College Football: St. Francis playing it forward
By Tim O’Brien For Sun-Times Media September 4, 2014 8:14PM
St. Francis 2014
Coach: Joe Curry, third season (13-9)
Last year: 7-4 overall, 4-2 in the Mid-States Football Association Mideast League. Team did not qualify for the NAIA playoffs.
Key Players: LB Derrick Caldwell (67 tackles), jr.; DL Albert Cruse (redshirt last year), jr.; DL Eric Davis (66 tackles, 7 sacks), sr.; P Ryan Giachetti (41 punts, 37.7 average), jr.; LB Jamal Graham (62 tackles) jr.; WR Sheldon Magee (368 receiving yards, 3 TDs), jr.; RB Malik Norman (383 rushing yards, 4 TDs), sr.; LB Mike Passo (94 tackles, 5 sacks, 11 TFL), jr.; WR Troy Torrence (1,141 receiving yards, 12 TDs), sr.; QB Trace Wanless (494 receiving yards, 5 TDs). jr.
Sept. 6: vs. Olivet Nazarene, 4 p.m.
Sept. 13: vs. Lindenwood-Belleville, 4 p.m.
Sept. 20: vs. Trinity International, 4 p.m.
Sept. 27: at St. Xavier, 1 p.m.
Oct. 4: vs. Concordia (Michigan), 4 p.m.-x
Oct. 11: at Robert Morris, 7 p.m.-x
Oct. 18: at St. Francis (Indiana), 11 a.m.-x
Oct. 25: vs. Marian, 1 p.m.-x
Nov. 1: vs. Siena Heights, 1 p.m.-x
Nov. 8: at St. Ambrose, 1 p.m.
Nov. 15: at Taylor, noon-x
x- Mid-States Football Association Mideast game
Updated: September 5, 2014 11:59PM
St. Francis football coach Joe Curry remembers when a preseason ranking would have seemed crazy in the program’s rougher years.
That’s not the case these days. The Fighting Saints earned the No. 20 ranking in the NAIA Football Coaches’ Preseason Poll.
Curry’s reaction? Be proud and move on. The ranking means nothing.
“I remember when we would have been considered the 93rd out of 94 teams and only the baseball team came out to our games,” Curry said with a laugh. “We want to prove something each week. Go 1-0 at each practice, each game. We can’t control the past, but control the present. Don’t look to the past and don’t look forward. Go 1-0 today. Win today.”
Entering his third year as St. Francis head coach after a seven-year run as a defensive coordinator, Curry has the Fighting Saints on the right track.
How so? St. Francis lost quarterback E.J. White and his 12,980 yards of career offense, good for third in NAIA history, and, no criticism of White, but Curry isn’t too worried.
The next man up, let the offense keep piling up the yards and points.
“We need our offense not to turn the ball over, and we can be pretty explosive,” Curry said. “Our offense is unique in that our quarterback will be put in the position to put up some numbers. I have total confidence in our quarterbacks.”
St. Francis entered traning with three players — Trace Wanless, Mitch Brozovich and Ryne Van Gennep (Lincoln-Way East) — battling for the starting job. Wanless won out, but Curry expects all three to get on the field.
Receiver Troy Torrence (De La Salle) said the battle took some getting used, but the offense has found its groove.
“It was hard, three different quarterbacks, three different styles, but they’re all great quarterbacks, and it was good to see the competition,” Torrence said. “We expect big things (offensively) with a veteran receiver and running backs group. We’re looking to go five-plus each week, five touchdowns, no turnovers.”
On the defensive side, St. Francis returns nine players who saw significant time last season.
Goliaths this group isn’t, but the Saints aren’t too concerned.
“Our defense has a lot of speed. We’re not the biggest group so we have to trust each other,” Passo said. “Focus on your job, not everyone else’s and be in the right gaps. We want to make the playoffs and go as far as we can.”
As Torrence and his teammates have seen, the potential is there. It’s a matter of putting it all together.
“The preseason ranking means nothing other than motivation,” Torrence said. “We can be better than that (No. 20). We weren’t consistent enough last year, but we’re jelling with much more discipline.”