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ON CAMPUS A look at the area college sports scene

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Southern Connecticut State football: Mallis survives the Spring Game for once

NEW HAVEN — Jack Mallis admitted he was a bit on edge heading into Southern Connecticut State’s annual spring football game.
Each of the past two seasons, Mallis, a junior running back, had limped off the field unable to finish the contest.
“I told my friends I felt a little weird about the game,” Mallis said. “My first year I played I pulled my hamstring. And last year I tore my PCL and my meniscus.”
Jack Mallis

But Mallis came out of Saturday’s contest injury free and hopes it’s an omen for a big season.
“It felt great to come out of this game healthy,” he said. “I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
Mallis and the Owls hope to improve on last season’s disappointing campaign when injuries and youth derailed the team’s season. There were games that Southern went as deep as its fourth-string quarterback to finish off contests.
The end result was a 3-8 mark in which the Owls were outscored 334-190.
“That’s not the type of team we are,” Mallis said. “It all starts in the summer. We have to use the offseason to get in the weight room, to come back stronger and then we’ll have a serious chance to contend.”
Mallis rushed for 15 yards on five carries as the defense dominated in Southern’s William “Sully” Sullivan game.
“The scrimmages are kind of interesting,” Mallis said. “You really don’t want one unit to dominate, because if they do then it might be a sign the other side isn’t that good. I think the defense played really well. Offensively we were a little undisciplined, but I think we’ll be fine.”
Mallis figures to be more involved in the offense this year. Last season he rushed for 39 yards on 11 carries with one touchdown while recovering from the major spring injury.
“I’m happy to be right in the mix,” Mallis said. “I think I can add power in the backfield and be the guy who runs between the tackles. I think I can be the short-yardage back and on the goal-line situations I’m positive I can get into the end zone.”
SCSU coach Rich Cavanaugh thinks the backfield, which also features speedsters Vaughn Magee (217 carries, 1,141 yards last season), Dequane June (66-264) and shifty John Moscatel (25-101) is one of the strengths of the team.
“We have a lot of depth there and that’s a strong point,” Cavanaugh said. “And I thought Jack Mallis looked good.”
Cavanaugh expects the defense, which ranked sixth in the conference last season, to be strong.
“It’s not worrisome (that the defense dominated at times),” Cavanaugh said. “They should be ahead of the offense now and I expect them to be pretty good. They played well. They were aggressive and they played with confidence.
“Offensively we’re still trying to find the pieces. There’s a lot of youth and inexperience on the line.”
SCSU scores the spring contest on which unit wins each play. At halftime the defense led 37-12 and the contest was over. The defense finished with five forced turnovers and 10 sacks in the game and limited starting quarterback Jacob Jablonski to 47 yards on 6-of-19 passing. Jablonski, who missed the end of the last season with an ankle injury, threw one scoring pass and was picked off three times.
But Cavanaugh isn’t worried about his veteran signal-caller.
“I thought J.J. kept his poise,” Cavanaugh said. “He was under a lot of pressure. Most of the problem was timing and he could have lost his cool, but he never did. That’s a sign of maturity. J.J. had a good spring.”
Lewis Edney led the receiving corps with five catches for 34 yards and a touchdown. Vito Fornarelli had four catches for 40 yards and caught a scoring pass from Michael Eckrote. Fornarelli and Edney will pair with Carlton Staggers and Gary Williams to help fill the void left by graduates Willie Epps and Jayson Holt.
Cavanaugh also was pleased with the performance from punter/kicker Jeff Groth, a sophomore from Shelton.
But the defense clearly stole the show.
“We were doing a lot of things out there and they looked good,” Cavanaugh said. “With Mwamba Williams and Antonio Williams we’re going to be strong.”
And Cavanaugh is eager to see how linebacker Brian Wilcox progresses. At 6 feet 5, 250 pounds, Cavanaugh feels he could have a breakout season.
“He can be the real deal,” Cavanaugh said. “He’s real big, but the way he plays you wouldn’t know it. He runs like a deer. The light bulb went on for him and he’s really ready.”
The Owls, who open the season on Sept. 7 at home against Indiana (Pa.), got interceptions from Michael Dunkley and Jordan Teague early in the contest. And they even played without one of their stars, junior lineman Carlif Taylor, who sat out the game as a precaution after undergoing knee surgery last November.
“I’ve been practicing and I’ve been playing. I just gave it a little break for the game,” Taylor said. “I’ll be ready to go. I’ve been going 110 percent since I got back.”
Taylor said chemistry is a huge key to getting the Owls back at the top of the Northeast-10 standings.
“We worked on what we needed to in the offseason, but one thing we really needed to work on was the chemistry,” Taylor said. “We came together a little closer. We’ve worked harder to reach our goal. Last year wasn’t a good feeling at all.
“Nobody likes to lose, but we’re going to take it a day at a time. We have to fix the mistakes we made last year. As a whole we’ve been improving and the communication from coach to player and from player to player has been great.”
Taylor also feels the defense is poised for a big season, but he’s not worried about the offense.
“Defensively, the younger guys are improving and the upperclassmen are ready to take that next step. Over time we’ll have success. With (Jablonski) and the running backs and the receivers, I’ve got more than 110 percent faith in those guys. We didn’t work hard for nothing and you’ll see it pay off in the upcoming season.”

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