BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- The Moravian College football teams travels to King's College on Saturday, September 7 for a non-conference game to begin the 2019 season. Kickoff is slated for 6:00 p.m. under the lights at McCarthy Stadium in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
THE COACHES: Jeff Pukszyn (Moravian '97) is entering his ninth 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 256 games for Moravian since 1994 with a 124-131-1 record.
King's coach Jeff Knarr (East Stroudsburg '94) has a record of 32-58 at the school and is entering his 10th year.
NEW MORAVIAN STAFF: Moravian Head Coach Jeff Pukszyn has added to his coaching staff this season with Dwyane Aaron and Nick Tone joining the Greyhounds. Aaron will be coaching the running backs while Tone will coach the defensive line after completing his playing career with the Hounds.
THE SERIES: Saturday's meeting will be the 18th in the series with Moravian holding a 9-8 edge after the Greyhounds' 24-0 win last September to begin the 2019 season. The Monarchs posted a 30-27 victory in August 2017. The Greyhounds won the 2016 season opener 50-35, in Bethlehem, and the Hounds scored a last minute 21-17 victory in 2015. Moravian 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 seventh in the Centennial Conference preseason coaches and sports information directors' poll.
BALANCED & EXPERIENCED 'HOUNDS: Of the 88 players on the Moravian roster, 25 are freshmen, 30 are sophomores and 18 are juniors. There are 15 seniors on this season's squad, and the Greyhounds return 59 letterwinners and 17 starters.
|Interviews with Head Coach Jeff Pukszyn and senior captains Brett Poling and Sal Pagano.|
THE QUARTERBACKS: Sophomore Christopher Mills will be the Greyhounds starting quarterback after starting the final six games of 2018. Mills completed 96-of-150 passes for 1,323 yards with 12 touchdowns and five interceptions in his debut season. Freshman David LePoidevin will be the back-up for the Greyhounds.
IN THE BACKFIELD: The Greyhounds will look to senior Roberto Diez after he ran for 464 yards and four touchdowns on 116 carries last season. Senior Sal Pagano is back at fullback while freshman Carrington Smith will spell Diez.
THE WIDE RECEIVERS: The Greyhounds have a strong core of returning wide receivers led by junior Nick Petros, senior Alex Pierce and sophomore Eddie Olsen. Petros had Moravian's third 1,000-yard season a year ago with 1,017 yards and 11 touchdowns on 47 receptions while Pierce added 22 catches for 242 yards and one touchdown last season. Olsen caught 20 passes for 245 yards and four scores while sophomore Cory Little had 17 receptions for 203 yards. Senior Nick Cregar returns as the starting tight end role and had two catches for 10 yards in 2018.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Moravian has five returners on the offensive line although one starter from 2018, junior PJ Weierbach has moved to the defensive side of the ball. Seniors right tackle Jason Barish, center Brett Poling, left tackle Tyler Maxsim and left guard Zach Cregar all return to the front line with senior Matt Shields moving into the starting right guard position. The Greyhounds' front five has an average size of 6-2, 275.
DEFENSIVE FRONT: The Greyhounds return two starters on the defensive line in juniors Shane Mastro and Brady Hornbaker, who will play a hybrid defensive end/linebacker spot. Mastro had 54 tackles with eight and a half tackles for loss, two sacks, three pass break-ups, three forced fumbles and a blocked kick last season while Hornbaker contributed 49 tackles with 12 for loss, four sacks, a fumble recovery returned for 28 yards and two forced fumbles. Seniors Mike O'Hagan and Christian Coia will start on the interior defensive line. O'Hagan added 11 tackles with one and a half for loss in 2018 while Coia had nine stops with two for loss and a sack. Junior Austin Heisler had 21 tackles with two and a half for loss and one and a half sacks while junior Sean Agar had four stops with a sack and a fumble recovery last fall. Sophomore Brandon Nemeth also adds depth with four tackles last season.
THE LINEBACKER CORPS: The Greyhounds return senior Tim Valentine, junior Tanner Barr and sophomore Noah Breidinger at the linebacker positions. Breidinger contributed 59 tackles with five and a half for loss, a pass break-up and a fumble recovery in his debut season while Barr made 24 tackles with two for loss and a pass break-up last season. Valentine, who will move around the field as a linebacker and defensive back, had 13 tackles and three pass break-ups last fall while sophomore Nicholas Azpeitia added four tackles a year ago with two for loss.
THE DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD: Moravian returns three starters in the defensive backfield in juniors Jackson Buskirk at free safety and Jalen Richardson and Justin McRae at cornerbacks. Buskirk led the Greyhounds' defense a year ago with 68 tackles to go with six pass break-ups and two fumble recoveries while McRae had 53 tackles with one for loss, four pass break-ups, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. Richardson contributed 46 tackles with one for loss, two interceptions, 13 passes defended, a fumble recovery and a blocked kick. Junior Renard Nicholson moves into the final starting position in the defensive backfield after making 15 tackles, two interceptions and four passes defended last fall. Sophomore Connor Lyon adds depth after making three tackles with one pass break-up a year ago.
KICKING GAME: Sophomore transfer Jack Coary will handle the place-kicking duties for the Greyhounds this season. Junior wide receiver Nick Petros will be the squad's punter again this season after averaging 35.6 yards on 59 punts with a long of 74 yards, which is a school record, a year ago.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Juniors Justin McRae and Nick Petros are slated to return kickoffs this season. Petros had four kickoff returns for 62 yards last season. Junior Jackson Buskirk is listed to return punts after six returns last fall for 49 yards.
MILESTONE WATCH: The Greyhounds have two players closing in on milestones in their careers. Junior wide receiver Nick Petros sits in 18th place in school history with 1,203 receiving yards, and he needs 329 yards to reach the top 10. Petros also needs 31 receptions to reach 100 for his career, and he is tied for fourth with 14 career touchdown receptions, just five shy of setting the school record. He is tied for seventh with a 35.0 career punting average on 96 punts for 3,362 yards, both 11th in school history. Sophomore quarterback Christopher Mills enters the season needing 677 yards to reach 2,000 yards passing and 1,677 yards to become the eighth Greyhound to throw for 3,000 yards.
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, who were picked seventh in the 2019 Middle Atlantic Conference Preseason Poll, return a large portion of their starting lineup this season, including seven starters on offense and nine on the defensive side of the ball. All-MAC Second Team linebackers Mando Sallavanti and Charles McCall return to a defensive group that was strong at forcing turnovers last season, while starting defensive backs Elijah Demosthene and Mikal Butler are back as well. Offensively, things will continue to run through All-East Region tailback Jordan Downes, as he became the first player in over 10 years to average more than 100 yards per game on the ground in 2018.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: In Bethlehem last fall, Moravian opened the 2018 season with a 24-0 shutout of King's College at Rocco Calvo Field as quarterback Doug Erney tossed a pair of touchdown pass. The shutout was the first for the Greyhounds since the program blanked Juniata College, 42-0, on the road back on October 23, 2010, and the previous shutout at Rocco Calvo Field dates back to October 20, 2001 when the Hounds kept Delaware Valley University off the scoreboard in a 42-0 win. Moravian's offense racked up 452 yards on 67 plays behind Erney, and the Hounds also held onto the ball for 33:54 with a large chunk of that, 19:46, in the second half. Erneycompleted 15-of-23 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns, and he also ran the ball 11 times for 79 yards as the Greyhounds ran for 262 yards in the game. Running back Eli Redmond ran for a game-high 96 yards on 13 carries while running back Roberto Diez returned to the lineup after missing all of 2017 with an injury to carry the ball 14 times for 91 yards and a score. Running back Gerald Grube had 19 yards on three attempts in his collegiate debut. Erney spread the ball around with seven different players catching a pass led by wide receiver Nick Petros grabbing five passes for 68 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver Cory Little had three catches for 54 yards while wide receiver Eddie Olsen and wideout Alex Pierce each catching two passes with Olsen adding a touchdown and 37 yards and Pierce gaining 14 yards. Wide receiver Andrew Lelie had one catch for seven yards while Redmond pulled in one pass for six yards and running back Sal Pagano adding a reception for four years after missing most of 2017 with an injury. Defensively, linebacker Brady Hornbaker recorded a team-high nine tackles with two for loss and a half a sack while linebacker Noah Breidinger had eight stops with one tackle for loss. Defensive back Justin McRae, defensive back Jackson Buskirk and defensive lineman Nick Tone each had seven tackles with Tone adding a half a tackle for loss and Buskirk breaking up a pass and returning two punts for 19 yards. Defensive back Jacob Kober had six tackles and an interception he returned eight yards while linebacker Tanner Barr also made six tackles with one for loss. Defensive back Jalen Richardson and defensive lineman Tijir Bleam each recorded five tackles with Richardson breaking up a pass and Bleam making a tackle for loss and half a sack. The Monarchs opened the game with a 14-play drive that ended with a 34-yard field goal attempt coming up short to give Moravian the ball on its own 20-yard line. The Greyhounds needed just eight plays to reach the end zone 80 yards away. Erney connected with Little on the initial first down of the season on a nine-yard pass, and Erney ran 46 yards for another first down. Facing a third and ten, Erney found Petros in the back-right corner of the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown. Jon Miller split the uprights with the extra-point for a 7-0 lead with 5:07 left in the first quarter. The teams would trade punts before Moravian's defense came up with a fourth down stop early in the second quarter. The Hounds used the momentum to go 73 yards in eight plays to extend the lead. Redmond had a 16-yard run and Erney hit Petros with a 13-yard pass to move past midfield. Diez would finish off the drive with runs of eight, 19 and seven yards with the final one putting him in the end zone for the first time since October of 2016. Miller added another extra-point for a 14-0 lead with 7:39 before the intermission. On the third play of the Monarchs' next drive, Kober intercepted a tipped pass and returned it to the King's 49-yard line to set up the Moravian offense. Erney and Olsen connected for a 14-yard pass, and the Greyhounds would move into the red zone before Erney lost the ball just outside the end zone on a quarterback draw and King's recovered in the end zone for a touchback. Moravian forced a punt and had just over a minute left before halftime. Redmond had a 19-yard run while Erney hit Little with a 15-yard completion to put the ball on the King's 24-yard line. The Hounds brought Miller in to attempt a career-long 41-yard field goal on the final play of the half, but the kick fell short as Moravian kept its 14-0 lead after 30 minutes of action. The Greyhounds received the opening kickoff of the second half and needed just seven plays to cover 71 yards to the end zone. Redmond had runs of 15 and 11 yards to move the ball to midfield before Erney hit Little with a 30-yard pass play. Two plays later, Erney found Olsen across the middle for a 23-yard touchdown pass, and Miller's PAT made the advantage, 21-0, with 11:17 left in the third quarter. The Monarchs embarked on a 17-play, 82-yard drive on their next possession but Hornbaker made a stop inside the five-yard line on fourth and goal to end the scoring threat. After taking over deep in their own territory, the Hounds would move 88 yards in 13 plays to set up Miller for a 25-yard field goal to cap the scoring with 13:53 left in the fourth quarter and the 24-0 lead. The Blue and Grey would force two more punts by King's sandwiched around aa 13-play drive that covered just 37 yards but took 7:58 off of the clock. Moravian's final drive would run out the clock after an 11-yard pickup by Grube.