College Football: St. Francis looks to be road-greater
By Dennis Nelson For Sun-Times Media September 5, 2013 9:26PM
Anthony Hubert, of St. Francis | File photo
St. Francis 2013
Coach: Joe Curry, 2nd season (6-5)
Last year’s record: 6-5 overall, 3-3 in the Mid-States Football Association, Midwest League
Key players: QB E.J. White, Sr. (2,831 yards of offense, 27 TDs); RB Anthony Hulbert, Sr. (1,568 yards, 5 TDs); TE Dustin Greenwell, Sr. (36 catches, 5 TDs); C Doug Splacht, Sr; G Samie Sabbah, Jr; DL Jeff Cascella, Sr. (7 sacks, 18 tackles for loss); LB Josh Mander, Sr. (51 tackles); LB Jamal Graham, Soph. (84 tackles); DB Toney Brown Sr.
Sept. 7: at Olivet Nazarene, 6 p.m.
Sept. 14: at Lindenwood, 1 p.m.
Sept. 21: at Trinity International,
Sept. 28: vs. St. Xavier, 5 p.m.
Oct. 5: at Concordia (Mich.), noon-x
Oct. 12: vs. Robert Morris, 4 p.m.-x
Oct. 19: vs. St. Francis (Ind.),
Oct. 26: at Marian, noon-x
Nov. 2: at Siena Heights, 11 a.m.-x
Nov. 9: vs. St. Ambrose, 1 p.m.
Nov. 16: vs. Taylor, 1 p.m.-x
x — Mid-States Football Association, Mideast League
Updated: October 7, 2013 1:17PM
The University of St. Francis football team isn’t one to hide from a challenge. The Saints boast one of the most difficult schedules in the NAIA, with five teams ranked among the preseason top 25.
It starts with a 6 p.m. Saturday kickoff at Olivet Nazarene in Bourbonnais. It’s the first of three straight road games to start the season.
“We have to learn how to win on the road,” second-year coach Joe Curry said. “The advantage to that is to be a playoff-caliber team or a nationally ranked team, you have to win on the road.”
“The team is definitely taken everything the coaches are saying to heart,” quarterback E.J. White said. “Everybody has bought into the coaches and trusts them.”
The challenge this year is for the Saints to reach their potential. A year ago, the Saints were ranked No. 7 in the preseason national poll, but went 6-5 overall and 3-3 in the Mid-States Football Association Midwest League. This year, the team has moved to the MSFA Mideast League.
“For us, it’s about attitude, effort and living up to our potential,” White said. “It’s about giving 100 percent effort for the team and having a positive attitude, whether they are a starter or scout player.”
“I hope we, as a team, reach out potential this year,” Curry said. “It was a learning experience last year as a coach and a program. Last year, we were ranked No. 7 in the country and going to the playoffs, but we forgot to win the games. This year, we want to give a great effort and reach out potential every day, every game and things will take care of themselves.”
Back to take care of the offense this season is White, a two-way threat and three-time All-MSFA selection. The fourth-year player is the most prolific passer in school history with more than 6,700 yards with 72 touchdown strikes.
“He knows how to get us into our offense and he’ll put us in the right place,” Curry said. “He’ll be a big part of what we do.”
“I’m really excited about this offense,” White said. “Everybody is going to get their fair share of touching the ball this year.”
Senior Anthony Hubert, an All-MSFA first team honoree in 2012, and junior Malik Norman will be the primary ballcarriers this season. Senior tight end Dustin Greenwell earned All-MSFA first team last year after catching 36 passes.
At the wide receiver spots, Curry will look for major contributions from senior Elliott Allen, juniors John Magee and Troy Torrence and sophomore Sheldon Magee.
“We’re going to get the ball into the hands of the guys who can make plays for us,” Curry said.
Senior center Doug Spacht, an NAIA All-American a season ago, returns for his third year as a starter on the offensive line, along with junior Samie Sabbah, who is expected to move from tackle to guard this fall.
The Saints defense will be young, but talented, led by preseason All-American, junior Jeff Cascella, who had seven sacks and 18 tackles for loss in 2012. Josh Mander and Jamal Graham lead the linebacking corps, while ball-hawking defensive back Toney Brown returns in the defensive backfield after back-to-back All-MSFA seasons.
“Since last year, we’ve looked at what we do well, what we need to do better and we’re focused on those,” Curry said. “We try not to do too much. We try to do a few things really, really well and we’ve been focused on those during camp. Hopefully, come Saturday, people will see that.”
St. Francis will make its home debut Sept. 28 against 2012 national semifinalist and No. 4 St. Xavier.
“We have to play smart football and not kill ourselves,” Curry said. “At the end of the day, this is a results game. We have to make plays that are presented, both offensively and defensively. If we do that, we’ll be right where we need to be.”