The Game: Stonehill College opens its 30th varsity season this afternoon as it visits Bloomsburg University for a non-conference battle on Danny Hale Field at Redman Stadium. The Skyhawks and Huskies open their respective season against one another for the sixth-straight year.
30th Anniversary: The 2017 season marks the 30th year of the Stonehill football program's varsity era. The Skyhawks began competing at the varsity level in 1988 after 18 years competing as a club program at the College. The College will recognize its varsity era as part of the football team's Alumni Game on Saturday, September 23, when the team faces Saint Anselm in the "Battle for the Ol' Bronze Hawk" at 6 p.m.
Preseason Prognostications: Stonehill has been picked to finish sixth in the Northeast-10 according to the Conference's preseason coaches poll released last month. The NE10's d2football.com blogger Paul Falewicz has a much more high presaeson opinion of the Skyhawks by picking them third in his preseason NE10 poll.
Watch List: Sophomore placekicker Matthew Haite (Kingston, Mass.) has been named to the Fred Mitchell Award's Preseason Watch List for his excellence on the football field during the 2016 season and for his continued community service efforts. Haite, named to the NE10 All-Rookie Team last fall, is the second Stonehill placekicker named to the Fred Mitchell Award preseason "watch list" after Steve Grzywacz '16 was named prior to the 2014 season. Haite, who was also named to the Mitchell Award September "Watch List" as a freshman, is one of 36 placekickers from NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III, NAIA and NJCAA named to the preseason list. He is one of 12 from NCAA Division II, including two from the NE10 and three from Super Region 1, named to the "Watch List." The Fred Mitchell Award is presented annually in December to a College Division kicker for excellence on the football field and in the community.
Tough D: Stonehill led the NE10 and ranked in the top 30 nationally for rushing defense in 2016, allowing just 112.2 yards per game on the ground. Annually one of the top defensive units in the NE10, the Skyhawks also ranked third in total defense (322,2 yds/gm).
Rookie of the Year: Sophomore wide receiver Andrew Jamiel (Yarmouth, Mass.) returns after leading Division II with 9.1 receptions per game in 2016 to hear NE10 Rookie of the Year and second team All-NE10 honors. He finished his freshman campaign with a school-record matching 91 receptions for 843 yards and seven touchdowns, finishing just two receptions shy of the Division II record for freshmen.
Moving on Up: Senior quarterback Matt Foltz (Mount Joy, Pa.) enters this afternoon's game just 54 passing yards shy of moving into second place on Stonehill's career list. He has passed for 4,842 yards in 24 career games played, trailing Athletics Hall of Famer Tomy Dello Iacono '15 (4,895) and Logan Meyer '14 (6,927).
On Call: Stonehill head coach Eli Gardner and his wife, Stephanie, are expecting their first child at any moment heading into the season. While Gardner has made the six hour trek to Bloomsburg, he is on call to head back to Massachusetts at a moment's notice. Offensive Coordinator Tyler Moody would move into the head coaching role on the sideline for the Skyhawks and Special Teams and Linebackers coach Ken Goodwin would call the defense.
Aye, Aye Captains: Seniors Matt Foltz (Mount Joy, Pa.) and Nick Bona (Peabody, Mass.), as well as junior John Ejiofor (Burlington Township, N.J.) have been selected to serve as team captains for the 2017 season. Foltz returns as captain for the second straight year, while Bona and Ejiofor were also elected by their teammates and coaching staff. It marks the second straight year the Skyhawks have had a junior captain after Foltz was the first since 1999 to do so a year ago.
Getting Social: Fans and media members of Stonehill athletics now have three social media outlets to get updates on all 20 varsity programs. The department's Facebook page is www.facebook.com/stonehillskyhawks, and you can also follow @GoStonehill on Twitter and "StonehillSkyhawks" on Instagram. Stonehill football also has its own Facebook and Twitter accounts: @StonehillFB
Up Next: Stonehill will open its home and NE10 schedule next Saturday, September 9, when it hosts Southern Connecticut State University at W.B. Mason Stadium at 6 p.m.