BY Michael Contento
After trailing 7-0 going into halftime, the Sacred Heart football team roared back to with 41-7 win over the Wagner Seahawks on Nov. 9, in what was Military Appreciation Day at Campus Field in Fairfield, Conn. The win improved their record to 6-4 and gave Head Coach Mark Nofri his 50th career win.
“Coach is all about playing together,” said senior cornerback Shawn Ramcheran, who would add an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. “All he said was, ‘Guys, the only way were going to get this done is by doing it together,’ and that’s exactly what we did.”
The Pioneer defense came out strong, with the first two drives resulting in Wagner turnovers. The team would match a program record with eight turnovers on the day. Despite the great field position, the Sacred Heart offense was unable to translate it to any points.
After only gaining three first downs in the half on offense, and giving up a 12 play, 76 yard touchdown drive on defense to end the half, Wagner had all the momentum leading 7-0 going to half.
“We tried to erase what happened in the first half and just wanted to focus on the remaining 30 minutes of play,” said Ramcheran.
The offense got the ball to start the second half and were lead down the field by redshirt freshman Marquez McCray. He went 4/6 for 50 yards on the drive that lead to a field goal, cutting Wagner’s lead to 7-3. In his first start replacing the injured Logan Marchi, McCray went 11/14 with 105 yards and a touchdown through the air, as well as adding 21 rushing yards.
“I thought for his first time, against the number one defense in the conference, he did a good job,” said Coach Nofri. “He managed the game well and I am hoping he gets better each week and can be the guy for us for the next three years.”
The game changing play for Sacred Heart came on the ensuing kickoff, as CJ LaFrogola forced a fumble that was recovered by Mike Wilen at the Wagner 25 yard line. Seven plays later, Julius Chestnut crossed the goal line on 4th and goal from the 1 to give Sacred Heart its first lead of the day 10-7.
Sacred Heart’s defense delivered the dagger on the next possession, as a third down pass was tipped by linebacker Aliem Shaw and intercepted by Noah Provenzano at the Sacred Heart 41 yard line, who leaped and glided his way to a 59 yard interception return touchdown. It was his first interception of the day and his second interception return for a touchdown in his career.
“I think it stems from a good game plan,” Provenzano said of the defense’s record day. “Throughout the week in film, we got a jump on a lot of the stuff they wanted to do.”
Provenzano wasted no time increasing his interception total on the day, as he intercepted the ball at the Wagner 35 yard line on the second play of the next Wagner drive.
Julius Chestnut would push across a touchdown on the next possession for Sacred Heart, his second of the day. He made McCray’s first start an easy one with his 116 yard, two touchdown day. Chestnut, the FCS leading rusher, had his 4th straight 100+ rushing yard game of the season.
“Julius is a great running back and anytime you line up as a quarterback and have the number one running back in the conference it helps ease the pressure off of you,” Coach Nofri said.
Including Chestnut’s second touchdown, Sacred Heart put up 24 points in the fourth quarter as they ran away from Wagner. Noel Hijazi and Mike Wilen each recovered a fumble, McCray threw his first career touchdown, and Ramcheran added his first career interception for a touchdown to seal it.
Head Coach Mark Nofri earned his 50th win as head coach of the Pioneers, moving his record to 50-40 during his tenure as head man for Sacred Heart. His 50 wins are most for a Sacred Heart head coach all time.
“It’s not about me, it’s about Sacred Heart football and the legacy and the culture that we built here,” Coach Nofri said. “I couldn’t ask for any more support than I’ve been getting from the students, the faculty, the administration, and the players,”
The Sacred Heart football team hosted Lehigh for senior day on Nov. 16 and won 13-6. They will travel to Robert Morris on Nov. 23 for the final game of the season.