Hawks Meet Falcons in a Battle of High-Flying Offenses Friday Night

Michael Pierce
Michael Pierce


MANCHESTER, N.H. – The Saint Anselm College football team will take to the road for the first time in 2011 when it travels to Bentley University on Friday, Sept. 23 at 7 p.m., in a battle of two of the Northeast-10 Conference's top three offenses.

The Hawks and Falcons meet for the 11th time ever, with Bentley winning the first 10 meetings. In the most recent meeting, Saint Anselm suffered a 52-7 defeat in its home opener on Homecoming at Grappone Stadium on Sept. 18, 2010.

Bentley converted on its first drive as Bryant Johnson found John Malone on a seven-yard scoring pass for the 7-0 lead with 9:45 left in the first period. Saint Anselm answered right back with a 14-play, 63-yard drive that covered 5:40 and was capped off by a seven-yard touchdown run by freshman Keith Charles, the first of his career.

The Falcons took the lead late in the first quarter as Johnson found senior tight end Mike Slattery from seven yards out to take the 14-7 lead. After adding a pair of TD's in the second period, led by a 51-yard rush by freshman Lorenzo Warren, the Falcons extended the advantage with a 21-point third quarter and led 45-7 entering the fourth period. Bentley capped off the scoring on a late touchdown run by Joshua Marsh to account for the 52-7 final score.

Offensively for Saint Anselm, Charles led the team in rushing with 16 carries for 64 yards and one touchdown, while sophomore quarterback Michael Pierce was 15-for-29 for 147 yards passing. Junior All-American candidate Marc Wilson led the team with seven receptions for 54 yards, while senior Marcel Bouie was the team leader in all-purpose yards with 128. On defense, senior Jason Nguyen was the leading tackler with nine total tackles, along with a pair of pass breakups.

For the Falcons, Warren led the offense with seven rushes for 131 yards and two touchdowns, while Johnson complete 20-of-27 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns. Slattery led the receivers with six catches for 75 yards, while Warren piled up 145 all-purpose yards.

With the loss, Saint Anselm slipped to 0-3 overall and 0-1 in the Northeast-10, while Bentley improved to 1-2 overall and 1-0 in league play.

Junior QB Mike Pierce recorded his seventh career 300-yard passing game with 315 yards against Southern Connecticut State on Sept. 17. Pierce, who was 33-for-57 with four TDs, leads the Northeast-10 and is 18th, nationally, with 289.5 passing yards per game.

Senior WR Marc Wilson ranks fifth in the nation with 199.5 all-purpose yards per game. That number was helped last week when Wilson returned an 80-yard kickoff for a touchdown and caught 10 passes for 118 yards against Southern Connecticut on Sept. 17.

Senior WR Marc Wilson and sophomore WR Justin Bernard have provided a 1-2 ­– or if you go by their league ranking in receiving yards, a 2-3 – punch at the receiver position. Bernard, who leads the nation with 12 receptions per game, is putting up 99.5 yards per game, while Wilson is just behind at 94.0 ypg. The two combined for 21 catches, 225 yards and two touchdowns against Southern Connecticut on Sept. 17.

The Saint Anselm defense forced five turnovers, including four interceptions, against Southern Connecticut on Sept. 17. The four interceptions are the most for the Hawks since they recorded four against Bentley on Oct. 25, 2008, while the five turnovers are the most since forcing five last season against Stonehill on Oct. 30. The team's seven interceptions through two games this season are just three shy of last season's entire total. Sophomore DB Trevor Jesse leads the nation with three interceptions.

Sophomore RB Keith Charles put together his best game in a Saint Anselm uniform against 20th-ranked Kutztown on Sept. 3. Charles ran for 100 yards on 15 carries (6.7 average) and scored three times, including a 54-yard jaunt in the third quarter - the second longest rush of his career.

Junior QB Mike Pierce racked up over 300 yards of total offense against 20th-ranked Kutztown on Sept. 3. Pierce was 28-for-52 passing for 264 yards and a touchdown to go along with his 51 yards on the ground.

Sophomore WR Justin Bernard reeled in 13 catches against 20th-ranked Kutztown on Sept. 3. Bernard was one reception shy of matching his career high of 14, which he set in a 35-26 win at New Haven last season Nov. 6.

The Hawks amassed 438 yards of total offense against 20th-ranked Kutztown on Sept. 3, including 174 on the ground, which marked the first time since their 2008 meeting that the Hawks ran for 100-plus yards against the Golden Bears.

Redshirt-freshman LB Isaac Jorgensen was named the Northeast-10 Rookie of the Week on Sept. 4 after he intercepted two passes, including one that set up Saint Anselm's first touchdown and brought the Hawks within seven points early on in their Sept. 3 meeting with 20th-ranked Kutztown. Jorgensen also recorded five tackles in the contest, including one for a six-yard loss.

The Hawks were picked to finish eighth in the Northeast-10 Preseason Coaches' Poll that was released last week. New Haven was chosen as the favorite to win the conference after collecting six-first place votes and point total of 59 to narrowly edge Southern Connecticut, which earned two first-place votes and 58 total points. Merrimack, which received the other first-place vote, came in third with 47 points. With 43 points, Bentley edged AIC (42) for the fourth-place slot. Assumption (28) and Stonehill (23) checked in at the sixth and seventh spots, with Saint Anselm (16) and Pace (8) rounding out the poll.

While the Saint Anselm College football team enters 2011 following a 2-8 season, expectations are riding higher for fourth-year head coach Patrick Murphy and his squad. The Hawks, who featured the conference's second-highest passing offense a year ago, return the bulk of their impact players and will add a group of talented newcomers that will form what coach Murphy hopes is a drastically improved team.

With leadership from captains Marc Wilson (Farmington, Conn.), a BSN Preseason All-American wide receiver, and 2010 ECAC All-Star linebacker Shane O'Donnell (Dracut, Mass.), along with LB Kyle Hayes (Merritt Island, Fla.) and offensive lineman Jake Smith (Fort Myers, Fla.), the Hawks have the experience to compete in the competitive Northeast-10.

While the Saint Anselm offense has garnered most of the attention the last couple of seasons, Murphy would like to see it become more consistent. It helps that the bulk of the Hawks' impact players, including eight starters, are returning, minus the graduated Marcel Bouie, who caught 45 passes for 578 yard and four touchdowns. Murphy is also excited about a defense he believes is dramatically better than last season and is bigger, stronger and faster than any he has coached in his three years on the Hilltop.


Murphy and his staff will expect a lot out of junior Mike Pierce (Andover, Mass.), who will be back under center for the Hawks after completing 54 percent of his passes for 2,214 yards and 15 touchdowns. Pierce's back-up will be 6-foot-2-inch, 185-pound freshman Stephen Cuipa (Merrimack, N.H.) out of Bishop Guertin Academy.

Offensive Line

Murphy believes that the offense becoming more consistent will depend largely on how quickly the offensive line gels. That should be aided by the fact that the o-line will feature four upperclassmen, including three starters from a year ago. Smith, at right tackle, will help anchor the line along with standouts, junior P.J. Senatore (Norwell, Mass.) and sophomore Dave Boardman (Westfield, Mass.), who was a Northeast-10 All-Rookie Team member a year ago after appearing in nine games and helping the team to 924 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns.

Running Back

Sophomore Keith Charles (Laurel, Md.) leads the charge in the Hawks' backfield after coming off a Northeast-10 All-Rookie Team campaign that saw him carry the ball 152 times and finish with 565 yards and a team-best six rushing touchdowns. Charles, who Murphy said is as good a back as anyone in the league because of his ability to run, pass and block, also caught 38 passes for 371 yards and a touchdown as he finished with 936 all-purpose yards. His best rushing game came at Assumption as he ran seven times for 86 yards and three touchdowns. In the upset of 22nd-ranked New Haven, Charles pulled down four passes for a total of 100 yards as he finished with 168 all-purpose yards in the game. Classmate Greg Bell (Liverpool, N.Y.), who appeared in nine games last year and carried twice for five yards, will open the year as Charles' back-up.

Wide Receiver

Led by Wilson, the receiving corps is filled with reliable targets for Pierce to throw to, including sophomore Justin Bernard (Cambridge, Mass.). Wilson, an All Northeast-10 Second Teamer last season, and Bernard, a Northeast-10 All-Rookie Team selection, make up what Murphy believes is the best 1-2 receiver punch in the league. Murphy called Wilson, "the straw that stirs the drink," and said he has been Mr. Everything for Saint Anselm. Wilson, one of the top offensive players in Saint Anselm history, led the team in total receptions last season with 57 catches, despite playing in only seven games due to injury. Wilson finished with 519 total receiving yards and caught a team-high five touchdown passes. In his absence, Bernard stepped up over the final three games to reel in 31 passes, including a touchdown, while averaging 110 yards per contest. Six-three junior Craig Dennis (Atlantic City, N.J.), who made 29 catches for 309 yards and a touchdown in 10 games last season, will also provide Pierce with another weapon down the field.

Tight End

Murphy is excited about the development of his tight ends, especially 6-3, 235-pound redshirt-freshman Pete Carbone (Hopkinton, Mass.), who switched over to tight end after practicing on the defensive line last season. Six-four sophomore Chris Chapman (Bronx, N.Y.) is healthy and had a good training camp, while 6-4 freshman Brian DeAngelis (Peabody, Mass.) will also be in the mix.

Defensive Line

Murphy has high expectations for the defensive line and is expecting a lot out of sophomore Andrew Lebowitz (Andover, Mass.), who is coming off a Northeast-10 All-Rookie Team campaign in which he played every defensive snap for the Hawks, finishing with 31 tackles, two sacks for a loss of 16 yards, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and two quarterback hurries. His 31 total tackles ranked him ninth on the team and second among freshmen. Lebowitz will be joined up front by sophomore Lou Licciardi (East Falmouth, Mass.) and juniors Mike Hobbs (Medford, Mass.), Tyler Williams (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) and Derek Brewer (Walpole, N.H.).


The Hawks are solid in the middle of their defense at linebacker, a position that features three upperclassmen, including O'Donnell and Hayes. O'Donnell, who was an All Northeast-10 Second Team selection, finished third on the team in total tackles with 61, including 39 solo stops, and also posted two double-digit tackle performances, including a season-best 12 tackles in a road loss at Assumption. O'Donnell recorded two sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pair of pass breakups. Hayes, who is always around the ball, ranked sixth on the team with 38 tackles, including five for a loss, and added an interception, two fumble recoveries and seven pass breakups. Juniors Chris Bent (Dracut, Mass.) and Brendan Timmons (Franklin, Mass.) will further bolster the linebacker corps. Bent led the team in total tackles with 73, including nine for a loss, while adding half a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Timmons was fourth with 60 stops, including nine for a loss of 40 yards and a pair of sacks for 19 yards. He also forced a fumble and recovered another.


Sophomore Ethan Sylvain (East Montpelier, Vt.), the 2009 Northeast-10 Rookie of the Year, is healthy after playing in just the first two games of last season before suffering an injury and will be counted on to help strengthen a pass defense that ranked seventh in the conference a year ago. Classmate Daniel Ruiz (Framingham, Mass.), redshirt-freshman Jason Busfield (Hampton, N.H.) and true freshman Ryan Havey (North Reading, Mass.) will all add depth at the position.


The Hawks are most improved in the secondary where sophomore Trevor Jesse (Cumberland, Md.) and redshirt-sophomore Jordan Colas (North Plainfield, N.J.) will look to shut down opposing receivers. Jessie recorded 29 tackles, one interception, four pass breakups and recovered a fumble last season, while Colas returns after receiving a medical redshirt in 2010. Junior Tyler Crawford (Lamoine, Maine), who will start at one corner spot, made 25 tackles and broke up five passes a year ago.

Special Teams

Junior Shea Cerio (Canastota, N.Y.) will handle both kicking and punting duties this season after serving as the punter last year when he averaged 34.1 yards on his 58 punts. Sophomore Tommy Donovan (Holliston, Mass.) will push Cerio at punter, while sophomore Stan Pacuk (Plainville, Mass.) will be the backup kicker. Ruiz and freshman Billy Darling (South Portland, Maine) will handle long snapping duties. Wilson and speedy freshman Cortez Taylor (Alexandria, Va.) will return kicks, with Taylor also bringing back punts. Wilson averaged 16.8 yards on his 19 kick returns last season.

Coaching Staff

While Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Rob Eggerling and Defensive Line/Special Teams Coach John Trisciani are back, five new assistants join Murphy's staff for the 2011 campaign. Kevin Doherty will serve as the Defensive Backfield Coach/Assistant Head Coach for Defense. Robin Bowkett will coach the wide receivers and will be handling Recruiting Coordinator responsibilities. In addition to coaching the offensive line, Chris Mosley will serve as both the Video Coordinator and Director of Football Operations. Allistair Sebastien will coach the running backs, while former Bishop Guertin head coach and current BG athletic director, Tony Johnson, will lead the outside linebackers.

Grappone Stadium

The home of the Hawks, Grappone Stadium, also received a major makeover as the old grass surface was replaced with a new synthetic Field Turf and lights were added, making night football on the Hilltop a future possibility.