Sacred Heart wins share of NEC football title, tops St. Francis (Pa.)
FAIRFIELD — The emotions were raw, and they were about to get a little rawer for Sacred Heart quarterback Kevin Duke.
The Pioneers topped St. Francis (Pa.) 13-7 on Saturday at Campus Field, earning the program its fourth NEC title and its third in the past six years.
“It’s a storybook ending. Everything you’ve worked for, for as long as you’ve played, since I was 5 years old. It’s 17 years. My mom texted me the amount of days,” Duke said.
“It’s all the missed vacations in August. How much of a grind it really was. I’ve never won anything in my life. To go out like this, it really hasn’t hit me yet.”
As he said that, there was still a chance the Pioneers (7-4, 5-1 NEC) could’ve continued on. Had Central Connecticut won at home over Duquesne, Sacred Heart would have earned the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA FCS playoffs. Pioneers staff put the end of that game on the video board at Campus Field.
“We’re still co-NEC champs,” Pioneers coach Mark Nofri said. “Everybody that picked us sixth or seventh: We just tied for first. I’m extremely proud of these kids, what they were able to accomplish this year and what they were able to overcome.”
The preseason poll, indeed, picked Sacred Heart sixth, replacing most of its defensive starters.
The Pioneers defense shone Saturday. Jayden Jordan picked off Bear Fenimore twice in the first half. The Pioneers sacked Fenimore five times, including two huge plays by Aaron Donalson.
And after two incompletions left the Red Flash with fourth-and-8 with 5:32 to go, Donalson got to Fenimore and took him down.
The game was advertised as a defe
And the second half made for a postgame title celebration on the field.
“At some point, it’s got to come to an end. For it to end this way, as a champion, it’s storybook. It’s everything you could ever ask for,” Duke said.
“I can’t be more proud of my guys right now. The guys believed in me. I can’t thank them enough. The coaching staff believed in me when a lot of other people didn’t.”
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SACRED HEART 13,
ST. FRANCIS (Pa.) 7
ST. FRANCIS (Pa.)0 7 0 0—7
SACRED HEART3 3 7 0—13
SH—Noah Gettman 33 FG, 8:19
SF—Ra’Shaun Henry 22 pass Bear Fenimore (Eric Bofenkamp kick), 12:50
SH—Gettman 27 FG, 2:53
SH—Jordan Meachum 3 run (Gettman kick), 8:01
Records: St. Francis (Pa.) 4-7, 2-4 NEC; Sacred Heart 7-4, 5-1