Number three. That is where the Sacred Heart University club football team was ranked in the nation last season. Despite this, the Pioneers fell just short of their ultimate goal of winning a national championship. This season, they are back with something to prove.
On Sept. 10, they opened up their season with a 26-6 victory over the MHC Green Wave. They followed up that performance by beating the Connecticut State Wildcats 14-12 on Sept. 17.
“We have a sour taste in our mouths after last season, and definitely a chip on our shoulders of what we have to prove to the league,” said Head Coach Greg Jones.
Despite having a young roster, Jones has high expectations for his squad this season.
“About 80% of our team is made up of freshmen and sophomores,” said Jones. “That does not mean the team lacks leadership, though.”
Julian Percoco is evidence of this, as he is just a sophomore but has already been named a team captain.
“I have to be a role model, especially on the field,” said Percoco.
The team is led by sophomore quarterback Thomas Hurley, another young player who has already been named a team captain.
“The leadership is all a player could want,” Hurley said. “There’s people looking up to you and that’s a lot on your shoulders, some people are made for it and some people aren’t.”
As the season progresses, the Pioneers have just one goal set in mind.
“I just want a National Championship, and I’m doing everything in my power to get that,” said Hurley.
The way last season ended is something that the Pioneers are using as motivation as they chase glory this year.
“It definitely drives us further for this season because we believe that the title should be ours and we want to take it now,” said Percoco.
This is a sentiment that is echoed throughout the locker room, and building a strong culture is something that Jones is proud of.
“There is a culture here that just exudes winning,” said Jones. “The Sacred Heart club football team is a powerhouse.”
The numbers back that statement up, as Sacred Heart has won more North Atlantic Conference (NAC) championships than any team since entering the league back in 2015, and won a national championship in 2017.
Although the team does have a lot to look forward to, it is a long season with just the first two games under their belt.
“I don’t like to look too far down the road,” Hurley said. “I’m just going to take it week-by-week.”
The Pioneers were scheduled to travel to Burlington, Vermont on Sept. 24 to face the University of Vermont Catamounts (UVM), but UVM forfeited the game, giving the Pioneers another win to add to the win column.
With the UVM forfeiture, the Pioneers next challenge awaits on Saturday Oct. 1 when they play the George Mason Patriots at Campus Field.