BY Jim Fenton
EASTON — The first indication that he was going to have a special season for the Stonehill College football team came on opening day.
Junior linebacker Brian Harrington of Rockland, making his first career start, recorded 16 tackles at Bloomsburg University, currently ranked 12th in the national Div. 2 poll.
That performance was only the beginning for Harrington, who has gone from special teams player the past two seasons to a key member of the Skyhawks' defense.
The 2011 Rockland High School graduate is among the nation's leaders in tackles in Div. 2 and has helped Stonehill make it to the Northeast-10 Conference championship game.
Stonehill (8-2) travels to Springfield on Saturday for a 2 p.m. game with American International College (8-2), the winner most likely going on to the NCAA tournament.
Harrington is averaging 13.4 tackles in 10 games, which puts him third in the country behind only Jake Edmiston of Colorado Mesa (15.5) and Sammy Siasia of Mars Hill (13.5).
The four-time NE-10 defensive player of the week is much happier, though, with where the Skyhawks are rather than his own success.
"You ask guys like Logan (Meyer, the quarterback) and Nate (Robitaille, a wide receiver) and whoever else has stats up there, too,'' said Harrington. "If you ask them what's the most important thing, they'll tell you the 8-2.
"The numbers that matter are in the win column. That's what makes our team so special. I don't think anybody cares about what they're doing. I think everybody cares about what we're doing.
"No one goes into a season thinking (about individual stats) like this. But all that's important is it's helping the team win. That's all I really care about.''
Harrington made a total of 25 tackles in his first two seasons, playing mostly on kickoff and punt teams, and was named the program's special teams player of the year in 2012.
He was going to be in the rotation at linebacker this season, then roommate and fellow linebacker Mike Hogan was diagnosed with a heart ailment in the summer, and Harrington got the call to start at that position.
He has had at least 10 tackles in nine of the 10 games, getting 16 or more on five occasions.
"You really don't expect it, but we always preach if you work hard, good things will happen,'' said Stonehill coach Robert Talley of the numbers Harrington has put together. "He's such a testament to that.
"I'm not surprised because of how hard he works. Every practice, he's a kid out there working had. It really is great to have this success because he has worked so hard.''
Harrington, who has 21/2 sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery, is part of a defense that is second in the NE-10 in points allowed.
It has been a special season for the Skyhawks, and a special one for Harrington in his first chance to be a starter.
"It's fun,'' said the criminology major. "The first two years, I was used primarily as a special teams guy. That was my role on the team and I had no problem with it.
"This year, they asked to increase my work load. I was excited by the opportunity. I'm having fun now.''
After never making it to the EMass. Super Bowl while at Rockland High, Harrington has a chance to win a championship if Stonehill can get past AIC.
"It's pretty exciting,'' he said. "We came close my junior and senior year losing in the playoffs in high school. I never got to taste what it was going to be in an actually championship game, so this is exciting.''