (Pa.) University for a non-conference matchup as part of Skyhawks Kickoff Weekend at W.B. Mason Stadium at 6 p.m. The Skyhawks will open their NE-10 schedule the following Friday at Southern Connecticut State University at 7 p.m.
For the latest on Stonehill Athletics, follow the Skyhawks via social media on Twitter and Facebook. Fans can also download the Stonehill Skyhawks "Front Row" mobile app, powered by PrestoSports, on iTunes and the Android Market.