Saints’ Showdown with Utica on Time Warner Cable
Aug. 31: The St. Lawrence University football team is set to open its 2012 season tomorrow, Saturday, September 1 against the Utica College Pioneers. The game, which is slated for a 7:00pm kick-off under the lights at Charles A. Gaetano Stadium, will be broadcast in front of a state-wide television audience on Time Warner Cable Sports (channels 9 and 813 in the North Country).
In last season's opener, the Scarlet and Brown found themselves in a 34-8 hole at halftime, as quarterback Andrew Benkwitt took control for the Pioneers with three first half touchdown passes. Though Utica won that game 48-35 at Leckonby Stadium, and Benkwitt is back for his senior season, the Saints' defense is looking for a shot at redemption.
"Last year, (Benkwitt) did a great job against us and found some spots to exploit in the defense," said head coach Mark Raymond, who is looking to win his first season opener at St. Lawrence on Saturday. "He's an outstanding quarterback and our defensive group will need to make plays to keep their offense from building a lead."
The St. Lawrence defense will be without two stars from last season, as Trevor Saunders and Doug Geraghty graduated in May. However, a solid trio of seniors in the trenches will look to allow Coach Raymond's group to control the line of scrimmage. Senior captain Oraene Morgan, Jesse Clark and Rob McCourt will head the 3-4 defense, and will need to play well to give an untested corps of linebackers opportunities to make plays. Captain Taylor Zappia and junior Andrew Cox return as starting linebackers, while senior Joe Napolitano and rookie Rajiv Heron are expected to make their first career starts against Utica.
St. Lawrence will also be young in the secondary, as Keith Goode Jr. is the lone returning starter at corner. Opposite the Bronx, NY native will be first-year standout Leondre Simmon out of Freeport, NY, with sophomores C.J. Stewart and John Lesofsky roaming at the safety spots.
"It's a mixed bag with so few starters returning on defense," said Coach Raymond. "On one hand, we have some inexperienced guys who will be playing in college for the first time. On the other, our opponents aren't certain what to expect from them, which can play to our advantage."
On the offensive side of the football, the experience lies along the offensive line, as the team returns four starters from 2011. Captain Don Rohauer anchors the line at left tackle, with fellow All-Conference honoree Victor Coker Jr. moving to center. Senior Greg Kelly and sophomore Ryan Schmidt resume their starting spots at right guard and tackle, while junior Mike Harris will make his first start at left guard. Senior Stephen Buskey and junior Sean Gretz are also expected to help in both the run and passing games at the tight end spot.
"Our offensive line will need to play well, especially early to give our new guys a chance to settle into the game," said Coach Raymond. "They know what to expect and what they're facing and we're confident they'll do a good job for us."
With the graduation of standout tailback Marcus Washington and wide receiver Ethan Sutton, the Saints will turn to a variety of new faces to help shoulder the load both running and catching the ball. Sophomore Freddie Washburn is the primary returner in the backfield, but he carried the ball only 21 times in 2011 and will be the feature option for the first time. Rookies Spencer Decinque and Maurice Irby will also get carries behind senior blocking full back A.J. Blaisdell.
The wide receiver position is one that appears to have plenty of depth and talent, led by juniors Mike Tateosian and Evan Shifley and sophomore Colby Johnson. Rookies Miles Crump, Justin DiBernardo and Joe Battaglia are also a few names to watch throughout the season.
Meanwhile, the battle for the starting quarterback job continues to be waged, as senior Zach Migliore and junior Zane Fish have both been solid in pre-season. With no starter having been officially named, it appears it will be a game-time decision on who will be under center for St. Lawrence.
"We're going to have a lot of young, new guys carrying the load for us on offense this year," added Coach Raymond. "I give both Zach and Zane credit, it's been a very good battle and both guys want the job. It's as tough a call as I've faced since becoming head coach."
Tateosian is listed as the starting punter, while Stewart and Battaglia are expected to handle kick return duties. Senior Christopher Dris returns from injury and will inherit the starting place kicker job, while Shifley handles long snapping duties.