BY JOHN KAYWOOD
Senior Staff Writer
The defending national champion Sacred Heart University club football team was defeated by Mansfield University 26-10 on Saturday, Sept. 8th in an exhibition game.
The reigning champions realized that there is a target on their back and each team they face will try to beat them. The team has lost a few crucial pieces as they headed into this season.
“This is not the same team that won the National Championship,” said head coach Gregory Jones. “This year’s National Champions could be anyone in the country, and it is not us per say.”
Being the team to beat is not new for this program, as they’ve lost just three games since being established in 2015.
“I like having the target on my back, and having to defend to be the best,” said senior captain Mark Barranger. “If you are as good as us, you will show it. If not, we will beat you.”
Mansfield was able to capitalize on some miscues by the Sacred Heart offense along with some untimely penalties.
A unique aspect of Mansfield is that they are members of the Sprinter League. This means all players must weight under 172 pounds 48 hours before game time. It was because of this that Jones had the Mounties in mind when he was scheduling the non-conference match.
“I try to choose the non-conference games with a point to be made on how to make our team better,” said Jones. “I thanked each guy on the bus for all the heart that they gave for 60 minutes.”
Mansfield had great depth at every position, a luxury that the Pioneers did not have on the day.
“(Mansfield) had 95 plus guys and we had guys scrambling for air five minutes left in the game,” said Jones.
Jones and the veteran leadership of the Pioneers will be relied on by the freshman class, in order to get them into the established culture.
“It is a little tricky at times to get the new guys up to speed on how we do things,” said senior Yanni Papadopoulos. “Coach (Jones) gets players into the mindset that we work extremely hard for this.”
Jones is an alum of Sacred Heart University, and played on the Division I football team.
“We have grown this tradition that just works from the first kick off to the last whistle,” said Jones. “Once we step on the field if we are full speed.”
The Pioneers will be in action next on Saturday, Sept. 22, against MHC Green Wave at Campus Field.
Afterwords, the team will take on rival Eastern Connecticut State University on Oct. 6 at Campus Field. They then take on the likes of Johnson and Wales on Oct. 13, and Clarkson University on Oct. 20.
“It is a one-game season, week to week,” said Jones. “Just keep preaching the culture and push forward one game at a time.”