Tag: NEC Football

Holy Cross, Sacred Heart to meet in NCAA FCS Tournament

Malik Grant and the Sacred Heart University football team will enter the 2021 NCAA FCS Tournament on a six-game winning streak. (PHOTO COURTESY: Sacred Heart University Athletics)

By NoontimeSports.com

One day after clinching its second-straight Northeast Conference (NEC) championship, the Sacred Heart University football team secured a date with Holy Cross in the opening round of the NCAA Division I FCS postseason.

The two teams will meet on Saturday, November 27 at Fitton Field in Worcester with kickoff scheduled for 12 p.m. The winner will advance to the second round to compete against fifth-ranked Villanova University.

Sacred Heart won eight games this fall, including six league tilts to secure the conference crown. They won the NEC this spring with a 3-1 record but saw their bid for a national championship conclude in the first round to the University of Delaware.

“It’s exciting to be one of the 24 teams left playing,” said Sacred Heart coach Mark Nofri. “We’re excited to be in the FCS Playoffs. Holy Cross is a great draw, they’re one of the best schools in the Northeast and the entire country.” 

The Crusaders captured third third-straight Patriot League title after winning all six matchups, including a 52-24 victory last week over Fordham University. Their impressive win over the Rams was highlighted by quarterback Matthew Sluka, who concluded the game with four touchdowns.  

Saturday’s home playoff game will be the first for Holy Cross since they hosted Western Carolina in the NCAA Division I AA playoffs on December 3, 1983. The Catamounts beat the Crusaders, 28-21, and advanced to the national championship, but lost to coach Ray Dempsey’s Southern Illinois Salukis by a score of 43-7.

Holy Cross has competed in the NCAA FCS Tournament four times with their last three trips, including this spring ending with first-round setbacks. Sacred Heart is seeking its first postseason victory in program history.

“I know our guys will be fired up and ready to play,” said Nofri. “We have quite a few guys from Massachusetts on our team and we look forward to the challenge of playing up there.”

Holy Cross has won the last two meetings with the Pioneers, including a 52-21 victory in 2009. Quarterback Dominic Randolph concluded the game with four touchdowns, including two on the ground.

Sacred Heart Picked To Capture NEC Crown

Julius Chestnut and the Sacred Heart football team were picked to win the Northeastern Conference. (PHOTO COURTESY: The College Sports Journal/Chuck Burton)

By NoontimeSports.com

The Pioneers of Sacred Heart University will enter the upcoming fall 2021 football season as the team to beat in the Northeastern Conference (NEC).

Sacred Heart, which finished its spring campaign with a 3-2 record, secured four of seven first-place votes in the league’s preseason poll. Duquesne University (two first-place votes) and Central Connecticut State University (one first-place vote) secured a two-way tie for second place while Bryan University checked in fourth on the poll.

“The NEC is an outstanding conference and any team can win the championship in any given season,” Coach Mark Nofri said in a statement. “Our league is competitive from top to bottom and there are no easy games.”

Sacred Heart, which will begin its upcoming season at home against Bucknell University on Saturday, September 4 at 6 p.m., will be led by halfback Julius Chestnut, who led the country this past spring in rushing-yards, all-purpose yards, and touchdowns. Chestnut was one of eight Pioneers to secure a spot on the conference’s preseason team — joining him on the offensive team were Naseim Brantley (wide receiver), JD DiRenzo (offensive line) and Josh Sokol (offensive line).

Following the team’s season-opener against the Bison, the Pioneers will visit Bryant University on Saturday, September 11 for their initial league tilt, which will then be followed by three consecitive non-conference matchups against Morgan State (Sept. 18), Dartmouth College (Sept. 25), and Howard University (Oct. 2).

“It’s an honor to be picked to win the conference by your peers, but all that matters is who is the top team come the end of November,” said Nofri. “We had a very good spring season, earning the NEC Championship, and we look forward to defending our championship this fall.”

Sacred Heart, which has won the NEC outright twice (2001 and 2020-21), has shared the league crown three times, including twice with Duquesne in 2013 and 2018.