To say the Raiders had a historic 2012 season would be an understatement. A perfect 7-0 in conference play — 11–2 overall — a trip to the second round of the NCAA playoffs, No. 1 and No. 2 total and passing offense in Division II, respectively and a Harlon Hill trophy winner to top off the unforgettable season.
Except head coach Mark Maciejewski and quarterback Zach Zulli are trying to do just that — forget about last season.
“2012 was a good season for us. It’s not where we wanted to end up, but it was a good season,” Maciejewski said. “But it’s over. This is 2013 Red Raider football.”
“It’s crazy that all this stuff happened last year,” Zulli said, echoing his coach. “I’m trying to forget about it as much as possible. I’m trying to move on.”
Moving on from a season with more than 4,700 passing yards, 54 touchdowns and 365.2 average yards per game is no easy feat. Despite Zulli’s impressive and record-breaking season, the end was not what the Raiders had in mind.
The 37–14 whomping from Winston-Salem in late November brought the Raiders’ dreams to a crashing halt. Leaving with those dreams were senior standouts Mike Frenette, Kevin Herod, Bryan Barley, Jacob Baskerville, Mark Kahlil Smith and Cody Fleming.
The team lost its leading receivers, running back and a pair of core defenseman. After that kind of loss it is hard to imagine the Raiders are going to be able to replace any of these key assets.
“We got some new guys in the program and over all we’re just as strong as we were last year, receiver wise, from top to bottom,” Maciejewski said. “I’m excited about those new guys.”
Maciejewski is confident in the offense because Zulli is back and ready to lead the team again. The defense lost two defensive tackles and a linebacker to graduation, but the Raiders have six All-PSAC defensive players to stop the likes of Bloomsburg’s Franklyn Quiteh from running all over the Raiders again this year.
In 2012, the Raiders accumulated 92 tackles for 388 yards lost and 945 total tackles on the year. Jake Metz, Brian Sourber, Tyriq Kershaw and Mike Goode are all returning this year.
“The younger guys have to step up,” Maciejewski said. “Cory Cowdrey who is doing a great job for us; Kurt Walker who is doing a great job for us; Mark Ranaudo and Joe Dolan who are all doing a great job. It’s out of those four we’ll see who will step up.”
Bloomsburg, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, West Chester and Shepherd will be the games that test how good the 2013 Raiders are. The victory over Shepherd last season lit the fire that burned all season.
The first Bloomsburg meeting almost ended in disaster because the Raiders could not contain Quiteh. A fabulous Barley catch at the final horn won the game but barely. The second meeting was a different story. SU stomped the huskies 58–20.
However, the week prior IUP gave the Raiders quite the thrashing with a 41–10 loss.
This year the Raiders have a lot of work to do, but everyone is focusing on one game at a time. They are not paying attention to last year. It is in the past. They are moving forward and only looking ahead.