CENTER VALLEY, Pa. - The Patriot League will preview each football team heading into the 2012 season, with a synopsis on the team's offense, defense, special teams and schedule as well as video interviews from Patriot League Football Media Day.
2011 Record: 6-5/3-2 Patriot League Patriot League Preseason Poll: 2nd Preseason All-Patriot League: Gerald Mistretta (Sr., WR); Sean Whited (Sr., OL); John Macomber (Jr., K); Jack Maliska (Sr., DL); Michael Tucker (Sr., LB); Tom Mannix (Sr., DB) Head Coach: Tom Gilmore (9th Season @ Holy Cross/Overall) (51-38/ 30-18 PL)
No team has been more consistenly competitive than Holy Cross during Head Coach Tom Gilmore's tenure. The Crusaders have posted a winning record in seven straight years, and finished over .500 in the Patriot League in each of those seasons. However, Holy Cross only has one title (2009) to show for all of the success in recent seasons. Picked second in the Patriot League, the Crusaders expect to be right in the mix again. They come into the 2012 season with 14 returning starters, including eight on offense, to try and get back on top in the Patriot League.
Offense (8 starters returning/3 lost)
A unit that brings back eight starters faces one major question: who, and how, to replace Ryan Taggart. While sometimes overshadowed by Lehigh's offensive prowess last season, Taggart put up a memorable year of his own to earn second-team All-Patriot League honors. He completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,948 yards and 17 touchdowns, and also ran for 496 yards and seven scores. Senior Kevin Watson has the most experience in the battle to take over the position, as he played seven games and threw for 375 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 2010. A group of other players without game experience will also compete for time on the field. Elsewhere, the Crusaders bring back the bulk of their starting group on offense. Eddie Houghton (506 yards, 4 TD) earned the most work at running back last year, but Reggie Woods, Sam Auffant and Matt Bellomo all have significant starting experience as well. Preseason All-Patriot League selection Gerald Mistretta (60 rec., 723 yards, 6 TD), Mike Fess (45 rec., 417 yards, 2 TD) and Kyle Toulouse (40 rec., 472 yards, 3 TD) are all back to lead a strong wide receiving group, and Alex Schneider has career totals of 78 receptions, 654 yards and nine touchdowns at tight end. Preseason All-Patriot League selection Sean Whited returns at center, while Kyle Pedretty and Casey Bessemer are also back as starters on an offensive line that loses multi-year starter Mike McCabe.
To watch Whited talk about the offense at Patriot League Football Media Day, check out the video below.
Defense (6 starters returning/5 lost)
The defense loses a few more starters than the offense, but the line appears to be in good shape. Holy Cross brings back all three starters on the line from last year, with preseason All-Patriot League pick Jack Maliska (35 TT, 4 TFL) joined again by Gary Acquah (40 TT, 3 TFL) and Matthew Boyd. Another preseason All-Patriot Leaguer, Mike Tucker (27 TT, 9 sacks) is the top returnee among the linebackers. Roman SanDoval is also in the group after making 15 tackles in just three games last year, but Ricky Otis, C.J. Martin and Jimmy Thomas have all departed after strong senior seasons. Tom Mannix (87 TT, 10 PBU) is a preseason All-Patriot League pick at safety and Irvin Scott is back at cornerback, though the secondary takes a hit with Chandler Fenner now competing in NFL training camp with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Specialists (1 returning/1 lost)
John Macomber earned preseason All-Patriot League honors for his placekicking from last season, but it looks like it will be all Macomber, all the time for the Holy Cross kicking game. He made 12-15 field goal attempts last year, and is also slated to take over as the punter with Corey Page moving on.
Once again, the Crusaders will spend the majority of their non-League schedule taking on some of the top FCS teams in the New England region. Holy Cross spends its first four weeks at home, opening on a Thursday night under the lights against New Hampshire (8/30) before a bye and two more home games against Brown (9/15) and Dartmouth (9/22). The first road trip is a short drive for a Friday night game at Harvard (9/28). Holy Cross stays at home for one more week when Patriot League play opens against Bucknell (10/6), then heads west to battle Colgate (10/13) and Lafayette (10/20). The home schedule wraps up with games against Fordham (10/27) and Lehigh (11/3). The final non-League game is at Wagner (11/10) before the season finale at Georgetown (11/17) the next week.
Gilmore discusses the 2012 Crusaders in the video below from Patriot League Football Media Day.