Crusaders Set To Open Season Against Sacred Heart

Aug. 29, 2005

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Game Day Quick Facts
The Teams: Holy Cross (0-0, 0-0 PL) vs. Sacred Heart (0-0, 0-0 NEC)
Date: September 3, 2005
Time: 1:00 p.m.
Place: Fitton Field (23,500), Worcester, Mass.
Television: WCTR TV-3, Worcester; Kevin Shea, play-by-play; Andy Lacombe, color
Holy Cross Radio: WTAG 580 AM, Worcester; Bob Fouracre, play-by-play; Tom Kelleher, color; www.sportsjuice.com, internet
Sacred Heart Radio: WHRT 91.5 FM, Fairfield; Jeff Holtz, play-by-play; Gene Gumbs, color
Series Record: First Meeting

The Series With Sacred Heart
This will be the first meeting between the Crusaders and the Pioneers on the gridiron. The game will also mark the first time Holy Cross has ever faced an opponent from the Northeast Conference. In addition, Sacred Heart will be taking on a team from the Patriot League for the first time in its history.

For Openers
Holy Cross will start its 110th season of intercollegiate football with the game against Sacred Heart. The Crusaders have always been excellent on opening day, posting a record of 64-36-9 in their season debuts. Even though Holy Cross has lost its opener each of the last two seasons, the Crusaders had a three-game winning streak on opening day from 2000-2002. Since the beginning of the 1980 season, Holy Cross stands 16-8-1 in its opener. The Crusaders have also been impressive in their opening home game of the season, posting an all-time mark of 74-27-7. Holy Cross has a 5-3 record in home openers over the last eight years, with the last victory coming over Georgetown in 2003 (42-34).

Crusaders Return 10 Of 11 Starters On Offense
Holy Cross will enter the 2005 season with 10 of its 11 starters returning on the offensive side of the ball, including every player at the skill positions. Seven other letterwinners also return to the offense this season, as 17 of the 22 players on the Crusaders' final offensive two-deep from last fall are back in 2005. The returning players accounted for 100.0 percent of the team's passing yards, 92.2 percent of the team's rushing yards and 96.8 percent of the team's receiving yards last season. Holy Cross is the only team in the Patriot League to return its top rusher, passer and receiver from the 2004 season.

A Good One-Two Punch
Holy Cross will have two of the top running backs in the Patriot League this year, in seniors Steve Silva (East Providence, R.I.) and Gideon Akande (Chicago, Ill.). Last season, Silva led the team in both rushing yards (708 yards on 161 carries) and receptions (60 catches for 507 yards), in addition to scoring a team-high 11 touchdowns. He became the first Crusader since Gordie Lockbaum in 1986 to lead the team in both receptions and rushing yards, while his 1,663 all-purpose yards were the most in the Patriot League. Over the course of his four-year career as a Crusader, Silva has rushed for 1,733 yards and 22 touchdowns on 426 carries, while catching 100 passes for 826 yards and a score. Akande ran for 324 yards on 83 carries in 2004, while recording 17 receptions for 85 yards. During his career at Holy Cross, Akande has totaled 1,557 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 351 carries, in addition to catching 50 passes for 435 yards and three scores. Both Silva and Akande have a chance to break the 2,000-yard mark in career rushing yards this season, something which only six players in Holy Cross history have accomplished.

O'Neil To Lead Aerial Attack
Senior quarterback John O'Neil (White Plains, N.Y.) returns for his third year as the starting signal caller for Holy Cross in 2005. Last season, O'Neil completed 193 of 356 attempts for 2,022 yards and 18 touchdowns. He finished 2004 ranked third in the Patriot League in both passing yards and total offense, while placing fifth on the Holy Cross single season list for passing attempts and ninth for passing yards. Over the course of his career as a Crusader, O'Neil has now completed 409 of 731 passes for 4,596 yards and 37 touchdowns. Entering his senior season, O'Neil is currently ranked fourth all-time at Holy Cross in career completions, attempts, passing touchdowns and completions percentage (56.0), and fifth in career passing yards and yards of total offense (4,929).

Holy Cross Receivers Look To Be Strong In 2005
This season, all eight players off the 2004 Holy Cross team who caught at least 10 passes will be back in uniform. This includes the Crusaders' top four wide receivers, in senior Sean Gruber (Richwood, Ky.), senior Bob Turkovich (Bedford, Pa.), senior Bryan Anderson (Shrewsbury, Mass.) and sophomore Thomas Harrison (Wilmington, N.C.). Last season, Gruber led the team with 720 receiving yards and eight receiving touchdowns, while ranking second on the team in catches with 48. Turkovich had 20 receptions for 211 yards and a score last season, despite missing four games due to injury. Anderson totaled 17 catches for 185 yards in 2004, while Thomas Harrison had 12 receptions for 160 yards and a touchdown. In addition, Holy Cross returns one of the Patriot League's top tight ends in fifth-year senior Luke Dugan (Maple Plain, Minn.). Last year, Dugan recorded 17 catches for 202 yards and three scores.

Holy Cross Picked Sixth In Patriot League Preseason Poll
The 2005 Crusaders have been picked to finish in sixth place in a preseason poll of the Patriot League's coaches and sports information directors. In addition, Mark Borda of Lehigh has been named the preseason Offensive Player of the Year, Sean Conover of Bucknell was chosen as the preseason Defensive Player of the Year, and Dante Ross of Bucknell was selected as the preseason Special Teams Player of the Year.

 

Rank  School (1st place votes)  2004 Record  Points
  1.  Lehigh (8)               9-3 / 5-1 PL      68
  2.  Lafayette (3)            8-4 / 5-1 PL      61
  3.  Colgate (1)              7-4 / 4-2 PL      49
  4.  Fordham (2)              5-6 / 2-4 PL      41
  5.  Bucknell                 7-4 / 4-2 PL      40
  6.  Holy Cross               3-8 / 1-5 PL      20
  7.  Georgetown               3-8 / 0-6 PL      15

DeSantis Looks To Have Another Strong Year In 2005
Junior Mike DeSantis (Belle Mead, N.J.) looks to once again be among the Patriot League's top placekickers in 2005, after earning second team all-conference honors for the Crusaders in 2004. DeSantis hit on seven of 10 field goal attempts last year, in addition to making 29 of 30 extra points for a total of 50 points. His biggest kick of last year came in the season finale at Georgetown, when he hit a 35-yard field goal in overtime to win the game. He also kicked a career-long 41-yard field goal in the 2004 victory at Dartmouth. From Oct. 25, 2003-Oct. 30, 2004, DeSantis tied a school record with a streak of nine consecutive field goals made. He also had a streak of 40 straight extra points made from Oct. 25, 2003-Nov. 13, 2004, which was the second-longest string in school history. Entering his junior season, DeSantis has made 14 of 20 career field goals and 62 of 70 career extra points.

Crusaders To Have Tri-Captains
Holy Cross will have three captains during the 2005 football season. Senior tailback Gideon Akande, senior quarterback John O'Neil and senior tailback Steve Silva were named the team's tri-captains by head coach Tom Gilmore following the conclusion of spring practice. Silva, who was also a co-captain during the 2004 campaign, becomes only the ninth player in school history to serve as a team captain for more than one season. Previous two-year captains were George Connor (1905-1906), Raymond Lynch (1916-1917), Thomas Lamb (1969-1970), Craig Cerratani (1977-1978), Ed Kutschke (1985-1986), John Aloisi (1998-1999), David Puloka (1999-2000) and Brian Hall (2001-2002).

Eight Crusaders Earn Preseason All-League Honors
Eight Holy Cross players were named to the 2005 preseason All-Patriot League team, as selected by I-AA.org. Senior center David Cannon (Export, Pa.), senior tight end Luke Dugan, senior wide receiver Sean Gruber and senior tailback Steve Silva were all chosen to the first team. In addition, junior placekicker Mike DeSantis, junior cornerback/kick returner Casey Gough (Hinsdale, Ill.), senior offensive guard Justin LaGrenade (Gaithersburg, Md.) and junior offensive tackle Andrew Schoepfer (Waterford, Conn.) were selected to the second team. Holy Cross' four first team selections were tied for the second most in the league, behind only Lehigh with six. The Crusaders' total of eight total players on the teams also tied for the second most in the conference, trailing just Lafayette with nine.

The Kickoff Kings
Last year, Holy Cross ranked near the top of the Patriot League and NCAA statistical leaders on kickoff returns. When receiving the ball, the Crusaders brought back 57 kicks for 1,350 yards, good for an average of 23.7 yards per return. That mark led the Patriot League and ranked fifth in the nation in all of Division I-AA. In addition, three different Crusaders finished the year ranked in the top 35 in the nation in kickoff return average. Casey Gough returned 15 kickoffs for 433 yards, with his average of 28.9 yards per return ranking fifth in the country. Steve Silva had 14 kickoff returns for 363 yards (25.9 yard average) to finish 17th in the nation, while Gideon Akande brought back 20 kickoffs for 473 yards (23.6 yard average) to place 32nd in the country. The players who accounted for 56 of Holy Cross' 57 kickoff returns last year all return in 2005.

Defending The Home Turf
Holy Cross has enjoyed great success at Fitton Field over the years. The Crusaders, who played their first game at Fitton Field in 1903, have posted an all-time home mark of 339-158-27 (.673). Fitton Field is the second-oldest stadium still used for Division I college football, behind only Franklin Field at the University of Pennsylvania (opened in 1895). Holy Cross' best decade at home occurred from 1980-1989, when the Crusaders recorded a 41-12-1 mark. In the current decade, the Crusaders have posted a mark of 11-16 at home. This season, Holy Cross is scheduled to play six contests at Fitton Field, including the current three-game homestand to open the year.

Holy Cross In The NCAA Statistics
Five Crusaders finished the 2004 season ranked among the NCAA Division I-AA leaders in various statistical categories. Holy Cross ranked seventh in the nation in kickoff returns as a team, with five players ranking in the top 50 as individuals. The rankings:

 

Category              Rank  Player/Team        Avg.
Solo Tackles             3  
David Fitzpatrick   6.5
Kickoff Returns          5  Holy Cross         23.7
                         5  
Casey Gough        28.9
                        17  
Steve Silva        25.9
                        32  
Gideon Akande      23.6
Fewest Penalties        11  Holy Cross          5.1
Fewest Penalty Yards    12  Holy Cross         44.5
All-Purpose Yards       15  
Steve Silva       151.2
Receptions              33  
Steve Silva         5.5
Completions             34  
John O'Neil        17.5
Total Tackles           35  
David Fitzpatrick   9.8
Points Responsible For  43  
John O'Neil        10.4
Total Offense           48  
John O'Neil       201.8

Crusaders On The Radio
All of Holy Cross' games in 2005 will be on WTAG 580 AM, the true sports leader for the city of Worcester. Bob Fouracre will be in his 36th season calling the play-by-play for Holy Cross football, and his 20th year covering the Crusaders on the radio. Former Holy Cross standout Tom Kelleher, who earned first team All-New England honors while leading the undefeated 1987 team in rushing, will be in his sixth year as the color commentator. The Crusaders' games will also be available free of charge over the internet at `www.sportsjuice.com'. In addition, WCHC 88.1 FM, the Holy Cross student station, will carry a number of games this year.

Holy Cross On Television
The Crusaders are scheduled have four games shown on live television during the 2005 season. Two home games this season will be televised on WCTR TV-3 (Worcester), against Sacred Heart on September 3 and Dartmouth on October 15. In addition, the October 8 contest at Lehigh will be carried by Service Electric Cable Television, while the November 12 game against Lafayette will be shown by the Lafayette Sports Network (RCN on Lehigh Valley Cable and WBPH TV-60 in Allentown, Pa.).

The Holy Cross Football Show Every Tuesday during the season, head coach Tom Gilmore will be joined by Bob Fouracre for the Holy Cross Football Show. The show airs live from 1:00-1:30 p.m. exclusively on the internet, with archives of all the shows available to those who can not listen in live. The show is carried free of charge at `www.sportsjuice.com'.

Crusaders Among Patriot League Leaders
Several Holy Cross players ranked at or near the top of the Patriot League standings in a number of statistical categories at the conclusion of the 2004 season. Steve Silva finished the year first in all-purpose yards (151.2 yards/game), second in receptions (5.5 catches/game), third in kickoff returns (25.9 yards/return), fifth in scoring (6.0 points/game) and fifth in receiving yards (46.1 yards/game), while Sean Gruber ranked third in receiving yards (65.5 yards/game), fourth in punt returns (4.4 yards/return) and fifth in receptions (4.4 catches/game). In addition, John O'Neil placed third in both total offense (201.8 yards/game) and passing yards (183.8 yards/game), Mike DeSantis ranked third in field goals made (0.6 field goals/game) and fourth in extra point percentage (96.7 percent), Casey Gough stood second in kickoff returns (28.9 yards/return), and Gideon Akande placed fourth in kickoff returns (23.6 yards/return). As a team, Holy Cross led the league in kickoff returns (23.7 yards/return), while standing second in passing offense (207.3 yards/game).

Head Coach Tom Gilmore
Tom Gilmore is in his second season as head coach at the College of the Holy Cross. He enters the 2005 campaign with an overall record of 3-8, as the Crusaders have won three of his last six games. Gilmore came to Holy Cross after serving as defensive coordinator at Lehigh University for four seasons, during which the Mountain Hawks were one of the finest defensive teams in Division I-AA. In 2001, he was named as the American Football Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year, after molding a young and inexperienced defense into a unit that allowed just 15.8 points per game and 86.6 yards rushing per game. Gilmore previously spent time as an assistant coach at Dartmouth (1992-1999), Pennsylvania (1986, 1990-1991) and Columbia (1987-1989). An Academic All-American at Pennsylvania, Gilmore graduated in 1986 with a bachelor's degree in computer mathematics. He was the Ivy League Player of the Year as a senior and helped lead the Quakers to four consecutive Ivy League titles.

Tradition Of Excellence
The 2005 campaign marks the 110th season of Holy Cross football. The Crusaders enter 2005 with an overall record of 556-449-54, good for a .551 winning percentage. Entering the 2005 season, Holy Cross' 556 all-time victories rank as the 13th most among all Division I-AA schools. Holy Cross has had 31 first team All-America selections, sent 69 players on to professional football, won five Lambert Cups, claimed five Patriot League championships, and was named the Division I-AA Team of the Year in 1987. The Crusaders also played in the 1946 Orange Bowl, losing to host Miami on the game's final play.

Scouting The Pioneers
Sacred Heart is coming off a 2004 season in which it posted an overall record 6-4 and placed fourth in the Northeast Conference with a 3-4 mark in league games. Senior tailback Ed Pricolo returns to lead the Pioneer offense, after rushing for 1,339 yards and 14 touchdowns on 209 carries last season. Sacred Heart also returns its top receiver from a year ago in junior wide out Joey Henley, who had 31 catches for 416 yards and five touchdowns in 2004. Junior Tyler Arciaga, a transfer from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, is projected to be the Pioneers' new starting quarterback this year. On the defensive side of the ball, Sacred Heart will be led by sophomore linebacker Jon Corto, who totaled 74 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions last year. Head coach Paul Gorham is in his second season at the helm of the Pioneers' program, and owns a career record of 6-4. Prior to his time at Sacred Heart, Gorham spent five years as an assistant coach at the University of Massachusetts.

Quick Hits
Three assistant coaches on the Holy Cross staff have been head coaches on the collegiate level. Offensive coordinator Bob Griffin was the head coach at Idaho State (1972-1975) and Rhode Island (1976-1992), defensive coordinator David Kotulski was the head coach at Bucknell (2002), and running backs coach Dave Patenaude was the head coach at New Haven (2002-2003).