In a New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) preseason poll, the Montclair State University football team was picked to finish eighth out of the 10 teams that make up the NJAC Division.
“You don’t have enough talent to win on talent alone,” once said former United States Olympic hockey team coach Herb Brooks when he brought the team to gold medal glory in 1980.
The Montclair State women’s ice hockey team was not touted highly ahead of their 2017-18 season. Not many hockey pundits picked the Red Hawks to become a part of a division and win it in the same year, but they did. No one thought the Montclair State women’s ice hockey team could make it to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament, but they did. It is clear that this year’s Red Hawks football team has its critics ahead of the 2018 season, just like the women’s ice hockey team did ahead of last season.
The Red Hawks will have to cope without four all-conference players on defense in 2018, including defensive back Shaone Stephenson and offensive lineman Kevin Merkle, who were named first-team all-NJAC last year.
Last season, freshman Mauro Altamura led his team in tackles with 80 and was named an honorable mention to the all-NJAC team. After the Red Hawks’ defense graduated four all-conference players, Altamura will look to continue being the leader this year’s Red Hawks need to succeed.
Junior punter/kicker Hunter Daly was named NJAC Special Teams Player of the Year in 2017. Daly was named to the Division III football team of the week and Special Teams Player of the Week four times last year, kicking 11 out of 14 field goals. Daly and the special team’s unit remain key assets to the 2018 Red Hawks football team.
The Red Hawks’ schedule is tough this year no matter how you slice it. In weeks six, seven and eight, the Red Hawks play against the top three ranked teams in the NJAC.
In week six, the Red Hawks travel to third overall Salisbury University. The Sea Gulls ran for 654 total rushing yards in week one against Albright College, a school record and more than the total yardage most teams gain on any given Saturday.
In week seven, the Red Hawks square up with number two ranked Frostburg State University. D3football.com ranks Frostburg State in eighth place in NCAA Division III football. In 2017, the Bobcats finished second in the NJAC and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. In a 34-7 victory over Stevenson University, the Bobcats rushed for four touchdowns and held their opponents on defense.
Montclair State will play NJAC defending champions Wesley College in week eight. The NJAC preseason poll picks the Wolverines to win the division this season on the backs of an undefeated record in conference last year. Wesley College’s senior quarterback Khaaliq Burroughs was second in the NJAC last year in touchdowns (26), passing yards (2,483) and passing efficiency (147.1).
The NJAC preseason poll shows that the conference seems to believe that the Red Hawks are not going to be a threat to win the division this season. The NJAC preseason poll that picked the Red Hawks to finish last in the NJAC will certainly be a source of motivation for this Red Hawks football team.
The Red Hawks can get off to a good start with a win in front of a home crowd on Saturday, Sept. 8 when they host Salve Regina University at Sprague Field.