Football Faces Road Test In Saturday's Season Opener At Alfred State

Football Faces Road Test In Saturday's Season Opener At Alfred State


CORSAIRS, PIONEERS SET FOR SEASON-OPENING CLASH:  UMass Dartmouth begins its 2018 season this afternoon with a tough road test, as the Corsairs battle the Alfred State Pioneers in a non-league clash.  UMass Dartmouth returns 40 letterwinners and 12 starters from a 2017 squad that posted four overall victories, including season-ending road triumphs at Massachusetts Maritime and Fitchburg State, and the Corsairs will field a very young squad comprised of 64 freshmen and sophomores (a total that represents nearly 72 percent of the roster).  Alfred State collected one triumph last fall, as the Pioneers feature a new head coach and a relatively young roster as well headed into a new campaign in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference.

THE SERIES:  Today’s match-up marks the first-ever meeting between UMass Dartmouth and Alfred State on the gridiron, as the Corsairs and Pioneers will match-up again in 2019 at Cressy Field.

THE CORSAIRS:  Sophomore Stephen Gacioch (Tiverton, R.I./Tiverton) amassed 1,078 yards of total offense a year ago, including 865 yards and seven touchdowns through the air, while senior Matt Mitchell (Westerly, R.I./Stonington) is UMass Dartmouth’s top returning running back after rushing for 122 yards and a score.  Junior Jace Pena (Riverside, R.I./LaSalle Academy) tossed for 1,264 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2017, while sophomore Leroy Brown (Milton, Mass./Milton) hauled in 24 receptions for 318 yards and three scores.  Junior Tony Slaughter (Springfield, Mass./Chicopee) is the top returnee on defense for the Corsairs, as he registered 57 total tackles (46 solo) to go with a pair of interceptions and a team-leading nine pass break-ups a year ago.

THE PIONEERS:  Sophomore Kiegan Brown is the top returning rusher for Alfred State after collecting 680 yards and eight touchdowns last season, while junior Dashown Wilson will take over as the starting quarterback.  Junior Jalen Long hauled in 19 receptions for 344 yards and five scores in 2017 for the Pioneers, while senior Austin Parker amassed 60 total tackles, including 45 solo stops, last fall.

HEAD COACH MARK ROBICHAUDMark Robichaud begins his 12th season as Head Football Coach at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth this afternoon.  A 1985 graduate of Springfield, Robichaud is just the third coach in the Corsairs’ 30-year NCAA history, as he has amassed an overall mark of 40-69 (.367) during his career.  Robichaud, who is assisted by Steve Faniel, Josh Sylvester, Ryan Struthers, Ryan McCormack, Justin Borden, Paul Harrison, Joseph Pappalardo, Michael Slaughter Jr. and Joe Teixeira, has never previously faced Alfred State in his career.

HEAD COACH SCOTT LINNScott Linn makes his debut as Head Football Coach at Alfred State University this afternoon.  A 2006 graduate of Albion, Linn served for the past four seasons as the offensive coordinator at Alfred University, and he has never previously faced UMass Dartmouth in his career.

THE CORSAIR CAPTAINS:  Senior Antonio Mitjans (Ashland, Mass./Ashland) and junior Tony Slaughter (Springfield, Mass./Chicopee) will serve as UMass Dartmouth’s captains for the 2018 campaign.  Mitjans is back for his second campaign as a team captain, as the three-year starter anchors an offensive line unit that helped UMass Dartmouth amass nearly 4,000 yards of total offense in 2017.  Slaughter shined once again in the defensive backfield for Head Coach Mark Robichaud a year ago, as he collected 57 total tackles (46 solo) while recording a pair of interceptions and a team-best nine break-ups last season.

LID-LIFTERS:  UMass Dartmouth is 15-15 all-time in season openers dating back to the first NCAA season in 1987.  The Corsairs are 5-6 in lid-lifters under Mark Robichaud and have won the last two times they have opened the season on the road (21-14 in 2014 and 40-9 in 2016, both at Mount Ida).

CORSAIR CLIPS:  UMass Dartmouth, which received a first place vote in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference pre-season coaches poll, is picked to finish in a tie for fifth place with Bridgewater State in that prognostication…The Corsairs are playing their third straight road contest dating back to last November and will open with five of their first eight outings away from Cressy Field this fall…Alfred State Director of Athletics Jason Doviak has ties to New England and the MASCAC, as he served as the longtime Associate Director of Athletics at Salem State University.

WHO’S NEXT:  UMass Dartmouth begins its home slate next Saturday, September 8th when the Corsairs entertain 17th-ranked Delaware Valley in a non-league clash at Cressy Field that kicks off at Noon EDT.


2018 Corsair Football Season Outlook

The UMass Dartmouth football team is looking for the momentum of last season’s strong finish to carry over to the 2018 campaign, as Head Coach Mark Robichaud heads into his 12th year at the helm with a group of experienced veterans and talented newcomers ready to make a run at the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference title.  The Corsairs, who posted four overall triumphs in 2017, ended the fall on a high note with impressive league road victories at Massachusetts Maritime and Fitchburg State, as UMass Dartmouth welcomes back 40 letterwinners and 12 starters back from that squad. 

Robichaud, whose tenure as head coach is only exceeded by Bill Kavanaugh’s 17-year reign on the sidelines from 1990-2006, will look to a pair of veterans to provide leadership by example both on and off the field this fall in naming senior Antonio Mitjans (Ashland, Mass./Ashland) and junior Tony Slaughter (Springfield, Mass./Chicopee) as the Corsairs’ co-captains.  The longtime mentor describes the duo as “respected team leaders both on and off the field, and their performance certainly speaks volumes about their character.  The high expectations they set for themselves are the same they have for their teammates, and I know they will continue to set a positive and productive example this season.”

Here’s a look at how things are shaping up for the 2018 edition of Corsair Football:

OFFENSE.  Robichaud welcomes back a pair of talented signal callers in junior Jace Pena (Riverside, R.I./LaSalle Academy) and sophomore Stephen Gacioch (Tiverton, R.I./Tiverton), as Pena threw for 1,264 yards and 14 touchdowns while Gacioch tossed for 865 yards and seven scores. 

Replacing all-MASCAC standout Michael Slaughter Jr. (who is serving as a graduate assistant coach) in the backfield present a challenge in the running game, but senior Matt Mitchell (Westerly, R.I./Stonington) lends experience after amassing 122 yards and a visit to the end zone a year ago.  Junior Fernando Silva (St. Thomas, V.I./St. Peter & Paul) and sophomore Gayee Myers (Providence, R.I./Classical) will also be vying for roles in UMass Dartmouth’s ground attack.

Sophomore Leroy Brown (Milton, Mass./Milton) hauled in 24 receptions for 318 yards and three touchdowns during his rookie collegiate campaign for the Corsairs, while Mitchell added 11 catches for 72 yards along the way.  Juniors Jacen Hudson (Hudson, N.H./Alvirne) and Kevin Gonzalez (Pawtucket, R.I./Saint Raphael Academy) combined for six receptions and a score as well last season.

Mitjans anchors a solid offensive line unit for Robichaud, as he is flanked by fellow senior Quinn Fallon (Somerset, Mass./Somerset Berkley) and sophomores Trevor McCarthy (Ashaway, R.I./Chariho Regional), Zac Hodges (Agawam, Mass./Agawam) and Andrew Gingras (Attleboro, Mass./Attleboro).  Fellow sophomores Bruno Abbatessa (Danvers, Mass./Danvers) and Christian Sermos (North Providence, R.I./North Providence) provide additional depth up front.

DEFENSE.  Tony Slaughter is the top returning tackler for the Corsairs after amassing 57 total stops (46 solo) to go with two interceptions, a pair of sacks and a team-best nine breakups in the secondary in 2017.  Sophomore Jacob Burkhead (Plymouth, Mass./Plymouth North) added 65 tackles (44 solo) and a pair of break-ups as well for UMass Dartmouth, which received two picks from junior Moise Rainford (Boston, Mass./Boston Latin Academy) as well as 26 stops (16 solo) from sophomore Brendan Cuthill (Fall River, Mass./Durfee) in the defensive backfield last fall.  Junior Dwayne Hunter-Parker (Waterbury, Conn./Hyde), a transfer from Mount Ida, looks to impact the secondary after earning all-Eastern Collegiate Football Conference accolades last season for the Mustangs, while sophomore Sam Krajewski (Taunton, Mass./Taunton) goes from catching passes to defending them this season.

The graduation of all-New England linebacker Marvey Mathurin leaves a void in the middle for Robichaud’s defensive unit, but senior Zakk Rodrigues (Westport, Mass./Diman Regional) leads an experienced front line that includes fellow senior Ryan Bucko (Montgomery, Mass./Westfield) and Tom Janicki (Albion, R.I./Lincoln), junior Allston George (Foxboro, Mass./Foxboro) and sophomore Sean Reall (North Providence, R.I./Classical).  Rodrigues recorded three sacks last fall, while Janicki, Bucko and George combined for 43 total tackles.

Junior Johnny Veiga (Lakeland, Fla./Lakeland) lends experience in the Corsair linebacking corps, which looks to be impacted as well by senior Samuel Ejiasi (Forney, Tex./North Forney) and junior Connor Russ (Middletown, R.I./Middletown).

SPECIAL TEAMS.  Tony Slaughter and senior Mike Whitsett (Ludlow, Mass./Chicopee Comp) will be the primary returners on both kickoffs and punts for Robichaud, while sophomore James Tooker (Harwich, Mass./Nauset) will handle the placekicking duties after converting seven field goals and 30 extra points in his inaugural collegiate campaign.  Junior Jack Droney (Suffield, Conn./East Catholic) will take over the punting responsibilities for the Corsairs.

SCHEDULE.  UMass Dartmouth is set to tangle with Alfred State and perennial national power Delaware Valley in non-conference play during the opening two weeks of the season, and the Corsairs open MASCAC action on Friday, September 14th at Westfield State.  Robichaud’s crew will entertain Plymouth State, Worcester State, Massachusetts Maritime and Fitchburg State in conference play while hitting the road for additional league clashes at Western Connecticut, Bridgewater State and Framingham State.