BY CORY NIDOH
SC Staff Writer
In Division I football, the Heisman Trophy is the most prestigious award given out to one player in the country that is deemed as the best player in the nation.
In Division II, that award is known as the Harlon Hill Trophy and ESU’s redshirt sophomore quarterback Matt Soltes is one of 28 candidates for the award.
Soltes, whose high school team was much more run oriented, had to learn the complex offense that the Warriors have here at ESU. Despite the transition, Soltes enjoys playing in ESU’s offense.
“It’s a blast, I get to throw the ball 45 times a game and to watch these other guys play and make spectacular catches and runs, it’s just great.” he said.
Soltes seemed to have no problem learning the complicated offense in his first two seasons here at ESU.
The Vernon, New Jersey native is just one of three sophomores in the country to be a finalist for the Harlon Hill Award.
The Warriors offense was ranked in the top 10 in almost every offensive statistical category as a team in the PSAC.
Soltes ranked in the top 10 in categories in all of Division II such as passing yards (10th), passing touchdowns (3rd), passing efficiency (9th), and total offense (8th).
The dual threat quarterback has entertained the Warriors faithful over the past two seasons as he has been one of the premiere quarterbacks in the PSAC.
As a freshman, Soltes set an ESU record for total offense over three games as he posted 1,511 yards.
He tallied up 666 yards against LIU Post, 382 at Millersville and 463 at Mercyhurst in the last three games of the season.
Soltes also made use of his legs when the pocket collapses. He has had two consecutive 100-yard rushing games, becoming the first ESU QB to accomplish that feat since 1968.
This year, Soltes has had record setting games.
Against Clarion this season, he broke his own school record for completion percentage as he went 29-34 (85.3 percent) while throwing for 444 yards and four scores.
Perhaps the best game of Soltes’ season was against Bloomsburg.
Although they lost 52-38, Soltes threw for 476 yards with five touchdowns while rushing for 66 yards totaling for 542 yards of total offense.
With such performances on the gridiron, Soltes has climbed the ranks of being considered one of the top quarterbacks not only in the PSAC, but also in all of Division II.
Soltes, led the Warriors to a 7-4 record this past season and has a touchdown to interception ratio at 54 to 14, which is one of the best in Division II.
That part of his game is what the young QB would like to improve on most. “I wanted to make fewer turnovers, fewer interceptions, fumbles, and get sacked less,” Soltes said.
Soltes is the fifth ESU quarterback to be selected as a Harlon Hill candidate as he joins current Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin (94), Damian Poalucci (1996-1997), Jimmy Terwilliger (2003-2006), who won the award in 2005, and Ray Wagner (2011).
This is the ninth time in the last 20 seasons the Warriors have had a quarterback named to the Harlon Hill list which is the most in Division II and one ahead of West Texas A&M.
Soltes is also the 8th player overall to be have his name on the ballot for the prestigious award.
Soltes was honored to be a candidate for the Harlon Hill Award, but acknowledged that his teammates played a big role as well.
“It’s a tremendous honor,’ Soltes said. “It’s never just one person you need your line, your receivers, your backs to make plays and blocks for you. I give them all the credit, they do an outstanding job. We’ll see what happens.”
Email Cory at: