Sacred Heart Pioneers
Location: Fairfield, CT
Coach: Mark Nofri (44-36), 8th Season at Sacred Heart
Stadium: Campus Field (Capacity: 3,334)
214th: Division I
2018 In a Sentence: The FCS Playoff autobid came down to the wire in Pittsburgh, PA, but Sacred Heart’s 28-24 loss to Duquesne meant 7-4 Sacred Heart would end up tied for 1st for the NEC championship , but without the autobid.
Biggest Shoes to Fill: Two-time team captain QB Kevin Duke gave the Pioneers steady leadership under center (1,736 yards passing, 473 yards rushing, 20 TDs), and RB Jordan Meachum gave Sacred Heart one of the best rushers in the conference (1,400 yards rushing, 11 TDs). They combine to form a huge hole for head coach Mark Nofri to fill this offseason.
Key Player: Whomever lines up under center next season for the Pioneers, they’re going to have last season’s NEC rookie of the year running the ball for them. RB Julius Chestnut was the perfect complement to Meachum last year, notching 713 tough yards rushing and 7 TDs. He’ll be expected to step up in class and perhaps become the go-to back now that Meachum has graduated.
Fearless Prediction: Sacred Heart seems to be in a place where they are always in contention for NEC titles, even during so-called rebuilding years. Still, the uncertainty of replacing their team captain at QB makes it difficult to pick them to win it all. If the Pioneers can find Duke’s replacement, they are very much NEC title contenders.