BY JOHN KAYWOOD
Senior Staff Writer
Sacred Heart University’s club football team repeated as Conference Champions of the North Atlantic Conference. They did so by defeating Johnson & Wales University (JWU) 36-0, on Nov. 10, at Campus Field.
The Pioneers then traveled seven-and-a-half hours to Erie, PA, on Nov. 16, to play Oakland University in the National Semifinals for the second year in a row.
This year the Pioneers fell short, losing 38-14.
“The one constant goal has been to continue to have guys love this game and revitalize the ones that have lost that passion,” said head coach Greg Jones. “Creating that caring and passionate atmosphere is what drives not only this year’s team but all the teams I have coached.”
Junior wide receiver Tyler Toussaint agrees that the passion and vibe that Jones gives off are infectious.
“When I step on the field and look back at Coach, I see the attitude and passion in his eyes,” said Toussaint. “You feel like you almost have to give that same energy back.”
The loss to Oakland was the team’s first defeat since their first game of the season, against Mansfield University. It was a game that in reflection, helped the Pioneers more than it hurt.
“That [the Mansfield loss]was a big turning point and a quick one,” said Jones. “They [the players]loved that punch in the mouth coming in the first game. It was a wake-up call.”
Sophomore quarterback Mike Contento also saw another turning point in the duration of this season.
“One of the biggest moments during the season was the first matchup against JWU,” said Contento. “We came back down 20, and since then we have been a well-oiled machine.”
Jones agrees with Contento, saying that they were out of their elements, giving up an 80-yard touchdown on the third play.
“Captains Dalvin Charles and Andrew Crookes helped inspire the team at halftime and propelled us to a win,” said Jones.
Up until the Semifinal game, the Pioneers had only allowed a total of 33 points in their conference matchups, 20 of which coming in that one game versus JWU.
Before the match-up, Contento believed that the game could be won with their work in the trenches.
“The defensive line has been making the running backs and quarterbacks uncomfortable all year,” said Contento. “If the offensive line can open up some holes and we can establish our run game, we will be in good shape.”
The sputtering of those two X-factors led to the Pioneers’ troubles and ultimately the loss. It was Jones’ fifth career loss as the head coach of the club football team.
Jones is looking ahead to next season and hopes that the team can win the National Championship, just as they did in 2017.
“He [Jones] cares about every guy from top to bottom, and that is what makes the difference,” said Contento.