Today: May 22, 2024

The New Campaign: Football, ready for season ahead

Andrew AnastasioSports Writer

On a gloomy Wednesday afternoon, the Owls football team participated in offseason preparations for the upcoming 2012 season.

Last year, the Owls finished their season second in the Northeast-10 Conference with an overall record of 7-3. Head coach Rich Cavanaugh said that in order for Southern football to pick up from last season, they need to execute as a team.

“We have a lot of new faces that are stepping into major roles,” said Cavanaugh. “Those guys really need to be productive individually, collectively and really gel as a team.  We need the guys who we think are playmakers to make plays for us. We need to be consistent in all phases of our game: offense, defense, and kicking game. Those are all a must for us to really start back up from where we left off.”

The Owls graduated 15 seniors last season, including starting running back Rashaad Slowley. Last year, Slowley accumulated 1,584 yards on the ground. He also scored 27 rushing touchdowns, which led the Northeast-10 Conference as well. Cavanaugh said replacing Slowley is going to be difficult.

“Rashaad Slowley certainly would rank as one of the greatest backs we’ve had here at Southern,” said Cavanaugh. “To replace him is not going to be very easy. We have some very capable young backs here right now. Vaughn Magee [Jr], J.W. Forte [Jr], Jack Mallis [So], John Moscatel [So] –  those are our tailbacks, all who are working very hard in practice. All of them have excellent ability, and we’re just going to have to make a decision as time goes on as to who is the most productive.”

The USA Football News recently named senior wide receiver Willie Epps and senior offensive lineman William Chaffin pre-season All-Americans. Epps, who is entering his final season with the Owls, is ranked fifth in school history with 22 touchdown receptions and receiving yards totaling 2,289. He is also seventh all-time in total receptions at 110. Despite his accomplishment, Epps said he has not focused on being named an All-American.

“To be honest with you, I really didn’t pay much attention to it,” said Epps. “I read that Chaffin and myself had been nominated for pre-season All Americans which is a good thing. But my philosophy is, nothing matters as to what is given to you before the season because nothing has happened. What matters is the end of the season, not only individually but as a team. That’s my main focus.”

Last season, the Owls defense ranked seventh in the Northeast-10 in points per game,  allowing 28.1. They also ranked fifth in points allowed with 281, third in yards per game with 356.8, and tied for first in the conference in interceptions at 18. Defensive Coordinator Michael Dodge said in order for the defense to improve, they need to be more aggressive at the line, and tighter in the secondary.

“We have to be able to put pressure on the quarterback without being too creative,” said Dodge. “We also have to play better downfield pass coverage, and take advantage of turnovers when the opportunities present themselves. Far too often we have the position to make the play and get the ball back to our offense, but for whatever reason we don’t finish it.”

The Owls open their season on Sept. 1 against Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Epps said work ethic will determine the team’s success.

“We just need to prepare,” said Epps. “The freshmen who have come in have tremendous amounts of talent. But the team as a whole –  the talent is there. We just need to come out and practice hard every day and execute the game plan that the coaches give us. As long as we do that and practice hard, we shouldn’t have any problems.”


GAME 1: @ Indiana (PA)

This is certainly not the start that the football team was looking for.

In its opener against Indiana (PA), the team was unable to get into any sort of rhythm. Outgained and outplayed, the team lost 33-6 last Saturday at Miller Stadium.

Owls football will play next at Stonehill on Saturday, September 8th at 1 p.m.

Touchdown runs by IUP running backs Harvey Tuck and redshirt freshman Montay Green put Indiana (PA) up 14-0. A six yard touchdown by Jacob Jablonski made it a game at 14-6, but not for long.

IUP pulled away, scoring once to end the half and outscoring the owls 16-0 in the second half. While Jablonski enjoyed a good day through the air, going 9-for-12 with a touchdown, IUP dominated Southern on the ground, amassing 310 yards rushing to the Owls 47.

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