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2021 NE10 football preview Preseason Poll & Team Capsules

New Haven grabbed the top spot in the NE10 Football Coaches’ Poll for the second consecutive season, recording 62 points and six first-place votes in the Conference’s return to the gridiron. Bentley, the defending NE10 champion from 2019, placed second with 55 points and the remaining three first-place tallies.

#1 NEW HAVEN

New Haven, a three-time NE10 football champion, was voted atop the NE10 Football Coaches’ Poll for the second time under head coach Chris Pincince. The Chargers kick-off their 2021 season at Ralph F. Dellacamera Stadium on Saturday, September 4, in a non-conference matchup with Franklin Pierce.

As part of a 10-game slate, New Haven will also host Bowie State of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) on September 18, before starting conference play against crosstown rival Southern Connecticut on September 25. The Chargers will play eight conference games, including a pair of games with possible championship implications against Assumption (Oct. 30) and Bentley (Nov. 6) at home.

New Haven had a 7-3 record, 6-2 in NE10 games, during the 2019 season and finished tied for first – losing out on the NE10 Championship to Bentley due to a head-to-head tiebreaker. Pincince enters the season with a 42-23 (.646) all-time record with the Chargers, as well as five top-three finishes in the NE10 standings since 2014.

KEY RETURNING PLAYERS

  • Shamar Logan (RB) – NE10 Rookie of the Year (2019); All-Conference First Team (2019); Ran for 1,000 yards and eight TDs.
  • Chris Carlyle (WR) – 10 receptions for 125 yards and a TD during the 2019 season.
  • Mike Zecchin (OL) – All-Conference Second Team (2019).
  • Khalim Cisse (LB) – 5.5 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks in 2019 season.
  • Affiz Din-Gabisi (DL) – 21 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss and one sack in 2019.

#2 BENTLEY

Bentley, coming off its fourth NE10 title in program history, has been picked second in the NE10 Football Coaches’ Poll to begin the 2021 season. The Falcons will host West Chester of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) on Friday, September 3, in the season-opener at the Bentley University Football Stadium. The Golden Rams qualified for the NCAA Division II Football Championship in 2019, losing in the first round to Notre Dame College.

Head coach Bill Kavanaugh’s program begins its title defense with a home matchup against Stonehill on Saturday, September 18. Bentley will travel to play at New Haven on November 6 in a game that decided the NE10 Championship in the 2019 season, before hosting Assumption in the regular season finale on November 13.

Bentley went 6-4 (6-2 NE10) in its title-winning 2019 campaign. The Falcons earned a head-to-head tiebreak win over New Haven after beating the Chargers, 31-14, in the NCAA Division II Showcase game in Waltham, Mass.

KEY RETURNING PLAYERS

  • Stephen Sturm (QB) – All-Conference First Team (2019); Led NE10 QBs in passing yards per game (222.1).
  • Andrew Brazicki (RB) – CoSIDA First Team Academic All-American (2021).
  • Cedie Dashiell II (DL) – All-Conference First Team (2019); Ranked second in sacks (9.5) among all NE10 players.
  • Tim Leonard (OL) – All-Conference Second Team (2019).

#3 STONEHILL

Coming off a 2019 season where the program led all NE10 teams in yards per game (415.8 yards/game), Stonehill is third in the Football Coaches’ Poll with 46 points. The Skyhawks will begin their 2021 campaign at home against Bloomsburg of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) on Saturday, September 4.

Stonehill and head coach Eli Gardner open their NE10 season on the road at Bentley on Saturday, September 18, followed by another big matchup at home against Assumption on September 25. The Skyhawks will also host New Haven on Saturday, October 23, at W.B. Mason Stadium.

During the 2019 season, Stonehill went 6-4 overall (5-3 NE10) and finished tied for third in the league standings. Running back Justin Felder, the 2019 NE10 Most Valuable Player, returns to Stonehill’s backfield as a top offensive threat in the Conference.

key returning players

  • Justin Felder (RB) – NE10 MVP (2019); AFCA Division II Coaches’ All-America Second Team (2019); Ranked fourth in Division II in rushing yards per game (151.3).
  • Anton Stoneking (QB) – All-Conference Third Team and All-Rookie Team (2019); Third in passing yards per game in 2019 (195.0).
  • Nate Bresson (DE) – All-Conference Second Team (2019). 12.5 tackles for a loss ranks fourth in NE10.
  • Sam Athy (DB) – All-Conference First Team (2019); Top 10 in the league in tackles per game in 2019 (6.8).

#4 ASSUMPTION

Assumption comes in at fourth in the NE10 Football Coaches’ Poll, edging out Pace with 39 points to claim a top-four spot. The Greyhounds open the 2021 season on the road at Kutztown, a member of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC), on Saturday, September 4.

Assumption begins NE10 competition by hosting Pace at Brian Kelly ’83 Stadium on Saturday, September 18. The eight-game conference slate produces road contests against top contenders New Haven (Oct. 30) and Bentley (Nov. 13) late in the season for head coach Andy McKenzie’s squad.

The Greyhounds, NE10 champions in two of the past five seasons (2015, 2017), were tied for third in the 2019 league standings with a 6-4 mark (5-3 NE10). Assumption led all NE10 programs in points per game (34.3) and rushing yards per game (202.4) two seasons ago.

key returning players

  • Khaleed Exum-Strong (RB) – All-Conference Third Team (2019). Second in NE10 with 15 rushing TDs.
  • Tighe Beck (TE) – All-Conference First Team (2019); Averaged 33.9 receiving yards per game.
  • Trent Wright (DE) – All-Conference Second Team (2019). Top 10 in the league in sacks and tackles for a loss in 2019.

#5 PACE

Pace ranks fifth in the NE10 Football Coaches’ Poll, falling just short of a top-four spot with 37 points. The Setters, led by head coach Andy Rondeau, will start their season early with a road game against East Stroudsburg – a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) member – on Thursday, September 2.

The Setters will begin conference play on the road at Assumption on Saturday, September 18. Pace went 6-4 (5-3 NE10) during the 2019 season – marking the first time that the program has posted consecutive winning seasons (7-3 in 2018) since 1996.

key returning players

  • Carlton Aiken (QB) – NE10 Offensive Player of the Year (2019); Led NE10 QBs in passing TDs (19) and rushing yards per game (68.4).
  • Dustin Huseinovic (DB/LB) – All-Conference Second Team (2019); Ranked fifth in NE10 in tackles (76).
  • Brandon Holt (DB) – All-Conference Second Team and All-Rookie Team (2019); Ranked second in NE10 in pass breakups (14).
  • Nasier Givens (DL) – Four sacks and six tackles for a loss in 2019.

#6 SAINT ANSELM

Saint Anselm comes in sixth in the NE10 Football Coaches’ Poll with 29 points, following a 2019 campaign where the Hawks finished with a 4-7 overall record (4-4 NE10). The 2021 season opens for the Hawks on the road against Division I Merrimack, a former longtime NE10 member, of the Northeast Conference on Saturday, September 4.

The Hawks begin NE10 play on Friday, September 17, on the road against Southern Connecticut. Homecoming Weekend for Saint Anselm will take place on Saturday, September 25, when in-state opponent Franklin Pierce comes to Manchester. Head coach Joe Adam will begin his sixth season at the helm for the Hawks.

key returning players

  • Ryan Sullivan (DB) – All-Conference First Team (2019); Second in the NE10 in tackles (95) and tackles per game (9.5).
  • Anthony Brown (WR) – All-Conference Third Team and All-Rookie Team (2019); Second in NE10 for average yards on a kick return (27.6).
  • Michael Boucher (OL) - Helped Saint Anselm rank first in NE10 in passing yards per game (293.6).
  • Damien Williams (LB) – 51 tackles during 2019 season.

#7 AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL

American International finished tied for seventh in the NE10 Football Coaches’ Poll with Southern Connecticut. The Yellow Jackets, led by interim head coach Kristofer Kulzer, finished the 2019 season with a 4-6 record (3-5 NE10), the most wins for the program since 2016.

AIC will open the 2021 campaign at Millersville on Thursday, September 2, and begins NE10 play at Franklin Pierce on Saturday, September 18.

key returning players

  • Samad Davila (RB) – All-Conference Second Team (2019); Top 10 in NE10 for receiving yards per game (49.6).
  • Jayson Demild (QB) – 133.8 passing yards per game and nine TD throws.
  • Isiah Tolbert (DL) – NE10 Defensive Lineman of the Year (2019); All-Conference First Team (2019); Led NE10 in tackles for a loss (18).
  • Jaysen Thompson (LB) – All-Conference Second Team; Third in NE10 in tackles (83) and tackles per game (8.3).

#7 SOUTHERN CONNECTICUT

Southern Connecticut tied for seventh with American International in the NE10 Football Coaches’ Poll. The Owls will renew their rivalry with Division I in-state foe Central Connecticut in their season-opening game on Friday, September 3.

SCSU will host Saint Anselm on Friday, September 17, at Jess Dow Field to begin NE10 competition, which will be followed by a crosstown matchup at New Haven on Saturday, September 25. The Owls were 2-8 overall (2-6 NE10) in the 2019 season.

key returning players

  • Jackson Ostrowksy (QB) – All-Rookie Team (2019); 312.1 passing yards per game and ranked third in NE10 in passing TDs (17).
  • Kwadir Delgado-McIntyre (CB) – 19 tackles with one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
  • Izaiah Sanders (WR) – Ranked seventh in the NE10 in receiving yards per game (63.0).
  • Sidney Jones (DL) – Played 10 games for the Owls in 2017 and 2018.

#9 FRANKLIN PIERCE

In only the second Division II season for the program, Franklin Pierce will begin its 2021 season at New Haven on Saturday, September 4. The Ravens start NE10 play on Saturday, September 18, at home against American International at Sodexo Field.

The Ravens, led by head coach Russell Gaskamp, will look for their first NE10 victory in program history in 2021.

key returning players

  • Tyvarius Daniels (WR) – All-Rookie Team (2019); Tied for second in the NE10 in interceptions (3).
  • Chazz Bryant (DB) – Ran for 236 yards on 84 carries for the Ravens in 2019.
  • K.O. Gaskin (RB) – Team’s leading rusher in 2019; Ran for 353 yards on 132 carries.
  • Ishmael Johnson (LB) – Team’s second leading tackler (52); Finished second in NE10 in fumble recovery yards (44).

Credits:

NE10 Football Institutions