ON CAMPUS A look at the area college sports scene

Friday, August 19, 2011

SCSU football second in the NE-10 preseason poll

NEW HAVEN — A year ago the Southern Connecticut State football team was the preseason favorite to win the Northeast-10 Conference.
But, after seven games had been played, SCSU was just 3-4 and the troops were getting restless.
That’s when linebacker Sam-uel Johnson guaranteed his Owls would win the rest of their games.
“It worked for Joe Namath,” Johnson said. “The guys listened and we got it done.”
But Johnson took little satisfaction from the fact his prediction came true. The 6-4 finish was little reward. And with SCSU picked behind rival New Haven in this season’s preseason poll, Johnson already has a bit of a chip on his shoulder.
“I’m a straight shooter,” Johnson said. “We’re not picked first this year because Southern hasn’t been the team they’ve been in the past.
“Last year we were picked first and we didn’t perform. This year we’re picked second and if we perform well, we’ll be where we need to be.”
Johnson led the Owls with 76 tackles last year and was an All-Northeast-10 and All-ECAC selection. He also had three sacks, a team-high three fumble recoveries and two interceptions.
But Johnson remembers some other disturbing numbers from last season.
See SCSU, E5
“We had 14 personal fouls and they turned into 10 touchdowns and four field goals,” he said. “We dropped 27 picks. You can’t win that way, you just can’t. If we come together as a group we’ll be fine.
“I had a good season last year but I listened and learned and that’s why I got better. That’s what everyone has to do this season. If the players work together and become a brotherhood, I really believe we would never lose.”
Johnson’s improvement last season was one of the brightest spots for SCSU coach Rich Cavanaugh.
“He’s a very tenacious football player,” Cavanaugh said. “He had a tremendous year last year. We’re expecting him to pick up where he left off. He plays the game from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet with every fiber in his body.
“The way he played last year, if I could have everybody on the team playing like Sam Johnson, I’d sleep pretty good at night. He had a breakout year and everything came together for him.”
Johnson will anchor the linebacker corps, perenially one of the best units in the region. Middletown’s Chevar Rankins and Gavin Nelson also return. The trio finished in the top four on the team in tackles. Add in Nate Tyler, Jack Petion and several others — all with great speed — and this unit will once again be a conference power.
Southern finished in a four-way tie for first place in the conference standings last year. The conference will add a ninth game to the NE-10 slate next season where the top two finishers will square off in an effort to give the conference winner more points to earn a berth in the postseason.
The Owls open the season Sept. 3 at Central Connecticut State. They won’t play a home game until Week 4.



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