Football Sixth in NE10 Preseason Coaches’ Poll

Senior captain Matt Foltz will lead the Skyhawks offense for the fourth year in 2017. (PHOTO BY Andrew Katsampes)

Skyhawks enter 30th varsity season and second under Coach Gardner

NE10 Football Preseason Poll Announcement

EASTON, Mass. (August 10, 2017) – The Stonehill College football program has been picked to finish sixth in the Northeast-10 Conference preseason poll by the league's ten head coaches, the league announced today.

Stonehill received 39 points to sit sixth in the poll, with Assumption College picked to capture its second title in three seasons with 78 points and six of ten first place votes. The Greyhounds edged out defending NE10 champions LIU Post for the top spot in the preseason poll, with the Pioneers receiving the remaining four first place votes and 76 points overall. Southern Connecticut State University is picked third with 60 points, with the University of New Haven fourth (55 points) and Bentley University (42) rounding out the top five, ahead of Stonehill. Sitting close behind the Skyhawks are American International College (37) in sixth and Merrimack College (34) in eighth. Saint Anselm College (18) and Pace University (11) round out the poll.

Stonehill, under the direction of second year head coach Eli Gardner, returns 68 letterwinners for its 30th varsity season after bouncing back from a slow start in 2016 to win five of its last eight games, including its final two games of the season, to finish with a 5-6 record overall, including 4-5 in the NE10. The Skyhawks have 11 returning starters, with six on the offensive side of the ball, including a pair of All-NE10 selections, and five on the defensive side.

Headlining Stonehill's offensive returnees is senior captain Matt Foltz (Mount Joy, Pennsylvania/The Hill School), at quarterback, who enters his final season ranked second all-time in program history with 440 career completions, third with 4,842 yards passing and fourth with 38 touchdown passes. Sophomore wide receiver Andrew Jamiel (West Yarmouth, Massachusetts/Dennis-Yarmouth), the NE10 Rookie of the Year and a second team All-NE10 selection last season, returns after matching the program's single-season record with 91 receptions, averaging a Division II-best 9.1 catches per game, for 843 yards and seven touchdowns. Junior tight end Kaleb Lutton (Middletown, Connecticut/Xavier) earned Don Hansen Football Gazette and D2CCA All-Super Region 1 and All-NE10 first team accolades during a sophomore season in which he caught 45 passes for 539 yards and a score.

Junior John Ejiofor will anchor the Skyhawks defensive line as a captain this season. (PHOTO BY Jan Volk/SportsPix)

Stonehill's stable of running backs might be its most talented and deepest unit on the team, led by junior Mike Cordova (Monroe, New Jersey/Red Bank Catholic), who led the NE10 in rushing before a mid-year injury in 2016, finishing with 626 yards on 145 carries and five touchdowns over eight games. Cordova's injury provided valuable touches for sophomore Brian Kearns, Jr. (North Arlington, New Jersey/Saint Joseph Regional), who added 247 yards on 54 attempts with two touchdowns, averaging 4.6 per carry, and senior Dylan Brown (Tinton Falls, New Jersey/Monmouth Regional) with 245 yards on 67 carries and a pair of scores. Foltz also contributes to the ground game, adding three rushing touchdowns last year to give him 11 for his career and rank 11th all-time in program history. Senior Chris Traore (Windsor, Connecticut/Windsor) and sophomore Jason Kennedy (Elmsford, New York/The Brunswick School (Conn.)) will also lend support.

Senior safety Nick Bona (Peabody, Massachusetts/Bishop Fenwick) and junior defensive lineman John Ejiofor (Burlington Township, New Jersey/Burlington Township) headline Stonehill returnees on defense. Bona led the Skyhawks with 77 tackles in 2016, with 43 solo, including 2.0 tackles for a loss of three yards, two interceptions, four pass breakups and two forced fumbles. Ejiofor added 34 stops (23 solo), including 7.5 for a loss of 26 yards, 3.0 sacks for a loss of 18, two breakups, a forced fumble and blocked kick.

Senior corner Donovan Phanor (Portsmouth, New Hampshire/Portsmouth), classmate Jermel Wright (Dorchester, Massachusetts/Newton North) on the defensive line, and junior linebacker Billy Wingo (Gwynn Oak, Maryland/The Boys' Latin School of Maryland) are also key defensive returnees for Stonehill.

Stonehill opens its 2017 season on Saturday, September 2, when it visits perennial Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) and Super Region 1 power Bloomsburg (Pa.) University for its lone non-conference game of the year at noon. The Skyhawks open their home schedule the following Saturday, September 9, when they host Southern Connecticut State for their Purple & White Game at W.B. Mason Stadium at 6 p.m.

Stonehill will celebrate its 30 seasons of varsity football on Saturday, September 23, when it hosts Saint Anselm College for the "Battle for the Ol' Bronze Hawk" at 6 p.m. The College invites all of its varsity football alumni back that night for its alumni game. Stonehill's first varsity season was in 1988 and the program has won 125 games all-time heading into the 2017 season.

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