Football set to kick off new campaign
The Shippensburg University football team has its eyes set high going into the new season. The squad reached the first round of the NCAA Division II playoffs, last season, after posting a 10–1 record in the regular season, only the fifth season in school history with 10 wins.
Coach Mark “Mac” Maciejewski returns to the Red Raiders for his eighth season in charge, hoping to continue his streak of seven consecutive winning seasons, the longest streak since 1950. Since his arrival, the Red Raiders have placed in the upper half of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) every year. Coach Mac has two PSAC Eastern Division titles to his name and the team will be looking to grab his third this season.
Last season ended on a sour note as the Red Raiders lost to West Chester University for the second time in the year to crash out of the NCAA playoffs. The loss to the Golden Rams was the Red Raiders’ only loss during the regular season as well. Going into the 2018 season, SU is ranked second in the Eastern Division, behind West Chester. The preseason coaches’ poll comes out every year before the start of the season and each coach from all 15 PSAC football programs contributes to the rankings.
The Western Division houses three of the best teams in the conference in the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), California University of Pennsylvania (CALU) and Slippery Rock University, all three of which are at the top of the Western rankings. SU will face all three this season in division crossover matchups that are sure to be highly contested.
While it lost several crucial players like Chavez Cheatham and Kevin Taylor II, the Raider defense will return several key players from a unit that ranked as one of the best in Division II last year.
It was the fourth best overall defense in Division II, as well as second in turnover margin and the highest-ranked redzone defense. Eight starters are returning to their positions, including All-American defensive end Richard Nase, and will welcome some freshmen into the fold. Nase is a three-time All-American, named to the First Team in 2015 and 2017 and Second Team in 2016. Coach Mac said that the older players have led the team since the end of last season and helped to move the team forward.
The team will need to fill the hole left by former starting quarterback Ryan Zapoticky after the four-year starter graduated last year. All five quarterbacks on the roster have been given equal opportunities so far in training camp with the first-team offense.
Chase Yocum and Landon Archangelo are the most experienced at the position, and should have a leg up on the rest of the competition in redshirt-freshmen Max DeVinney and Brycen Mussina and true freshman Brandon Keyes.
The running back position is also transitioning from two star seniors in Cole Chiappialle and Colin McDermott, a first-team Academic All-American. Returning players like Luke Durkin and Marcus Lominy will be tasked with leading the group of freshmen backs who are competing for reps this season.
The wide receiver core is still strong, led by breakout redshirt-sophomore Winston Eubanks. Eubanks was named to the All-PSAC Eastern Division First Team and was also named the PSAC Eastern Division Freshman of the Year after logging 1,202 yards and 12 touchdowns.
As training camp winds down, the team will prepare to hit the road as the Raiders will kick off the regular season on Saturday against Clarion University in Pittsburgh at Highmark Stadium.