By Matt Noonan
NORTH ANDOVER, MA – Merrimack College is scheduled to kick-off their season next Saturday, September 1, when they make the trek to New Haven to face the Chargers.
The Warriors enter the upcoming season pegged as the fourth best team in the Northeast-10 Conference, according to the preseason coaches’ poll. Bentley University was also mentioned as the fourth best team in that poll, too.
Here are a few notes and tidbits that one should know about Coach John Perry’s squad this year.
* Last season, the Warriors tallied 24 points or more in nine of their ten games. When I asked Coach Perry about that particular stat, he not only smiled, but replied by saying, “We have has a great tradition here, and we’re just raising the bar all the time. Two years ago, we were [averaging] 34 points a game and then last year we average 39 points a game, so I think the kids just look at [as a way] to continue to raise the bar, and as long as we can do that – it’s nice to be able to compete against yourself, which is what we’re doing, been pretty prolific – so we’re always competing against ourselves because that’s the first thing we’ve got to do if we’re going to have any success.”
* Perry continued to commend his players for working hard and attempting to improve by saying, “They have a standard in their minds and that’s what we play at.”
* In regards to the Warriors offense, which recorded 2,836 yards through the air and 1,910 on the ground last season, Merrimack is expected to once again display a balanced attack. Look for their unit to rely on seniors Jimon Hill and Isaiah Voegeli, who shouldered the load for the Warriors last season.
* Sticking with offense, Perry believes his team can be the “best offense” in the country. Yet, how will that unit be the best? His answer was the following: “We’ve got great players, but it’s just a matter of if we show up [and perform]. We’ll be the best offense in the country, there’s no doubt about that in my mind, but it’s just a matter of [showing up]. When we show up there’s nobody better. We feel like when we play our best we’re as good as anybody if not better, so we’re just really excited about.”
* When asked about what unit will be one of the strongest this season, Perry responded by saying, “I’m really excited about our secondary because [we] return guys like Jesse Fowler and Artis Holt. Artis was an [All-Conference First-Team selection] last year, so you feel confident when you’ve got guys in the secondary that can cover people and I really think those two guys can and they’ve risen to the challenge, so that’s exciting.”
* One of the biggest challenges facing Merrimack this season will be replacing linebacker Shawn Loiseau, who is currently with the Houston Texans. Although, despite his departure, along with Tony Johnson, Perry is confident that the new guys will step up when needed. “We’ve got guys who have been waiting for their opportunities, and I really, really believe obviously that you don’t just turn into those guys over night, but those in the line backing core and [defensive line], I think there’s guys that are capable of stepping up to that level if they want to take on the challenges and the hard work that it takes that those guys put in.”
* Joe Clancy will be the team’s starting signal caller this year. Last year, he appeared in all 10 games and tossed seven touchdowns. However, he did have a great tutor in front of him, James Suozzo, who concluded his final year under center with 2,055 passing yards and 16 touchdowns.
* I asked Coach Perry if the team has begun to rally around their new quarterback and he responded by stating, “You could really see him in spring practice really take the reigns, and Joe knows my style is that he’s got to earn the job every day just like James did, and he does that. So, the kids the really respond to him, but you kind of saw that emerging in spring ball. I think he’s picked up the ball from here and done great a job in fall camp. He’s a natural leader, so I think that’ll be good. And he knows that if he stays focused, he’s going to have a lot of great weapons to go to [when needed].”
*Finally, I asked one of my favorite questions, which was… what are three goals for a successful season? His answer was the following: “It’s basically like real estate [because] there’s three keys and that’s execution, execution, [and] execution. We’ve got to know our assignments and we’ve got to execute them. We’ve got the talent, there’s no doubt in my mind that we have the talent, so we’ve got to execute, execute and execute. If we do that we’ll be great. That’s both on defense, offense, and special teams, so if we execute, execute, and execute, we’ll be as good as anybody in our conference and anybody in the country.”