Nov. 7, 2009.
The Shippensburg community came together to witness one of the most important games in almost 30 years. They watched a Raider football squad grind their way to a 42-35 victory and more importantly, their first PSAC Championship since 1981.
Three years later, the SU community will once again bear witness to a football game that will ultimately decide a champion — a PSAC East Champion.
The No. 4 Bloomsburg University Huskies come into SU with the division title on the line, and with star running back Franklyn Quiteh and a heralded offensive line, the Huskies are looking to dethrone a Raider squad that has looked impermeable and well oiled the entire season.
The Raiders come into the game riding a 12-game winning streak — a streak that started last season after a loss to the Huskies. Even though the 38-18 defeat was devastating at the time, SU head coach Mark Maciejewski and the Raiders are solely focused on the task at hand — to forget the past and take this season one game at a time.
“We don’t even talk about the loss last season,” Maciejewski said. “We have to focus on what the Red Raiders do, not what the Huskies do.”
SU will have its hands full with Quiteh, the No. 2 leading rusher in Division II. The junior comes into the game with 1,350 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. He has been complemented in the backfield by fellow running back Eddie Mateo. The speedster out of Bethlehem, Pa. is a dual threat out of the backfield that can cause the Raiders fits if he is not contained.
The Raiders were able to keep West Chester University’s running back Rondell White in check for most of the game last week and the No. 7 rushing defense has the ability to do the same with Quiteh and Mateo.
On the other hand, containing the Huskies is easier said than done. Boasting the No. 4 offense, BU relies heavily on the running back tandem. Its offensive strategy relies heavily on its power running attack and the play-action pass that stems from that. In fact, in the Huskies win over East Stroudsburg University two weeks ago, all four of quarterback Tim Kelly’s passing touchdowns stemmed from the play-action.
It is something the Raiders need to contain.
“You put all of the people in the box to stop the run and they throw a play-action on you,” Maciejewski said. “It’s tough. It’s a tough offense to defend and we have to make sure we’re sound on what our responsibilities are.”
Raider defensive standout Jake Metz, and the rest of the defensive line will need to force Quiteh inside and keep Kelly contained on the play-action roll-outs. Kelly, a first-year starter, has a lethal arm, but once outside the pocket, he can break out the long gains with his legs. It is imperative that the Raiders bottle up the Husky offense so they stay inside the hashes.
“They [Raider defense] need to let the plays come to them and not try and do too much,” Maciejewski said.
The Huskies’ defense represents the biggest problem for the No. 10 Raiders. SU, entering the contest with the nation’s No. 1 offense in terms of yards per game, will go up against a running defense that it has not seen before.
The BU defense, led by linebackers Jarrett Pidgeon and Justin Shirk, are adept at clogging gaps and forcing runners outside where its secondary is capable of providing the big hit.
The Raiders hold the advantage because of the versatility of tailback Mike Frenette. Frenette, the team’s leading rusher, can do damage as a receiver and as a blocker, which will make life easier for quarterback Zach Zulli.
The Raiders will be forced to go with what has made them 8-0 so far this season — their pass game. Zulli should be able to pick apart a weak BU secondary with Jacob Baskerville and Trevor Harman being his main targets.
The fans at Seth Grove Stadium are encouraged to wear red for the “Red Out” in support of SU’s clash of the unbeatens.
SU’s student section, The Red Sea, will be hosting a pep rally at the Quad outside of Ezra Lehman Memorial Library on Friday at 7 p.m. in order to prepare students and the community for the game.
For information on the pep rally click here