August 24, 2004

Football programs around the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference will get an early start in 2004, as 13 of the league's 14 teams are scheduled to kick off their seasons between Thursday and Saturday.

An expanded NCAA playoff structure has teams across the country starting one week earlier. For conference schools, that meant a shift from mandated Eastern Division vs. Western Division crossover match-ups from later in the season to the first week. The result for league fans is a great opening week of football.

In addition to PSAC divisional titles, in 2004 conference teams will be competing for one of six spots in the NCAA Northeast Regional playoffs. The playoffs have been expanded to allow eight more participants - two each in the nation's four regions - allowing a total of 24 Division II schools to take part in the postseason.

Following is a brief preview of this week's action:

Thursday, August 26
East Stroudsburg at Lenior-Rhyne - 7 p.m.

The Warriors opened their season with a 58-0 win over Lenior-Rhyne in 2003... EAST STROUDSBURG is coming off an 8-3 season and its second straight East co-title with a 5-1 record... Last year QB Jim Terwilliger set an NCAA freshman record with 3,342 yards of total offense and led the PSAC in efficiency (153.3 rating) on his way to Eastern Division Offensive Player of the Year honors... Joining his arsenal is WR Tim Strenfel (48 rec - 755 yds - 6 TD), touchdown maker FB Anthony Carfagno (4.6 ypc, 5 rush TD; 42 rec, 550 yds, 9 rec TD) and three starters on the offensive line... The defense has standouts at all three areas, including DB Tyree Towns (80 TT, 3 INT), LB Matt Rapa (72 TT) and DL Greg Thoman (43 TT, 11 TFL in 2002)... LENOIR RHYNE (3-8) has 15 starters back from last year's unit... RB Patrick Henson rushed for 555 yards and averaged 4.5 ypc last season... WRs Aaron Caldwell and Jason Bingham combined for 73 receptions and 884 yards... Caldwell snared 7 TD passes... LB Tim Clarke returns after leading the team with 78 TT, including 8 for loss... Jeremy Brown (7 PB, INT) is among three regulars back in the secondary.

Friday, August 27
Bloomsburg at Slippery Rock - 7 p.m.

The Huskies have defeated Slippery Rock in each of the last four years and six straight times overall dating back to 1986... three of those games have been at SRU's N. Kerr Thompson Stadium, including last year's 19-16 decision... BLOOMSBURG has 55 returning lettermen to a team that went 7-4 and earned a share of the Eastern Division crown at 5-1... The Huskies vaunted offense averaged 38.0 ppg in their final seven contests behind the talents of QB Jack Lydic (53.9 %, 22 TD, 1,821 yds), RB Mike Ceroli (1,034 yds, 11 TD) and WRs Nick Kurtz (41 - 646 - 5) and Steve Burke (23 - 415 - 11)... The strength of the defense is up front with DT Tony Milone and Dominick Esgro, and LB Paul Linn (74 TT, 2 INT)... SLIPPERY ROCK (4-7, 2-4) hopes a diverse mix of youth and experience will provide the formula for success this season... 13 of The Rock's 14 returning starters are upperclassmen and nine are seniors, yet the preseason roster contains 60 players who are either true or redshirt freshmen.... Nine players are back on offense, including four offensive linemen and top rusher Josh Kniess (627 yds, 5 TD)... All five of SRU's returning defensive starters are seniors, including NG Brian Godfrey (17 TFL, 5 Sks), and DEs Jesse Kelly (48 TT, 5 TFL) and Mike Jennings (10 TFL, 4 Sks)... Slippery Rock had a streak of 12 straight winning seasons snapped last year... Four of its losses came by a combined 10 points.

Saturday, August 28
Mansfield at California - 1 p.m.

Mansfield won last year's battle, 14-7... CALIFORNIA (4-7, 2-4) boasted one of the league's best defenses a year ago, ranking among the PSAC's top five in points allowed, rushing, passing and overall defense... Seven times the Vulcans allowed less than 20 points... Back from last year's group are LBs Brian Oddi (128 TT, 19 TFL) and T.J. Carden (42 TT, 8 TFL), and DB Jaison Cook (51 TT, 6 INT, 15 PB), however, the whole front line must be replaced... The offense will welcome the return of 2002 starter WR Garvin Graves, who posted a league-leading 70 catches that season... Tony Hoskin (27 rec) and Brandon Jackson (24 rec) round out a talented trio... MANSFIELD (8-3, 3-3) will be under the direction of first-year head coach Jim Shiffer, a 1989 graduate of the university... At 8-3, the Mountaineers posted their first winning season since 1975 and equaled the number of victories they had over the six previous seasons combined... Helping to continue that trend will be RB Earnest McNeal, who led the league and set a school record with 1,684 rushing yards as a freshman... WR Joe Bennett is back for his senior season after gathering 53 catches for 1,184 yds and 17 TDs last year... Four senior starters are back on the O-Line, including group leader Ryan McClellan... The defense must replace the school's all-time tackle leader LB Dan Holland, yet boasts a stout group, which includes LB Andre' Turner (80 TT, 5 TFL) and NG Brian DeCecco (51 TT, 11 TFL).

Cheyney at Lock Haven - 6:30 p.m.

Lock Haven is 13-0 all-time against Cheyney... LHU won last year's game, 42-7... CHEYNEY (2-9) is hoping to get off to a fast start again this season after winning two of its first three in 2003... The Wolves are a young squad again this season as the team has only four seniors and nine of the team's 13 returning starters are sophomores... WR Charles Johnson highlights the offense, coming off a season in which he ranked third in the league with 54 receptions (4.91 per game) for 542 yds and four scores... The defense has eight starters back... Leading that group is LB Cavanaugh Nweze (83 TT, 5 TFL) and CB Brandon Roberts (4 INT)... The duo made up two-thirds of the freshmen who earned All-PSAC East honors on defense... LOCK HAVEN (3-8, 1-5) suffered through an injury plagued 2003, yet 36 lettermen and 15 starters are back this year... On offense, four starters return on the line, and will provide the punch for WR Rafael Smith (31 rec - 444 yds - 5) and RB Maurice Walker (578 yds, 4 TD)... The defense is particularly strong on the outside, with DEs Dustin Shaffer (37 TT, 11 TFL) and Nate Eck (37 TT, 14 TFL in 2002), and LB Charles Cannon (43 TT, 7 TFL) bringing the leadership... The opener is LHU's first at home since 1999.

West Chester at Clarion - 6 p.m.

The teams have split the series in the last four years... West Chester won last season, 35-17... WEST CHESTER (8-3, 4-2) lost only three games last year - two one-point losses to Division II teams and another to eventual Division IAA national champion Delaware... QB Bob Findora (151.4 eff rating), WR Cory DeForrest (34 rec, 740 yds, 8 TD) and RB Osagie Osunde (864 rush yds) return from last year's most productive PSAC offense (455.9 ypg)... DE Graham Eggleston (8 TFL, 5 Sks) and LB Chad Weaver (46 TT, 3 TFL, 4 INT, 4 PB) are among seven starters back from the defense... The lidlifter is one of five straight road games to start the season for WCU... CLARION (3-8, 2-4) suffered some tough losses in 2003, as well... The Golden Eagles dropped four games by a combined 13 points, and of their eight losses, they held their opponents to 20 or fewer points in four of those games... NG Tim Connolly (44 TT, 10 TFL, 4 Sks), FS Bo Busch (80 TT, 3 INT, 4 FF) and LBs Matt Morris (59 TT, 6 TFL) and Tim Connolly (44 TT, 10 TFL) headline a group of eight returning starters from last year's stellar group... The offensive reins have been handed to QB Brandon Dando, who led Clarion to wins in two of his three starts to end the year... Three-year starter Glenn Lovelace (career: 1,079 yds and 7 TD; 17 rec, 254 yds) will share carries with sophomore Marcus Lowe (278 yds, 2 TD)... WR Pierre Odom (29 - 366 - 1) led the Golden Eagles in receiving as a freshman.

Millersville at IUP - 6 p.m.

IUP defeated Millersville in 2002 and 2003, the latter coming by a 35-13 score... MILLERSVILLE (4-7, 1-5) started the 2003 campaign at 3-0, but managed to win just one of its final eight games... One of the bright spots was the emergence of QB Dan Csencsitz, who completed 62.5% of his passes (145-232) while starting the second half of the season... Csencisitz will have an impressive group of wideouts to throw to this year, headlined by Andy Neupauer (49 - 475 - 5) and Ryan Clift (34 - 463 - 2)... LB Joe Hollister is the most likely candidate to take charge of the defense after sitting out 2003 with an injury... Hollister posted 98 TT, 7 TFL and 3 INT two years ago... LB mate Chris Donati (68 TT, 4 TFL) is the top returning tackler from 2003 and DB Brandon Scott (50 TT, 10 PB) spearheads the secondary... IUP (10-1, 5-1) has qualified for the NCAA playoffs in 14 of the last 18 years, but missed out last year despite only one blemish on its schedule... To get back into postseason competition, the Indians have the tall order of replacing all of their starting linemen on both sides of the ball... The "skill" positions are solid on offense... RB Mike Jemison (1,311 yds, 12 TD) and WR LeRon McCoy (36 - 521 -6) will team with QB Kevin Weidl (1,974 yds, 19 TD) in forming a formidable trio... LB Brad Potts (93 TT, 13 TFL) led the team in tackles last year... He will play beside LB Kris Griffin, who registered 101 TT and 6 TFL in 2002 before sitting out last season with an injury... DBs Victor Callahan, Jerrell Jackson and Mike Chiapetta combined for 116 tackles and 11 INTs last season.

Kutztown at Shippensburg - 1 p.m.

These squads have met every year since 1984... Shippensburg has won five straight, taking last year's contest by a 35-12 margin... KUTZTOWN (6-5, 3-3) could not seem to take advantage of any momentum last season, never winning more than two straight among its six wins... Three teams finished above Kutztown in the Eastern Division last year... The Golden Bears defeated West Chester by a point, lost to East Stroudsburg by a point and lost to Bloomsburg in overtime... Helping to gain some more consistency this year will be RBs Stephen Gammage (699 yds, 5 TD) and Tony Bria (633 yds, 5 TD)... QB Jeremy Copeland (1,817 yds, 16 TD) will throw to one of the top WRs in the league in Trevor Smith (60 - 843 - 7)... TE Jason Henley grabbed 6 TD among his 21 catches... The defense has only two starters back among the front seven... LB Greg Mitchell (53 TT, 11 TFL) will serve as that group's leader... DB Barren Grier posted 47 TT, 4 TFL and 3 INTs as a freshman last year... SHIPPENSBURG (8-3, 4-2) has 17 returning starters and a host of experienced players to call upon as it is favored to win the Western Division... All five starters return on the O-Line, and will block for one of the country's top runners in FB John Kuhn (1,500 yds, 21 TD)... QB Rick Henshaw showed continued improvement during his freshman campaign and will have both WR Patrick Ferguson (28 - 523 - 6) and TE Joel Gamble (20 - 229 - 2) at his disposal... Last year's defensive unit posted three shutouts and led the league in points allowed (14.0 ppg), and rushing (92.4 ypg) and overall (246.6 ypg) defense... CB Brent Grimes (7 INT, 9 PB), LB Dan Walsh (78 TT, 14 TFL, 3 INT) and DE Ryan Hoffman (36 TT, 10 TFL, 5 Sks) form half of the regulars back in the fold.

More Football Notes: EDINBORO (9-3, 5-1), the defending PSAC-West co-champion and only team from the league to reach the NCAA playoffs in 2003, is the lone conference team not in action this week. The Fighting Scots’ game with New Haven was cancelled due to the UNH’s decision to no longer sponsor football… The Fighting Scots will open next week at home against East Stroudsburg.

Elsewhere around the League: PSAC VOLLEYBALL teams will begin play August 27-28 with eight of the league's 12 teams taking to the hardwood... Defending PSAC and Atlantic Region Champion Lock Haven returns 14 letterwinners, including Cherry Li, NCAA II's leader in attack percentage (.471) during the 2003 ledger... Another perennial conference power, Edinboro, will be under the guidance of new head coach Dale Flickinger... Flickinger replaces Lynn Theehs, who posted an impressive 236-111 record as the Fighting Scots head coach over the last 10 seasons... During that span, Edinboro won four conference and regional titles... Eight different PSAC teams have participated in the NCAA Regional tournament over the last five seasons, and during that span California, Edinboro, Lock Haven and IUP have all won regional titles... With Lock Haven moving its program to Division I, PSAC FIELD HOCKEY will take on a new look as an eight-team league... Two-time defending PSAC and national champion Bloomsburg has won 52 of its last 54 contests and has won six of the last eight national titles... At 462-61-20, legendary Bloomsburg head coach is the winningest coach in NCAA field hockey history... Since 2000, five different PSAC schools have participated in the NCAA tournament... Shippensburg joined Bloomsburg as PSAC representatives last season... In MEN'S SOCCER, East Stroudsburg has long been the team to beat... The Warriors have won seven straight conference titles and 11 of the last 12... The Warriors have participated in NCAA play in each of the last six years... WOMEN'S SOCCER has featured different winners in each of the last three years, highlighted by Slippery Rock's first conference title last season... Both Slippery Rock and West Chester earned regional berths in 2003... A host of talented schools and runners have represented the PSAC in MEN'S and WOMEN'S CROSS COUNTRY over the last several years... Lock Haven put an end to Edinboro's impressive 11-year reign as PSAC Champions on the men's side in 2003... Edinboro has won 25 PSAC men's titles since 1970... 12 of last year's top 14 finishers are back for action this year, including individual winner Chris Cowan of Lock Haven... Edinboro's women won their fifth title in six years with last year's triumph... IUP freshman Mindy Sawtelle won the individual race and is back for action this year along with second-place finisher Vanessa Andes of East Stroudsburg, and third-place Melissa Terwilliger of Clarion... 13 of the top 15 should be back this season.