After consecutive seasons of a 6-4 finish, the Rowan football team looks to compete for a New Jersey Athletic Conference title under 16th-year head coach Jay Accorsi. The two-time NJAC Coach of the Year has accumulated a 115-47 record throughout his Rowan career.
The Profs return only eight starters from last season. After tallying 43 grabs for 491 yards, senior wideout Jamel Smith leads a very inexperienced but exciting receiving corps. Sophomore duo J.J. Kulcsar and Nick Smith etch themselves into the starting lineup opposite the veteran. It’s also a homecoming for Rowan’s most solidified group in the offensive line. Senior captain Darryl Guilford, senior Shaan Johnson and junior Eric Morrison look to protect their new quarterback, sophomore Naldy Tavarez, while also aiming to bring the Profs out of the slumps in the run-game after finishing 8th in the NJAC in rushing offense.
Tavarez won the starting quarterback job in training camp over the summer and has gotten praise from Accorsi for having the physical tools to be successful, but also needing to build the mental skills to succeed as a quarterback in the NJAC.
Defensively, Kevin Stokes leads a youthful and tenacious group in the trenches. Stokes led Rowan with 11 tackles-for-loss in 2016 while racking up 4.5 sacks in the process.
All-Conference safety Shaquille Lee embarks on his last ride in Glassboro after a
three-interception, 47-tackle 2016 campaign. Both Stokes, Guilford and Lee serve as the remaining captains on the team.
Rowan hosted Widener University in their season opener this past Saturday, beating the Pride 6-0 in a defensive showdown. Amidst the rain and mud, the brown and gold swarmed the Widener backfield, leaving them with -15 yards on the ground to show in the box score. Not too shabby.
The two lone scores came from kicker Tyler Knighton who connected on a 21-yard field goal in the first quarter and a 32-yard field goal in the third.
Junior running back Anthony Diorio had 30 carries for 155 yards. Although the stats are under Diorio’s name, he gives a ton of credit to his linemen for creating solid running lanes.
“All the credit goes to the offensive line. They opened up the holes for me,” Diorio said. “You have to give credit to the receivers too. They really opened some holes and helped us get the yards to win.”
Junior John Mannion also had a solid game on the ground, racking up 87 yards on 13 carries. The one-two punch of Diorio and Mannion contributed for 215 yards of the Profs 230 yards total.
On the flip side, Stokes made an impact early and often in the opener, wrapping up six total tackles, 5.5 of which were for a loss with 2.5 going in the sack column.
“To get that first win is a big step, and I am honored to be a part of that,” Stokes said. “I am proud to be one of the players on this team that can stand out for them.”
Free safety sophomore Joe DiBari picked off two passes in the second half to help keep the Pride off the scoreboard.
Accorsi was impressed with the pressure the front seven applied towards the Widener backfield.
“We played really well defensively for most of the game,” Accorsi said. “We didn’t give up many big plays. A lot of it has to do with the guys up front. I thought our defensive front seven really dominated. We played well up front and we really need to do that in this early part of the year.”
Rowan opens NJAC play against Southern Virginia University in Glassboro on Saturday at 7 p.m.
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