Over 5,000 Show Out to Campus Field

The Sacred Heart University Football team was picked to finish third in the Northeast Conference (NEC) in the preseason poll behind only Merrimack College and last year’s NEC champions Saint Francis University (SFU).

The Pioneers opened their season against the Lafayette College Leopards on Saturday, Sept. 8 at Campus Field. There were 5,634 people in attendance for the team’s first game.

“We had a lot of support from the other student athletes and students on campus,” said head coach Mark Nofri.

The Pioneers have won the NEC Championship five times since Nofri took over as head coach. Their most recent win came in 2021.

“I think we have the talent to win an NEC Championship, but a lot goes into it, and I tell the kids all the time it’s more than just talent. It’s about playing together, chemistry, playing hard, and you also have to have a little luck,” said Nofri.

“You have to be healthy into October and you need to be playing your best football at the end of October and into November,” said Nofri.

Sacred Heart ran for 143 yards against the Leopards. Their leading rusher was graduate student Malik Grant, who ran for 74 yards.

“I want to rush for 2000 yards and over 20 touchdowns, so that I can help our team win an NEC Championship and go deep in the playoffs,” said Grant.

Grant has been the team’s leading rusher in each of the last two seasons. He recorded over 1000 rushing yards in each of those seasons.

“Nothing runs without the big guys up front and the receivers on the outside. They block their butts off day in and day out. I’m very thankful for that,” he said.

The Pioneers’ defense had three sacks against Lafayette.

“The corners were doing really well covering the back end. The linebackers as well. We’re looking to not give up any points in any game,” said senior Carson Primrose.

Primrose had one of the Pioneers three sacks in the game. He was voted second team all NEC last season after leading the team with four sacks last season.

“I’m looking to help the team, be a leader, help this team grow together and hopefully win the conference,” said Primrose.

The team’s leading tackler in their first game with nine was graduate student DeAndre Byrd. He also led the team in tackles last season with 59.

“Our standards are high on defense. We can capitalize on anything, so right now we are working on getting better than last week because I know the sky’s the limit for us,” said Byrd.

Byrd has been one of the team captains for the last four years.

“Everybody is looking to me for all the answers and if I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do, that gives everybody leeway to do what they want to do. We just got to hold each other accountable for us to be great,” said Byrd.

The Pioneers’ next game will be against Wagner College on Saturday, Sept. 16 on campus field in Fairfield, CT.

Sacred Heart Athletics contributed to this article.

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