The Boys of Fall

On Oct. 15, the Sacred Heart football team took on Northeast Conference (NEC) newcomer Stonehill College, winning by a score of 40-27 at Campus Field in front of a record crowd of more than 10,000 fans on Family Weekend.

The day was highlighted by career performances from multiple players, including senior quarterback Marquez McCray and junior receiver Kenneth Womack. McCray passed for 405 yards, coming just 9 yards short of setting a SHU single-game passing record, while Womack had 173 receiving yards on eight catches. 

“I’m happy for them,” said head coach Mark Nofri. “I’m happy because they’re good kids and work hard. If Marquez keeps playing like that, I feel good about our chances.”

McCray was also honored with the New England Football Writer’s Golden Helmet Award, the second Pioneer to be awarded the honor in the past two years alongside senior running back Malik Grant, who received the award in October 2021. McCray also received recognition as NEC Offensive Player of the Week.

“Any award Malik gets is amazing,” McCray said. “Just to be mentioned with him is outstanding. It means so much to me and I’m very grateful.”

 Despite such strong individual performances, the win against Stonehill was a team effort. SHU dominated the game in the second and third quarters, out-scoring Stonehill 31-14 in the two quarters combined.

“We played as a team offensively and defensively,” said Womack. “We needed that win coming off the bye week. We want to keep the win and push forward.”

McCray put the credit for his career performance on the back of his teammates. 

“Our o-line played amazing, our receivers were amazing, our running backs were amazing, the play calling was amazing, and the defense was amazing,” he said. “I just had to hand off the ball here and there or throw a quick little pass.”

The energy from the crowd was also an influential factor for the team. The game coincided with Family Weekend at SHU, bringing students, parents and alumni together to cheer on the Pioneers.

“The energy that the crowd brings when you make a big play or the defense makes a big play is always there,” Grant said. “They’ve got your back supporting you. It’s just amazing to have that atmosphere and that energy rubbing off on you when you’re playing the game.”

Coach Nofri, a longtime face in the SHU program, also noticed the crowd’s effect on his team.

“It was outstanding,” Nofri said. “I’ve been here 28 years and never had that many people at a game before. It really gives us a boost, an extra bit of energy knowing that you have that support.”

With the rest of their season consisting of conference matchups, the players realized the importance of this game against Stonehill in their quest for another NEC title.

“It opened our eyes to the different weapons on our team and gave us more confidence to play,” said Grant. “We control our own destiny. It’s us versus everyone.”

Womack also had a similar outlook.

“We had to get this one, we’ve got to get the next one, and then we’re in the driver’s seat,” he said. 

As for the rest of their games, both coaches and players are determined to continue their success on the field.

“The next couple games are very important,” said McCray. “But the Merrimack game is the most important right now because it’s the next game. We’re trying to take it one game at a time and just go from there.”

The Pioneers fell to Merrimack College on Oct. 22 by a score of 31-25 and sit at 2-1 in the NEC, good for third place. Their next game is another NEC battle, this time against Saint Francis University at Campus Field on Oct. 29 at noon. Saint Francis is currently tied for first place in the NEC.

SHU Athletics contributed to this article.

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