August 29th, 2023 4:00pm
Welcome to the 2023 PSAC football season. Week One consists of 15 non-league games for the teams from the PSAC. California (PA), from the PSAC West, is the only team that will be idle. The order of the team previews in this column, and a look at the Week One games, is based upon the ranking for each team in the 2023 PSAC East and West preseason polls. Before the PSAC preseason poll was released, I gave my four keys to watch for early this season. In the PSAC West, they were IUP’s offense and Slippery Rock’s defense. In the PSAC East, they were Shepherd’s defense and Kutztown’s offense. Those four teams were ranked one and two in their division in the PSAC preseason polls. Unlike last year, there are no new head coaches in the PSAC this season. The season number and record listed for each head coach below is representative of their current position and not inclusive of other college head coaching experience. The game of the week involving a team from the PSAC for Week One will feature two D2Football.com Top 25 teams. #14 Ashland (GMAC) will visit #12 IUP (PSAC West) on Thursday night. It will be a rematch from the Super Region One playoffs from last season. IUP won that contest 19-13. As I did last year, I will give my prediction for each PSAC game being played. Last season, I correctly predicted the winner for 76 out of 101 (75.25%) of the games played. It’s now time to take a look at each PSAC team and their 2023 season openers.
1. Shepherd (#13 in the D2Football.com Preseason Top 25 Poll)
Head Coach: Ernie McCook (6th Season / Record 44-10)
The Team: Shepherd went 13-2 overall in 2022 and finished 8th in the final D2Football.com Top 25 Poll. The Rams lost to IUP in the PSAC title game but won the rematch beating the Crimson Hawks in the NCAA Super Region One championship game. The Rams then fell to Colorado School of Mines in the semifinals. It goes without saying, replacing last year’s standouts on offense, Tyson Bagent who is now the back-up quarterback for the Bears, offensive lineman Joey Fisher who went to the 49ers, running back Ronnie Brown who went to the Buccaneers, and tight end Brian Walker who went to rookie camp with the Ravens, is no easy task. Last year’s offensive coordinator, Tyler Haines, is also gone and is now the head coach at Catawba in the SAC. On a positive note, three starters return on the offensive line. Ty Lucas, Wyatt Pellicano, and Chandler Brown should pave the way up front. Seth Morgan has transferred in at quarterback from VMI. Rodney Dorsey is the top returning receiver from a year ago. He had 35 catches for 487 yards with four touchdowns in 2022. Nazhir Russell is poised to be the starter at running back. The Rams are looking at returning eight starters on defense including linebacker Dewayne Grantham who had 93 tackles a year ago and defensive back Klayton Batten who are both top defensive players in the PSAC East. Malik Halloway, who had 24 tackles, six sacks, and 10 tackles for loss last season, returns on the defensive line. As usual, there are high expectations in Shepherdstown and the Rams should rise to the challenge and again be in the hunt when the Super Region One rankings and playoff bracket announcement time rolls around. The way they get there may just look a little different with the athletic defense leading the charge this season. Shepherd hosts Kutztown on September 23rd in what may be the game that decides who represents the East in the PSAC championship game. Both teams are very capable of running the table with the rest of their games in the East.
Week One: Southern Connecticut State (NE10) at #13 Shepherd (PSAC East) – 9/2/23 at 12 Noon
My Prediction: #13 Shepherd – The Rams should win big at home against the Owls who were picked sixth in the NE10 preseason poll.
Head Coach: Jim Clements (9th Season / Record 67-25)
The Team: The Golden Bears are returning veteran Donny Blaine at quarterback. He had 138 completions for 1,920 yards with 15 touchdown passes last season. Darryl Davis-McNeil returns at running back after rushing for 1,013 yards on 194 carries and 13 touchdowns a year ago. Gone is wide receiver Jerome Kapp who has been with the Jets this NFL preseason. How quickly this year’s group starts clicking will be a huge factor for the outcome of the season and the reason that I picked this unit as one of my keys to watch in the PSAC. Defensive Coordinator Eric Fargo has some key returning players including D2Football.com Elite 100 watch list defensive back CJ Brown who leads a veteran secondary. Linebacker Tyler Whary, who had 56 tackles, five tackles for a loss, and four sacks last season, also returns for the Golden Bears. This unit should be solid as usual. The Golden Bears travel to Shepherd on September 23rd in what may be an early season game which decides who is on top in the PSAC East in November.
My Prediction: Kutztown – Both teams are picked second in their conference preseason polls. Kutztown lost the opener 3-0 to Assumption last season, the outcome will be different in 2023.
3. West Chester
Head Coach: Bill Zwaan (21st Season / 157-71)
The Team: Cooper Jordan, the PSAC East Rookie of the Year in 2022, returns at quarterback. The Golden Rams also return their starting offensive line from last season. On defense, West Chester needs to overcome the loss of PSAC East Defensive Athlete of the Year Jackson Taylor who transferred to Delaware. A veteran secondary will need to step up early as questions on the defensive line and at linebacker get answered. Sean Henry returns to handle the kicking duties which also included taking over punting responsibilities late in the season last year. The wild card for West Chester is the impact that will be made by the transfers who they brought in including running back Trey Blair, a possible replacement for Ja’Den McKenzie who transferred to Rhode Island, and linebacker Connor Noble, both from Temple, along with safety Shane Mosely from Maryland.
Week One: WCU (PSAC East) at Bentley (NE10) – 9/2/23 at 1:00 PM
My Prediction: West Chester – Both teams were picked third in their conference preseason polls. The Falcons are at home but under a new head coach, Saj Thakkar. The visitors have not fared well in this on-going season opener series but the Golden Rams are looking to change that trend this year.
4. East Stroudsburg
Head Coach: Jimmy Terwilliger (4th Season / Record 16-19)
The Team: The Warriors made strides moving forward last season giving both IUP and Kutztown a run for their money. With seven returning starters on offense, including running backs Tyriq Lewis and Tahir Mills, things are looking promising. The defense returns nine starters including D2Football Elite 100 and multiple watch list defensive end Deshawn McCarthy. Linebacker Sergei Felizor, who had 103 tackles last season, also returns. D2Football.com Elite 100 watch list kicker, Devin Bartholomew, who made 17 field goals last season and was perfect on 28 extra point attempts, is also back for the Warriors.
Week One: Pace (NE10) at East Stroudsburg (PSAC East) – 8/31/23 at 7:05 PM
My Prediction: East Stroudsburg – Both teams are picked fourth in their conference preseason polls. The Warriors should get the season started on a positive note beating the Setters at home in a newly upgraded Eiler-Martin Stadium.
Head Coach: J.C. Morgan (6th Season / Record: 11-33)
The Team: The Marauders return 10 starters on offense including quarterback Robert Footman Jr. and running back Jaheim Morris who rushed for 822 yards last season and had 10 touchdowns. On defense, Millersville returns eight starters including Isaiah Onuschak and Garrett Cox at linebacker.
Week One: Saint Anselm (NE10) at Millersville (PSAC East)
My Prediction: Millersville – Both teams were picked fifth in their conference’s preseason polls. With a large number of returning starters, the Marauders will continue their momentum from the second half of last season and get the win at home.
Head Coach: Mark “Mac” Maciejewski (13th Season / Record 80-44)
The Team: The Raiders return a weapon in wide receiver and return specialist Redd Douglas. Shippensburg is also returning a few guys on both the offensive and defensive lines.
Week One: Newberry (SAC) at Shippensburg (PSAC East) – 9/2/23 at 12 Noon
My Prediction: Newberry – The Wolves have lost some of their fire power from their 9-2 team last season, but they will win the season opener.
Head Coach: Frank Sheptock (3rd Season / Record 7-15)
The Team: The Huskies are returning quarterback KJ Riley, running back Kaleb Monaco, and tight end Matthew Bowes on offense. Quentin Gaskill, one of the top defensive backs in the PSAC last season, returns on defense.
Week One: Bloomsburg (PSAC East) at Fairmont State (MEC)
My Prediction: Bloomsburg – The Huskies take care of business on the road against the Falcons, ranked ninth in the MEC preseason poll, and open the season with a win.
8. Lock Haven
Head Coach: Dan Mulrooney (2nd Season / Record 1-10)
The Team: The Bald Eagles are looking to take another step forward this season under Coach Mulrooney. Returning on offense is running back DeAndre Wakefield and a core group of offensive linemen. The defense returns a group of experienced defensive backs. The Bald Eagles have also brought in eight transfers including Cody Romano, a linebacker from Penn State, and Mister Hogue, a running back from Alabama.
Week One: Post (Independent) at Lock Haven (PSAC East) - 9/2/23 at 1:00 PM
1. IUP (#12 in the D2Football.com Preseason Top 25 Poll)
Head Coach: Paul Tortorella (6th Season / Record 48-11)
The Team: IUP went 10-2 overall in 2022, winning the PSAC championship by beating Shepherd but losing the rematch in the Super Region One championship playoff game. They finished 10th in the final D2Football.com Top 25 Poll. Without question, the biggest news for the Crimson Hawks was the addition of quarterback Karst Hunter, a grad transfer from Colorado Mesa where he was the RMAC freshman of the year in 2021 and a two-year starter at CMU after transferring from South Dakota State. Hunter has two years of eligibility left. IUP is returning only four starters on offense but that list does include returning all-conference running back Dayjure Stewart. How quickly they can reload is why I listed the Crimson Hawk offense as one of my keys to watch in the march towards the PSAC championship in November. On defense, IUP will be solid with nine returning starters. The defensive secondary will be a strength for this unit and linebacker Drew Dinunzio-Biss, an all-conference player who was the team leader in tackles a year ago with 88, is also back this season. In the off season, the Crimson Hawks brought in several Division II transfers, including Karst Hunter’s teammate from CMU, wide receiver Sebastian Campbell, and former Division I FBS linebacker Ethan Heister from West Virginia. IUP will travel to Slippery Rock at the end of September. That match up could decide who will represent the PSAC West in the PSAC championship game. Both teams have the potential to run the table in the rest of the games in division play.
My Prediction: #12 IUP – This is the PSAC game of the week. The Crimson Hawks can make an early statement by beating the Eagles, who were picked as the top team in the GMAC preseason poll. IUP beat Ashland 19-13 in the second round of the playoffs last season. Ashland will take on #1 Ferris State, the defending national champion, next week in week two of the season.
2. Slippery Rock (#16 in the D2Football.com Preseason Top 25 Poll)
Head Coach: Shawn Lutz (8th Season / Record 58-17)
The Team: Slippery Rock went 10-3 overall in 2022 and finished 15th in the final D2Football.com Top 25 Poll. Slippery Rock’s season ended when they lost to Shepherd in the second round of the Super Region One playoffs. Gone on offense are all-conference performers quarterback Noah Grover and tight end Max Maciejewski. That said, the Rock is bringing back five guys who have experience starting on the offensive line, standout running back Chris D’Or and four receivers including D2Football.com Elite 100 watch list wide receiver Kyle Sheets. A key addition on the offensive side of the ball is Akron wide receiver, and All-MAC punt returner, Tony Grimes. Brayden Long, who made one start in 2022, is projected to lead the offense at quarterback. Eight guys with starting experience are returning for Slippery Rock on defense. Notable departures are two linemen in Jeff Marx and DJ Adediwura who have held things down up front the last few seasons and are a big part of why I listed the Slippery Rock defense as one of my keys to how this season unfolds. The Rock has a solid group of newcomers which include a solid freshmen class but also some Division I FBS transfers who will be asked to step in and make plays from the start. Andrew Vince, a linebacker transfer from Rutgers, is expected to start at defensive end and Sherman Hatton is a defensive tackle transfer from Marshall. Kyle Kudla is an All-American linebacker grad transfer from Hillsdale. Slippery Rock hosts IUP at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium on September 30th. The winner of that game may very likely be in the driver’s seat to represent the PSAC West in the PSAC championship game in November.
Week One: Wayne State (GLIAC) at #16 Slippery Rock (PSAC West) – 9/2/23 at 6:00 PM
My Prediction: #16 Slippery Rock – The Rock will take care of business at home against the Warriors, who were picked to finish sixth in the GLIAC preseason poll.
Head Coach: Gary Dunn (8th Season / Record 49-18)
The Team: Wyatt Hirt looks to replace now departed long time starting quarterback Noah Mitchell. Eric McKan III returns at running back. He had 587 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Veteran linebacker Matt Tobey returns to lead the defense. Kicker Anthony Beitko, a two time all-conference selection, also returns for the Vulcans on special teams.
Week One: Idle – The Vulcans were scheduled to play Alderson Broaddus (MEC). The Battlers season has been canceled. The season opener will now be at home on September 9th when Kutztown from the PSAC East visits in crossover action.
Head Coach: Erik Raeburn (4th Season / Record 14-12)
The Team: The Golden Knights held a piece of the PSAC West title last season and return eight starters on offense, including wide receiver Ke’John Batiste, but need to replace their starting quarterback and running back from a year ago. Quarterback Bryce Bearss has transferd in from New Mexico State. Six starters from last season are returning on defense including safety Chris Farnworth who is one of the top defensive backs in the PSAC.
Week One: Gannon (PSAC West) at Charleston (MEC) – 8/31/23 at 7:00 PM
My Prediction: Gannon – The Golden Knights go on the road and beat the Golden Eagles, who were picked fourth in the MEC preseason poll.
Head Coach: Jake Nulph (4th Season / Record 9-12)
The Team: The Fighting Scots return their top six leading revivers from a year ago on offense. On defense, Clay Cunningham and Wilfredo Diaz both return at linebacker. Standout Reed Martin returns as the punter.
Week One: Edinboro (PSAC West) at Duquesne (NEC) – 9/2/23 at 12 Noon
My Prediction: Duquesne – The Division I FCS Dukes will win this one at home. The Dukes play Division I FBS West Virginia next week after opening the season with Edinboro.
6. Seton Hill
Head Coach: Dan Day (5th Season / Record 9-23)
The Team: The Griffins return nine starters on offense including quarterback Eddie Scott as well as some veteran running backs and receivers. On defense, they have lost their top three tacklers from a year ago.
Week One: Seton Hill (PSAC West) at Wheeling (MEC) – 8/31/23 at 7:00 PM
My Prediction: Wheeling – The Cardinals were picked to finish seventh in the MEC preseason poll. They get the win at home in West Virginia in the opener.
Head Coach: Raymond Monica (2nd Season / Record 3-8)
The Team: Monica was the head coach at Kutztown in the PSAC East from 2006-2012. He is also a former AFCA Super Region 1 Coach of the Year and a two-time PSAC East Coach of the Year. On offense for Clarion, Khalil Owens returns at running back. He had over 1,000 yards combined rushing and receiving last season. Linebacker Kareem Hamden returns on defense.
Week One: Clarion (PSAC West) at Lincoln (CIAA) – 8/31/23 at 7:00 PM
My Prediction: Clarion – The Golden Eagles travel to southeastern Pennsylvania to get the win in the season opener over the Lions, who were picked tenth in the CIAA preseason poll.
Head Coach: Ryan Riemedio (2nd Season / Record 2-9)
The Team: The Lakers return running back Dustin Shoaf and wide receiver Cameron Barmore on offense.
Week One: Mercyhurst (PSAC West) at Ferris State (GLIAC) – 8/31/23 at 7:00 PM
My Prediction: Ferris State – The Lakers have the biggest challenge of any team in the PSAC Week One traveling to Michigan and taking on the defending National Champion Bulldogs.