NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – The Merrimack College football program meets its first Northeast Conference (NEC) foe of the season on Saturday evening when the Warriors face Central Connecticut State University at 6 p.m. at Arute Field in New Britain, Conn. The contest will be streamed via ESPN3 as the Warriors make their program debut on the ESPN family of networks.
Last week, Merrimack dominated in its first-ever NCAA Football Championship Subdivision contest, downing Virginia University of Lynchburg, 45-14. Merrimack forced four turnovers on defense, and employed a rushing attack that posted nearly 300 total yards on the ground to lead the team to victory.
- Merrimack College and Central Connecticut State University have played once in school history, meeting in September of 2007 when the Warriors were a Division II program.
- Saturday’s contest will be the first between the two teams at NCAA FCS opponents. CCSU will be Merrimack’s first-ever game against a FCS opponent at the Division I level; last week the Warriors defeat Virginia University of Lynchburg, 45-14, at Duane Stadium on campus
Scouting the Blue Devils:
- Central Connecticut impressed in their opening game of the 2019 season, mounting a fourth-quarter rally to win in the final seconds at Fordham University, 26-23.
- Central rushed the ball for 254 yards in the win, including 108 from senior quarterback Aaron Winchester. Winchester was making his first start as a member of the Blue Devils.
- A 48-yard interception return for a touchdown from sophomore Dexter Lawson in the third quarter helped propel the Blue Devils to the victory.
- Saturday’s first-ever Division I FCS contest on Merrimack College’s campus was one for the records: the Warriors played in front of a sold-out crowd over over 4,000 students, families and fans last Saturday
- It was the second-largest crowd in Duane Stadium history and the largest non-Homecoming crowd in the football team’s history
- The Warriors gave the Merrimack faithful and exciting product, racing out to a 31-7 lead at halftime that turned in a 45-14 victory.
Team Leadership Group:
- Merrimack’s 2019 season features five team captains: redshirt-seniors Erick Browne and Marquis Spence, redshirt-juniors Sam Cooper and Michael Mercuri and sophomore starting quarterback Christian Carter
- Browne is in his second year as team captain and is the team’s starting left tackle
- Spence returned for his fifth year on campus, and began camp as one of the team’s top options at wide receiver
- Despite being on camps for less than a year entering the offense, Cooper was elected team captain after transferring to Merrimack from Maine
- Mercuri is the team’s defensive leader from the middle linebacker position while Carter was named team captain after his true freshman campaign.
Four-Pronged Rushing Attack:
- One of the on-the-field storylines of Merrimack’s preseason was the depth the program has at the running back position, and all three options came to the forefront in Week 1.
- Redshirt sophomore Jamari Venter and sophomores Matt Brehon and Malachi McFadden all entered camps as candidates for carries, and all executed at a high level against the Dragons. Venter and Brehon scored two touchdowns apiece, combining for 180 yards on the ground. McFadden added a TD as well
- Quarterback Christian Carter utilized his legs as well, rushing for 58 yards and averaging 7.1 yards per carry.
- Defensively, the Warriors totaled four takeaways on Saturday – two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
- Sophomore Cam Tillman picked off a pass and nearly returned it to the house while redshirt junior Jovan Grant added a pick of his own.
- Middle linebackers Michael Mercuri and Brett Raynor forced one fumble each, which were recovered by redshirt sophomore Darion McKenzie and freshman Nicholas Lenon.
Merrimack treks out to Saint Francis University next Saturday to face the Red Flash. Kickoff from Degol Field in Loretto, Pa. is set for 12 p.m.