Football Anxious to Get 2013 Campaign Underway

Football Anxious to Get 2013 Campaign Underway

Susquehanna head coach Steve Briggs and his entire staff hope they see a lot less of the inside of the athletic training room in 2013 than they did one season ago. By the third game of 2012 the Crusaders were on their third quarterback and injuries continued throughout the season.

Not one to make excuses, Briggs, his staff and players finished the season on a high note by winning five of their final six games to finish with a winning record for the second-consecutive season. The team saw eight players earn All-Centennial Conference status, three of which return this fall in Brandon Cuevas, Spencer Hotaling and Adrian Bernard. Kicker Hotaling was a First-Team honoree while offensive lineman Cuevas and linebacker Bernard were Second-Team recipients.

Briggs returns for his 24th season as the head coach of Susquehanna and retains nearly all of his staff from 2012 with the addition of James Klein, who will work with the defensive line. By securing at least a six-win season, Briggs will capture the 130th victory of his head coaching career, all while at the helm of the Crusaders.

The 2013 team will welcome more than 40 newcomers, including several transfers, among which includes 6-1, 230-pound fullback Phil Pecora whom the coaches expect to make an immediate impact.

The season gets underway on Sept. 7 with a road game at non-conference opponent Merchant Marine Academy. Due to an unbalanced schedule in 2012 that included six home game versus the normal five, the Crusaders will have to take to the road six times this season and do not open their home season until a Sept. 21 game against Dickinson.

An unavoidable question at the onset of the season is who will be behind center. The 2012 starter Mark Rosenbaum suffered a season-ending injury in the second game of the season. Then-sophomore Taylor Kolmer eventually earned himself the starting position and helped Susquehanna end the season with the aforementioned five wins in six games.

Kolmer finished the season as the fourth-ranked quarterback in the conference in terms of pass efficiency (132.44) and completed 60 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns. Briggs expects the two to battle for the starting job with more than a handful of players serving as backups, including sophomore Cam Olson who appeared in two games last year.

The team will undoubtedly feel the loss of four-year starter and All-Centennial Conference split end Mike Ritter ’13 who led the team with 11 touchdowns, 58 receptions and 895 total yards last year. Susquehanna will also be without receiver Alex Patchin, who will miss his senior season due to an injury sustained during the 2012 season. However, Casey Tosches and Denzell Walker, who combined for three touchdowns and 28 receptions in 2012, return this season, as does Ryan Lopes, who appeared in eight games last fall.

The running game lost Connor McGrath ’13 to graduation after he finished with just under 1,000 yards on the ground last year. However, sophomore Tim Wade is expected to have a breakout sophomore season after playing in all 10 games during his rookie season while adding two touchdowns and 319 total yards. Pecora is also expected to make an impact from day one of the season.

All-Conference offensive lineman Cuevas will help anchor the offense for whichever signal caller gets the starting job and sophomore Connor Kerrigan will look to earn the starting center position during preseason.

On the defensive side of the ball, the 2012 Crusaders led the Conference and were sixth nationally in turnover margin (+17) and hope for more of the same. Back for his junior season is 2012 leading tackler and All-Conference player Adrian Bernard. He led the team with 98 tackles, 68 of which were solo, and 13.5 tackles for loss one year ago en route to picking up All-Conference honors.

Classmates and fellow linebackers Jared Minori and Mike Statuti combined for 80 tackles last season with Statuti adding two sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. In addition, junior Stephen Viegas finished last season with 26 tackles and an interception, while classmate Ryan MacIver broke up three passes.

Seniors Bill Mancini and Stephen Homan will again head up the interior line after combining for 2.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss one year ago.

Among the group of key returners is two-time All-Conference kicker Spencer Hotaling who connected on all six field goal attempts last fall, including a career-long of 41 yards. He is joined by sophomore punter Taylor Morton who was an All-Conference selection as a freshman in 2011 before taking the 2012 season off from football.