The Slippery Rock University football team will puts it’s 17 game home win streak to the test on Saturday when the University of New Haven Chargers come to town.
The Rock has not lost a game at home since 2012 and currently owns the longest home win streak in all of Division-II football. This will be new head coach Shawn Lutz’s first game as head coach of the team. He thinks his team is ready to finally get out and play their first game.
“You just don’t know how good you are right now,” Lutz said. “You battle each other all camp, it just gets to the point, you’re ready to play that first game. You get sick of each other, coaches get sick of each other, you get a little bit irritable.”
The Rock and New Haven met to open the season last year and SRU came out victorious 39-13. Lutz believes this puts a target on the team’s back for New Haven to aim for.
“New Haven is a team that we beat last year, so anytime you beat a team there’s a bigger bullseye on your back that you got to go out and be at your best,” Lutz said. “For them when they see a national ranking, like we have, and they see everything we accomplish they’re definitely ready to play us and it’ll bea abig test for us. They’re a quality, quality football team.”
New Haven finished 2016 with a 7-4 record, losing in the Northeast-10 Conference (N-10) championship game against Assumption College. New Haven will rely on their all-conference senior running back Andre Anderson. Anderson was named the most valuable player in the N-10 last year, totaling 1,186 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. However, in 2015 Slippery Rock was the second best defense in the nation against the run, allowing only 71.7 rushing yards per game to opponents.
The Green and White also have an all-conference running back in senior Shamar Greene. Greene (3,754) is only 179 rushing yards away from breaking the all time SRU record for career rushing yards.
Offensively, Lutz will depend on Greene, new starting quarterback senior graduate transfer Don King III, and senior center Joe LoSchiavo to lead the Rock attack. King will be making his first collegiate start at quarterback after spending three years at Sam Houston State as a backup and LoSchiavo will be leading a brand new offensive line for the Green and White.
On defense, defensive ends junior Marcus Martin (31.5) and senior Cody Conway (15) are number two and 11, respectively, on the SRU all time career sacks leaderboard. Senior transfer Anthony Zappone will be making his Rock debut at outside linebacker, and senior safety Derrick Fulmore will be making his first start since being injured in week seven of last year.
Also expected to make their Slippery Rock, and collegiate, debuts are seven true freshmen from the 2015 recruiting class. Tight end Dylan Stapleton will play in a rotation with the other tight ends, running back Dontez Rash is likely to spell Greene a few times and offensive lineman Jake Tecak might see some time at tackle. On defense Lutz said cornerback Elijah Jackson is gong to see some time on the field and linebacker Patrick Minenock will get a lot of snaps off the bench. The Rock also has all new specialists in Jake Chapla at kicker and Josiah Davis at punter.
The game is at one o’clock on Saturday, with gates opening at 11:30.