BY Jim Fenton
The Stonehill College football team is starting the season the same way it did a year ago.
The Skyhawks are once again facing nationally ranked Bloomsburg University, which went to the NCAA Div. 2 tournament last season, in the second half of a home-and-home series with the Huskies.
Stonehill will be in Pennsylvania to meet Bloomsburg, ranked 18th in the American Football Coaches Association preseason poll, on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Redman Stadium.
A year ago, Bloomsburg raced to a 31-7 halftime lead before Stonehill closed within 38-28 with less than 11 minutes to play. The Huskies left Easton with a 44-28 victory, gaining 566 yards (369 on the ground).
Now, the Skyhawks, who turned the ball over seven times, will be making the 360-mile bus trip to meet Bloomsburg.
"We gave up big plays to them and had seven turnovers and still, in the fourth quarter, we were down by 10,'' said Stonehill coach Robert Talley. "You eliminate those things and you give yourself a chance against a really good football team.
"I think having played them last year, we're going to know what to expect. We got to see what they do. It gives you some familiarity.''
The Skyhawks' defense will be challenged by one of the best Div. 2 running games in the nation, as was the case a year ago.
Senior Franklyn Quiteh, who had 218 yards in the win over Stonehill, has 5,328 career rushing yards. Bloomsburg was fifth in the country, averaging 315 yards on the ground.
"That's obviously a huge task,'' said Talley of going against Quiteh. "They want to pound it. When you have a back like him, you have to limit his carries and his big-play ability.
"Their quarterback (Tim Kelly) was young last year and had a really good year. He poses problems with more experience. If you over commit to the run, they'll hit you with play action.''
"I would say we're going into the season cautiously optimistic,'' said Talley. "We lost a lot of leadership and it's always about creating your own identity. We're excited about the fact we have a real good quarterback back who got better last year.''