BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- The Moravian College football team opens its 2019 Centennial Conference season as the Greyhounds host McDaniel College Saturday afternoon for the first home contest of the year. Kickoff for the game is slated for 1:00 p.m. at Rocco Calvo Field in Bethlehem on Family Day.
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 257 games for Moravian since 1994 with a 124-132-1 record.
McDaniel coach DeMarcus White is in his first season at the school and has a 1-0 overall record.
THE SERIES: Saturday's meeting will be the 24th in the series with Moravian holding a 14-9 advantage. The Hounds recorded a 14-9 victory on the road last September while Green Terror posted a 35-14 win in in Bethlehem in 2017. The Greyhounds earned a 55-27 in 2016 also in Bethlehem. McDaniel was formerly known as Western Maryland College but the name changed in 2002.
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 while McDaniel was picked eighth.
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.
THE QUARTERBACKS: Sophomore Christopher Mills has completed 17-of-34 passes this season for 194 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in his second season as a starter. Freshman David LePoidevin will be the back-up for the Greyhounds.
IN THE BACKFIELD: Senior Roberto Diez leads the running backs with 87 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries while sophomore quarterback Christopher Mills has 10 yards on five attempts. Junior wide receiver Nick Petros has contributed seven yards on one carry while freshman Carrington Smith has carried the ball five times this season.
WIDE RECEIVERS: The Greyhounds have had six different players catch a pass this season led by sophomore Eddie Olsen, who has five receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown. Junior Nick Petros also has five catches for 42 yards while senior Alex Pierce has caught three passes for 36 yards. Senior wide receiver Andrew Lelie has two receptions for 24 yards and a touchdown while sophomores Cory Little and Romello Walters each have one catch for five yards.
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. Sophomore Frank Sallusti also saw action at right guard at King's College.
DEFENSIVE FRONT: Junior Austin Heisler leads the defensive front with six tackles including one and a half sacks and one and a half tackles for loss while junior Shane Mastro has also added six tackles including a half a sack and a half a tackle for loss and junior Brady Hornbaker also has six stops with half a sack and one tackle for loss. Senior Mike O'Hagan has recorded four tackles while senior Christian Coia has made two tackles. Junior PJ Weierbach made two tackles with a half a sack in his first game on the defensive side of the ball.
THE LINEBACKER CORPS: Sophomore Noah Breidinger tops the linebackers with 11 tackles including one for loss while junior Tanner Barr has contributed nine tackles. Senior Tim Valentine is playing a hybrid linebacker/defensive back and has three tackles with an interception while junior Kyle Kooker has three tackles with one and a half for loss. Sophomore Nicholas Azpeitia has made two tackles while freshman Jack Gawlik has one stop.
THE DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD: Junior Renard Nicholson leads the defensive backs and the entire Greyhound defense with 13 tackles to go with one sack, one tackle for loss and one pass break-up while junior Jackson Buskirk has six stops with one tackle for loss. Junior Justin McRae has added five tackles with one pass break-up while sophomore Connor Lyon has four tackles and a pass break-up
KICKING GAME: Sophomore transfer Jack Coary is 2-for-3 on extra-points this season while freshman Trevor Yacuboski has kicked off four times for an average of 58.5 yards with one touchback. Junior wide receiver Nick Petros has punted five times for an average of 26.0 yards, a long of 29 yards and one inside the 20-yard line.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Junior wide receiver Nick Petros has returned two kickoffs for 53 yards with a long of 37 yards while sophomore wide receiver Romello Walters has one kickoff return for 21 yards. Junior defensive back Jackson Buskirk has returned one punt for five yards while senior running back Nick Princiotta has made two tackles on special teams.
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 1,245 receiving yards, and he needs 287 yards to reach the top 10. Petros also needs 26 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 tenth with a 34.6 career punting average on 101 punts for 3,492 yards, both 11th in school history. Sophomore quarterback Christopher Mills enters the week needing 483 yards to reach 2,000 yards passing and 1,483 yards to become the eighth Greyhound to throw for 3,000 yards.
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 MCDANIEL COLLEGE: The Green Terror enter Saturday's game at 1-0 after defeating Misericorida University, 21-14, last weekend in the first-ever meeting between the two schools. Junior quarterback Tyler Palermiti has completed 12-of-21 passes for 130 yards with two touchdowns while junior quarterback Kevin Sheckells is 2-for-2 for six yards and a touchdown. Junior wide receiver Colin Fisher has four catches for 34 yards while junior tight end Owen Reese has three receptions for 11 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore wide receiver Cameron Garcia has added two catches for 22 yards while freshman wide receiver Jevon Hamilton has two receptions for 30 yards. Junior running back Eisley Kim has one touchdown catch for 10 yards. Graduate student running back Perry Stefanelli leads the McDaniel rushing attack with 58 yards on 13 carries while Sheckells has 47 yards on seven attempts. junior running back Daqwan Hill has 46 yards on ten carries while Palermiti has run for 14 yards on six attempts. Sophomore Peyton Denlinger is 3-for-3 on extra-points and 1-for-2 on field goal attempts with a long of 41 yards, and he is averaging 40.6 yards per punt on five attempts with four inside the 20-yard line, one fair catch and one touchback. Hamilton has returned one kickoff of 24 yards while junior running back Aaron Pray III has three punt returns for 76 yards. Senior linebacker Jarius Ransom leads the Green Terror defense with 11 tackles including three tackles for loss and two sacks. Senior defensive back Nah'Shon Godfrey has contributed eight tackles and an interception while sophomore defensive back Habeeb Babab has seven stops. Senior defensive back Kiree Moore has contributed six tackles and a pass break-up while junior linebacker Mason Grim has five tackles. Senior defensive back Aris Mayfield has an interception, two passes defended, a tackle for loss and five tackles while sophomore defensive lineman Sam Welcher has four stops with one for loss and sophomore defensive lineman Chris Hauffman has three tackles including one sack.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: In Westminster last September, Moravian recovered four fumbles, one for a touchdown, as the Greyhounds battled host McDaniel and a steady rain to post a 14-9 victory over the Green Terror to begin the 2018 Centennial Conference season. The Hounds, now 2-0, controlled the ball for 35:42 and had 181 yards on 66 plays in the game including 111 on the ground. Quarterback Doug Erney ran for a team-high 49 yards on 11 carries including a nine-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and he completed 5-of-15 passes for 70 yards. Running back Eli Redmond ran for 48 yards on 28 attempts while running back Roberto Diez added 18 yards on nine carries. Wide receiver Nick Petros caught two passes for 44 yards, and he tied a school record by punting 11 times in the game for 327 yards including four punts inside the 20-yard line. Wide receiver Andrew Lelie caught one pass for 22 yards while wide receiver Alex Pierce and wide receiver Eddie Olsen each caught on one pass for two yards. Linebacker Brady Hornbaker led the Moravian defense with seven tackles including three and a half tackles for loss and two sacks to go with a forced fumble. Defensive back Jackson Buskirk added six tackles and a fumble recovery he returned two yards for a touchdown, and Buskirk returned two punts for 21 yards. Defensive lineman Nick Tone had six tackles with one and a half for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery while defensive lineman Shane Mastro made six tackles with two for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. Linebacker Noah Breidinger contributed four tackles with two for loss and a fumble recovery while defensive lineman Tijir Bleam and linebacker Tanner Barr each had four tackles with a half a tackle for loss and Barr added a pass break-up. Defensive back Jalen Richardson made three tackles and broke up three passes while defensive lineman Christian Coia had three stops with a sack. The Green Terror opened the game with the ball but on the second play of the game, Tone forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive back Justin McRae. Moravian picked up a first down before punting for the first time in the game. On McDaniel's next drive, the Hounds thought they had forced another fumble, but a penalty negated the turnover, and McDaniel finished the drive with a 37-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead with 9:01 left in the first quarter. After punts by both teams, Petros pinned the Green Terror at their own six-yard line. On the first play, Mastro forced a fumble that Buskirk scooped up at the two-yard line and took one stride into the end zone for a touchdown. Kicker Jon Miller added the extra-point to give Moravian as 7-3 lead with 1:38 left in the first quarter. The game would remain that way throughout the second quarter with drives either ending on punts of downs for both squads as the score remained 7-3 Greyhounds heading into the locker room at halftime. The Blue and Grey weren't able to do much on the first drive of the second half, punting once again. However, McDaniel fumbled the first play of its drive to put the Hounds' offensive right back on the field. Moravian moved inside the five-yard line before bringing Miller on for a 22-yard field goal attempt that ended up hitting the left upright. After two more punts, the Greyhounds would get the ball back at the McDaniel 32-yard line after Tone fell on a loose ball after a bad snap. Diez ran for two yards before Erney had back-to-back runs of 21 and nine yards, the second getting into the end zone. Miller's PAT pushed the Moravian lead to 14-3 with 3:09 left in the third quarter. Neither team was able to move the ball with the punts continuing. Late in the fourth quarter, Petros punted for the 11th time in the game, tying Jason Navarro's record of 11 set on September 18, 1999 against Albright College. McDaniel was able to move the ball and eventually scored on an eight-yard touchdown pass by Tyler Palermiti with 1:05 to play. The two-point conversion failed, and the Greyhounds recovered the ensuing on-side kick to seal the victory.