BY: OLIVIA MITTLEMAN
The Sacred Heart University 2017-18 football season marks senior quarterback Kevin Duke’s 16th season playing football. Unlike previous seasons, Duke says this is the one he has waited for his entire life.
Duke has spent three years learning the Pioneer offense as a backup quarterback. This season he has earned the starting quarterback position.
“It’s all been a build up to this point in time,” said Duke.
With anticipation of the season finally arriving, Duke has been thriving on the field in the first few games.
“I’m just happy for him that he’s had so much success in the first two games considering how much time and work he’s put in during the off-season,” said head coach Mark Nofri. “I saw a tweet that he sent out the morning of the first game saying he’s waited his whole life since he was a little kid for this opportunity to be a starting quarterback at a Division I school.”
After defeating non-conference opponents Stetson University and Lafayette College, and suffering a loss to Stony Brook University, the team is currently 2-1. Duke has averaged 163 yards per game with a 67.6% completion rate. On the stat sheet he has recorded 489 total yards with two rushing touchdowns.
According to Sacred Heart Athletic Communications, in the home opener against Stetson, Duke led the team with 236 yards of total offense and four touchdowns. The Stetson victory marked the team’s fifth consecutive season opening win.
Senior captain and starting wide receiver, Andrew O’Neill is proud of the way Duke is playing and wants to help Duke succeed in any way he can.
“My goal is to just make sure that I’m always doing my job and making Kevin’s life a little bit easier,” said O’Neill.
In last week’s game against Lafayette, Duke found O’Neill for a touchdown to tie the game 10-10 with 15 seconds left in the first half. According to Sacred Heart Athletic Communications, the Duke-O’Neill combo was the turning point in the game.
Duke completed 19 of 25 passes and rushed for 73 yards, including a touchdown. Senior captain CJ Parvelus and senior Alec Finelli made stops on the defense with 7 tackles each. Sacred Heart came back with a 38-24 victory.
“We always say go 1-0 this week, and so far through two weeks we’ve accomplished our goal,” said O’Neill.
Nofri wasn’t sure what to anticipate when it came to the first two games.
“You never know what to expect when you haven’t played since last November, but I knew we were returning some great senior leadership,” said Nofri.
Duke was named one of the five team captains for the season.
“You’re the model figure for not just the team, but for the school,” said Duke. “I’m always the first one out there giving high-fives, trying to be a ra-ra guy. I’m trying to keep that role, while having a bigger responsibility on the offense.”
The balance a student-athlete has to handle is undeniable, but Nofri has no doubts in Duke’s ability to be able to excel.
“He’s kinda your prototypical student-athlete in terms of how he represents himself on and off the field,” said Nofri.
Though Duke has the team’s support behind him and two wins attached to his name, he says he is not finished yet.
“The goal is to win all the time. It’s about giving 100% effort every play and really leaving no doubt,” said Duke.