THE GAME: Moravian hosts King's College in a non-conference game to start the 2018 season on Saturday, September 1. Kickoff is slated for 1:00 p.m. on the newly installed Shaw Sports Turf on Rocco Calvo Field in Bethlehem.
THE COACHES: Jeff Pukszyn (Moravian '97) is entering his eighth season as Moravian's head coach after ten years as an assistant coach with the program. Pukszyn joined the Moravian staff as a part-time coach in 1997 after a three-year playing career that saw him named to the All-Middle Atlantic Conference First Team in 1994 and 1996. He was also a two-time captain. Pukszyn became part of the coaching staff full-time in 1999 as defensive coordinator and added the titles of assistant head coach in 2001 and special teams coordinator in 2007. In 2015, Pukszyn led the Greyhounds to an 8-3 record and a berth in the inaugural Centennial-MAC Bowl Series while being named both the Centennial Conference and American Football Coaches Association Division III Region 2 Coach of the Year. He has been a part of 246 games for Moravian since 1994 with a 119-126-1 record.
King's coach Jeff Knarr (East Stroudsburg '94) has a record of 27-53 at the school and is entering his ninth year.
NEW MORAVIAN STAFF: Moravian Head Coach Jeff Pukszyn has added to his coaching staff this season with Matt Fenza, Fouad Haddad, Mike Kane, John Menegakis and Tim Wait joining the Greyhounds. Wait is now in his third stint on the staff and is serving as director of football operations with assistance from Fenza, who is completing his undergraduate degree at East Stroudsburg University. Kane will be coaching the wide receivers while Menegakis is coaching the safeties and Haddad will assist with the offense after completing his playing career with the Hounds.
THE SERIES: Saturday's meeting will be the 17th in the series with each school having won eight contests after the Monarchs' 30-27 win last August. The Greyhounds won the 2016 season opener 50-35, in Bethlehem, and the Hounds scored a last minute 21-17 victory. Moravia earned a 33-14 victory to kickoff the 2014 season at Rocco Calvo Field. The two schools previous meeting was in 2006 in Moravian's final year as a member of the Middle Atlantic Conference with the Monarchs posting a 28-23 win at Rocco Calvo Field on September 16, 2006.
GREYHOUNDS IN THE CENTENNIAL CONFERENCE: Moravian joined the Centennial Conference as an associate member in the sport of football in 2007. The Greyhounds were selected ninth in the Centennial Conference preseason coaches and sports information directors' poll.
BALANCED & EXPERIENCED 'HOUNDS: Of the 97 players on the Moravian roster, 48 are freshmen, 19 are sophomores and 17 are juniors. There are 13 seniors on this season's squad, and the Greyhounds return 45 letterwinners and 15 starters.
THE QUARTERBACKS: Sophomore Doug Erney will be the Hounds starter for the second straight season with freshman Christopher Mills serving as the back-up. Erney completed 146-of-246 passes last fall for 1,886 yards with 15 touchdowns and five interceptions in his first collegiate season.
IN THE BACKFIELD: The Greyhounds will look to senior Eli Redmond to lead the running backs once again in 2018. Redmond ran for 537 yards and two touchdowns on 127 carries last season, and he has 1,693 yards and 11 touchdowns on 326 career attempts. Juniors Sal Pagano and Roberto Diez return to the backfield after missing the 2017 season with injuries while junior Nick Princiotta will back-up at fullback. Quarterback Doug Erney added 505 yards and five touchdowns on 115 carries.
THE WIDE RECEIVERS: The Greyhounds have a strong core of returning wide receivers led by junior Alex Pierce and sophomore Nick Petros. Pierce had 25 receptions for 374 yards and three touchdowns last season while Petros added 12 catches for 186 yards and three scores. Running back Eli Redmond caught 16 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. Junior Nick Cregar moves into the starting tight end role and will be backed up by senior Joseph Pellegrino, who returns to the squad and moves to tight end after being an offensive lineman in 2015 and 2016.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Moravian has five returners on the offensive line with juniors right tackle Jason Barish, center Brett Poling, left tackle Tyler Maxsim and left guard Zack Cregar and sophomore right guard PJ Weierbach all returning to the front line. Poling was selected to the 2017 Centennial All-Conference Honorable Mention squad. The Greyhounds' front five has an average size of 6-2, 275.
DEFENSIVE FRONT: The Greyhounds return two starters on the defensive line in seniors Nick Tone and Vincent Pianoforte. Tone had 33 tackles with three and a half for loss, two quarterback sacks and a fumble recovery in 2017 while Pianoforte contributed 29 tackles with five for loss and a quarterback sack. Sophomore Shane Mastro moves into the starting lineup this fall after making 42 tackles with eight for loss, two sacks and a pass break-up in his collegiate debut. Sophomore Andrew Stein looks for more playing time after four tackles as a freshman.
THE LINEBACKER CORPS: The Greyhounds return sophomore starters Tanner Barr and Brady Hornbaker at the linebacker spot. Barr made 39 tackles with one and a half for loss and a pass break-up in his debut season while Hornbaker had 29 stops to go with three and a half tackles for loss, two passes defended and a fumble recovery. Senior Dallas Owen adds depth after making 51 tackles a year ago with three and a half for loss and forcing a fumble. Senior Tanner Stokes had six tackles last season while sophomore Austin Heisler returns after an injury limited him to five games and seven tackles last season. Senior Nick Zambelli will be moving around the field and lineup as a linebacker and defensive back this season. Zambelli, who was named to the 2017 Centennial All-Conference Second Team, had 70 tackles with one for loss, one sack, three interceptions and six passes defended last fall.
THE DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD: Moravian returns one starter in the defensive backfield in sophomore Jackson Buskirk at free safety. Buskirk made 73 tackles with one for loss, two interceptions and eight passes defended. Senior Jacob Kober moves into the starting line-up after making 23 tackles in 2017 to go with a pair of forced fumbles. Junior Tim Valentine while sophomores Jalen Richardson and Justin McRae are expected to contribute. Valentine had 45 tackles, an interception and four passes defended a year ago while Richardson contributed 17 tackles, an interception, two passes defended, and a fumble recovery and McRae had 11 stops with a pass break-up.
KICKING GAME: Seniors Jon Miller and Kenny Kane will handle the place-kicking duties for the Greyhounds this season. Miller averaged 52.3 yards on 36 kickoffs last season, and he was 22-for-22 on extra points and 3-for-5 on field goals with a long of 34 yards while Kane was 2-for-2 on field goals with a long of 23 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Nick Petros will be the squad's punter again this season after averaging 34.0 yards on 37 punts with a long of 60 yards a year ago.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Senior Eli Redmond and sophomore Nick Petros are slated to return kickoffs this season. Redmond had just one kickoff return for 20 yards this season but ranks in the top ten in school history in kickoff returns and has two touchdowns on returns in his career. Petros ran back four kickoffs for 78 yards last season. Sophomore Jackson Buskirk is listed to return punts after seven returns last fall for 24 yards.
MILESTONE WATCH: The Greyhounds have four players closing in on milestones in their careers. Senior running back Eli Redmond sits in 12th place in school history with 1,693 rushing yards, and he needs 411 yards to reach the top 10. Redmond is also tied for seventh all-time with 37 kickoff returns and seventh with 852 kickoff return yards. Redmond is tied for tenth with 16 career touchdowns and sixth with 2,857 career all-purpose yards. Sophomore quarterback Doug Erney is tied for eighth with 15 career touchdown passes, and he has 2,391 yards of total offense and needs 968 yards to reach the top ten. Erney also needs 125 pass attempts, 56 pass completions and 655 passing yards to make the top ten in those categories. Senior kicker Kenny Kane is tied for tenth in school history with 59 career kicking points, and he needs three extra-points to move into the top 10 all-time, currently with 32 PATs. Kane is also tied for eighth in school history with nine career field goals made. Senior Jon Miller is 13 extra-points away from the top ten after 22 a year ago.
THE CENTENNIAL CONFERENCE STATISTICAL RANKINGS: Starting next week, the Centennial Conference will release weekly statistical rankings of the ten football playing schools.
OVERTIME 'HOUNDS: Moravian has played a total of 10 overtime games since the NCAA instituted the rule for the 1996 season and is 7-3 all-time in the extra-session. Five of those ten overtime games have been against Juniata College with the Greyhounds going 4-1 in those games. Moravian's contest in Huntingdon in 2008 marked the first time in the Greyhounds' have needed more than one overtime session in a game. The 2008 season also marked the third year that Moravian has played at least two overtimes games in one season, the other years were 1999 when the Greyhounds played three overtime games and 1997 when Moravian played two overtime contests.
SCOUTING KING'S COLLEGE: The Monarchs return six starters and 47 letterwinners from last year's 5-5 squad. King's was selected seventh in the 2018 Middle Atlantic Conference Preseason Poll. The Monarchs return 2017 leading rusher and All-MAC First Team honoree senior running back Jordan Downes, along with sophomore running back Titus Nelson and his 4.3 yard per carry average, to lead the offense, which will need to find a new starting quarterback. On the defensive side of the ball, King's brings back sophomore linebacker Mando Sallavanti in the middle of the defense after making 33 solo tackles and 51 overall stops. The defensive unit will also look to senior Devrin Baynard on the defensive line along with junior defensive back Mikal Butler, who is back after recording 28 tackles, four pass break-ups and an interception.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: In Wilkes-Barre last fall, quarterback Doug Erney ran for 131 yards and a pair of touchdowns and completed 16-of-29 passes for 212 yards in his first collegiate start for Moravian but it wasn't enough as host King's College kicked the winning field goal with 1:37 to play for a 30-27 win in the 2017 opener for both teams. The Greyhounds were playing their second Thursday night season opener in school history. Moravian posted a 34-27 victory at Susquehanna University on August 30, 2007 in a game that saw kickoff delayed an hour and 40 minutes by lightning. The Monarchs received the opening kickoff and drove inside the Moravian 30-yard line before the Greyhounds' defense forced an incomplete pass on fourth down to give the Hounds' offense its first touch of the year. Running back Eli Redmond carried twice and Erney completed his first collegiate pass to wide receiver Ricky Tate but the Greyhounds would punt after three plays. King's used a short field after the punt with quarterback Zach Whitehead running in a two-yard touchdown on a third down play to give the Monarchs a 7-0 lead with 5:47 left in the first quarter. Erney connected on a 29-yard pass to wide receiver Aaron Hudson for Moravian's initial first down of the season. The Greyhounds added Redmond added a pair of rushing first downs to get Moravian inside the 10-yard line before Kenny Kane came on to kick a 23-yard field goal as the Blue and Grey cut the Monarchs lead to 7-3 just 44 seconds into the second quarter. Hudson finished the evening with three receptions for 48 yards. King's would be forced into a punt on its next possession after moving the ball past midfield. Erney found wide receiver Alex Pierce with a 30-yard pass to get the Hounds to midfield. Wide receiver/punter Nick Petros ran a fake punt for 18 yards to keep the drive alive down to the King's 30-yard line. Erney added a rushing touchdown to put Moravian into the red zone, and Erney found tight end Aaron Brown with a 14-yard reception to move inside the 10-yard line. The Greyhounds would bring Kane on to kick a 22-yard field goal to finish off the 15-play, 75-yard drive that took 7:31 off the clock to cut the King's lead to 7-6 with 5:14 left in the second quarter. Brown pulled in a pair of receptions for 40 yards. The Monarchs would run a reverse on the ensuing kickoff with defensive back Justice Anderson to save a touchdown, but King's would begin its offensive set in the red zone. Moravian's defense would hold and force a turnover on downs at the six-yard line. Erney found Redmond with a 12-yard pass for a first down; however, the Greyhounds would punt with one-minute left in the first half. Redmond finished his first game since the 2015 season with six receptions for 34 yards, and he carried the ball 16 times. Whitehead scored on a six-yard run with 17 seconds left in the opening half to give the Monarchs a 14-6 lead heading into the locker room. Anderson started the second half with a 31-yard kickoff return to set the Moravian offense up at its own 41-yard line. After a first down by penalty, Erney found Hudson with a 15-yard completion before Erney took off on a quarterback draw and rumbled 34 yards into the end zone, diving for the right pylon. Erney then connected on a two-point conversion pass to Brown in the left front corner of the end zone as the Greyhounds tied the game at 14-14 with 12:46 left in the third quarter. The Hounds defense forced King's into a three-and-punt possession to get the ball right back to the Moravian offense. However, the Blue and Grey would also punt after three plays. The Monarchs moved back ahead on a 36-yard field goal by Mike Tumminello as King's took a 17-14 lead with 7:50 in the third quarter. On the Greyhounds' second play after the kickoff, Erney raced 58 yards up the middle on another quarterback draw for a touchdown. Kane's extra-point attempt was blocked as Moravian took its first lead of the game at 20-17 with 7:26 left in the third. The Monarchs would answer with Whitehead running in his third touchdown of the game on a six-yard quarterback draw, and the extra-point gave King's a 24-20 lead with 1:47 to play in the third quarter. Anderson would set the Moravian offense up near midfield with a 34-yard kickoff return. Erney would find Redmond with a 16-yard completion on a long third down to give the Greyhounds a first down at the King's 33-yard line as the third quarter ended. Erney found Petros with a 30-yard pass on another long third down to put the Hounds inside the 10-yard line. However, a penalty would force the Greyhounds to attempt a 28-yard field goal and the kick by Jon Miller was wide to the left. Moravian's defense would force King's into a punt from midfield. Erney found Brown with a 26-yard completion on a third-and-10 as the Blue & Grey moved past midfield. However, Erney was intercepted two plays later as the Monarchs took possession with 8:51 to play. King's would settle for a 27-yard field goal by Tumminello to extend its lead to 27-20 with 6:29 remaining on the clock. The Blue and Grey started from midfield and Erney ran 18 yards for a first down. Two plays later, Erney found Petros in the left side of the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown pass. Miller split the uprights with the extra-point to knot the score at 27-27 with 5:32 left on the clock. Petros caught two passes for 56 yards. King's moved back ahead on a 38-yard field goal by Tumminello that dropped just over the cross bar with 1:37 remaining as the Monarchs took a 30-27 lead. The Monarchs defense came up with a pair of sacks to force Moravian to turn the ball over on downs with just 51 seconds remaining. Defensive back Jackson Buskirk led the Moravian defense with 12 tackles and a pass break-up while linebacker Steve Ewald added 11 tackles including a half a tackle for loss. Linebacker Dallas Owen made nine tackles and a pair of kickoff returns for 25 yards while Anderson had eight tackles and a pass break-up in his first game on defense after being a wide receiver for three seasons to go with two kickoff returns for 65 yards. Defensive lineman Nick Tone also added eight tackles with one sack. Moravian ran 65 plays for 373 yards and controlled the clock for 30:52 while King's ran 80 plays for 431 yards.