BY CORY NIDOH
SC Staff Writer
The boys of football at ESU ended their season with a tough 37-20 loss to Mercyhurst University.
The loss ended the Warriors’ season on a sour note, as six seniors graduated and the Warriors finished 7-4 on the year.
Despite the season finale loss, there were many positives to take from this season.
“I thought our kids did a great job and we got better every week,” said Head Coach Denny Douds.
The 7-4 record is their best since 2009 when the team went 8-4 and made an appearance in the NCAA Playoffs.
The Warriors played some fierce competition from West Chester and Bloomsburg, both nationally ranked at the time when ESU battled them on the gridiron.
The PSAC East in general is one of the best conferences in all of Division II.
The Warriors received big contributions on both sides of the ball and have much of their talent returning next year.
ESU has eight players that have been named to the All-PSAC East football team that was released last week.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Matt Soltes, redshirt freshman tailback Robert Healy, redshirt wide receiver Robert Bleiler, redshirt junior tight end Steven Jones, and sophomore offensive tackle Cody Laubach were all named on the offensive side of the ball.
Junior linebacker Cody Simcox, who led the team in tackles, and junior defensive tackle Bryan Thomson were selected on defense, and junior punter Jordan Bair was named on the special teams.
Of those eight, seven will return next season, with only Bleiler departing.
Bleiler finished his career at ESU ranking in the top ten in single season list, earning third place in receiving yards, fourth in catches, and fifth in touchdowns.
The wide out’s career numbers are also in the top ten in key offensive categories.
His 2,614 receiving yards slots him fourth, hauling in 153 passes has him ranked fifth, and finding the end zone twenty times is the sixth best mark in ESU history.
Bleiler became the eighth receiver in the last 13 years to be selected to an All-PSAC East first team.
Healy gave the Warriors a formidable rushing attack that they haven’t had in a few years.
Although just a freshman, the East Meadow, NY, native showed that he can handle the heavy workload for years to come.
Healy was named the PSAC Rookie of the Year after a very productive season.
Healy averaged 6.4 yards per carry, had 100+ yards rushing/receiving in nine of the eleven games and rushed for the century mark five times.
The tailback tallied 1,333 yards from scrimmage, an ESU record, and also etched his name into the top spot in ESU’s record book as he set a freshman record when he ran for 1,129 yards.
“Healy is a guy that can make you miss. Going into this season our number one priority was running backs and our coaching staff did a great job filling the hole with Healy,” said Douds when asked about Healy’s role on the team.
Soltes, who was a Harlon Hill finalist this year and the PSAC Freshman of the Year last season, earned a second team All-PSAC honor for his extraordinary campaign.
The quarterback tossed for 3,244 yards and threw 34 touchdowns, only throwing five interceptions.
“I try to improve on my touchdown to my interception ratio,” said Soltes. “Moving forward I want to pick up my reads sooner and be more of a student to the game,”
Soltes finished the season ranked in the top ten in all of Division II with 34 passing touchdowns and passing efficiency with a 167.1 rating.
Jones hauled in 25 passes this season for 482 yards and had seven scores from the tight end position.
Jones became the first tight end for ESU to be named All-PSAC East since 1992.
Laubach became the fifteenth consecutive offensive lineman for the Warriors to be named All-PSAC East.
Defensively, Simcox led the team with 94 tackles, which also placed him eighth in all of the PSAC.
The middle linebacker, a transfer from Division I Maine back in 2011, had eight tackles for a loss and two sacks this season and has 165 tackles in his last two seasons as a Warrior.
Thomson, who is also in the running for the inaugural Cliff Harris Award, which goes to the top small college defensive player representing Division II, Division III and NAIA colleges and universities.
Thomson finished this season with 62 tackles, 10 for a loss, and had 7.5 sacks, pacing the PSAC for most sacks by a defensive tackle in the PSAC.
Bair was the lone special team player to make it for ESU, and he was the first since 2008 when Nick Krut was first team All-America.
Bair averaged 38.2 yards on 43 punts and pinned the opponents inside the 20-yard line 14 times.
Clearly there is a lot of talent returning to this Warriors team, and Coach Douds has expressed his confidence and excitement for next season.
Offensively, the Warriors are returning Soltes and Healy, who were the cogs in the two-dimensional offense, along with the addition of Dusty Reed who will look to fill the void of Bleiler, and Jon Schnaars who became his own this season finishing with 718 yards and eight touchdown catches.
Defensively, Terron Dobbs and Dean Vitale were ball hawks in the secondary, and they vastly improved the Warriors defense because they both had five interceptions this year. Along with those two in the secondary, Simcox, Thomson on the line and in the linebacker core, the Warriors defense can only improve.
“We have a good nucleus coming back. They understand it and they have experienced it, we will be better at defense next year then we were this year and I thought we made a giant step on defense,” Douds said.
The Warriors will have a long and cold off-season until they can get back on the turf for some spring football games and their regular season in 2014. Yet, Coach Douds feels that his team has the target on their back next season.
“This year we were the hunter. Those days are over; right now we will be the hunted and a bulls-eye on our backs. Everybody will give us their top efforts against us and our goals are to win the 2014 PSAC East division and make the NCAA playoffs,” said Douds.
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