The St. Francis Red Flash football team spent more than six hours on a trip to Albany on Friday. First-year coach Chris Villarrial made the trip realizing that his team would face a formidable foe in Northeast Conference foe Albany
(2-2), whose record is better than the numbers might indicate.
The first challenge for the Red Flash is playing this game on the road.
“(Albany) has been on the road and has not yet played a home game, so this is their first game at home – and it is homecoming,” Villarrial said about his team’s challenge. “So, they are going to be a pumped-up team.”
The game will start at 1 p.m. at University Field.
The Great Danes have played three challenging foes in the Football Championship Subdivision. They have lost to 10th-ranked Stephen F. Austin (59-14) and to Duquesne in their only NEC battle (28-17).
However, last week they defeated an Ivy League foe, Yale (23-20), to go along with an earlier win over Maine (3-0).
The Red Flash have never defeated the Great Danes in 11 battles, and Albany has a 60-19 NEC record in its 11 seasons in the league.
To make the challenge greater for the Red Flash, who are now 1-3 overall, 1-1 in the NEC, their top offensive threat will not play. Sophomore Kyle Harbridge is injured and will not play as a precautionary measure, Villarrial said.
Harbridge leads the NEC in kickoff returns (26.4 yards per game), is fifth in rushing (89.8 per game), and is second in all-purpose yards (188.2 per game).
Senior Jude Yearwood and sophomore Taylor Holby of Blacklick Valley will be called upon to pick up the load at running back, Villarrial said.
The Red Flash lost last week to league-leading Robert Morris, 35-14, in a game in which the Colonials led by 14-7 after three quarters.
Villarrial has taken some action to preclude the problems that the team encountered last week. “We went right back to the drawing board,” the first-year Red Flash coach said. “Obviously, I was not happy with our special teams. Our defense has to be more poised and more disciplined, and our offense has to take more shots down the field. When you have the ball for 37 minutes (out of 60) and have just 14 points, that means that you have to open up the offense a little more.”
Sophomore quarterback John Kelly has been improving. Kelly has thrown for seven touchdowns and has run in another in the past three games.
Against Robert Morris, Kelly connected on 21-of-32 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception.
Senior linebacker Scott Lewis (Bishop McCort) is just 13 tackles away from tying Kayode Mayowa (446) for the NEC career tackles record. Lewis leads the NEC in average tackles per game (11.8, 47 total).
Lewis has also been nominated as a semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which is considered to be the academic Heisman award.
n Andrew Penksa (freshman, Northern Cambria) leads the NEC with a
40.9 yard punting average.
n Dane Domonkos (freshman, Bishop McCort) averages 10.4 yards per punt return with a longest of 39 yards.
n Jake DeMedal (freshman, Portage) is fourth on the team in tackles (21) and first in the NEC in passes defended
(3 breakups, 1 interception).
n Jeff Wasilewski (sophomore, Central Cambria) has two TD receptions.