New Hampshire Football Report

UNH ready for restart

UNH running back Carlos Washington (Courtesy photo)

DURHAM – It’s time for some University of New Hampshire football. Finally.

The Wildcats open their 2021 fall season Thursday night (6) at Stony Brook in what likely will be the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

The Wildcats will be playing their second game in the past 650 days. UNH coach Sean McDonnell tops that number: He will be on the sideline working a game for just the second time in 1,020 days.

What a long, strange trip it’s been since UNH ended a disappointing 2018 season with a loss to Rhode Island.

There was the truncated one-game “spring” season that started and then ended, because of COVID-19 issues, with a home game against Albany this past March 5. The spring season, which was scheduled for six games, was set up after the entire 2020 season was lost to the pandemic.

Before that, UNH played a 2019 season that showed promise, featuring an up-and-coming defense and ending with a decisive win over Maine and resulting in a 6-5 record and just missing the FCS playoffs. The week before that season started, however, McDonnell announced he was taking a medical leave of absence and proceeded to stage a successful battle against bladder cancer.

Associate head coach Ricky Santos took his place as interim head coach for the season.

McDonnell returned to his post in March of 2020, got to coach the one game last spring and now is ready to go, with Santos back as associate head coach and quarterbacks coach for 2021.

Through the stops and starts, delays and frustrations, the goals haven’t wavered.

“Our theme is ‘To the Top,’” said grad student safety and captain Evan Horn. “We’re trying to get back to the top. We’re always trying to reach the playoffs, but for my last year I want to win a CAA championship.”

The motivations are many.

“That’s our theme and it definitely has been pushing us,” Horn said. “But there’s Coach Mac, too. A lot of guys want to do it for him in his return. But you always want to do it for yourself, too. You don’t want to be known as the team that wasn’t very good here. The standard is so high from years past.”

From 2004 through 2017, the Wildcats put together an unprecedented string of 14 straight appearances in the FCS tournament. They’d like nothing more than to start another long playoff run this fall.

They’ll look to do it with a new starting quarterback and they expect to showcase a strong running game with a stingy defense that is especially formidable up the middle. Max Brosmer took over the starting quarterback role as a true freshman in the second half of the 2019 season-opening game against Holy Cross and ran with it. But he suffered a knee injury early in this pre-season camp, will have surgery shortly and is out for the season.

Sophomore Bret Edwards won the job heading into that Holy Cross game and is back as the starter now, backed up by freshman Brody McAndrew.

“Bret’s a good football player,” McDonnell said. “Our kids reacted to it just the way I would want them to react. They feel disappointed. They feel awful for Max, but they’re looking forward to Bret, looking forward to Brody. Bret has practiced very well, Brody has practiced very well. Bret’s the guy that’s going to lead us.”

Edwards has the ability to pull the ball down and run.

“Things don’t rattle that kid,” McDonnell said. “He’s got a good feel, good pace about him. He’s sneaky athletic. He can run, he can scramble. When he learns to get to the escape hatch and take off, I think we’re going to have a chance to have another multi-dimensional guy at quarterback. He’s not (former standout) Trevor Knight. But he’s somewhere between Trevor and Max.”

Edwards works behind a line anchored by senior Matt Mascia at center with juniors Patrick Flynn and Riley Burns at the tackles and sophomores Osho Omoyeni and Matt O’Neill at guard.

Junior Carlos Washington, Jr., sophomore Dylan Laube, redshirt freshman Isaac Seide and sophomore Jacob Post make running back a position of strength.

Juniors Brian Espanet and Sean Coyne, senior Nick Lorden and sophomore Charles Briscoe III are among the threats as receivers along with sophomore tight end Kyle Lepkowski.

The defense had a big year in 2019, particularly while closing out the season with a win over Maine, and also impressed in the spring game against Albany. Senior defensive tackle Elijah Lewis has started 33 games and Horn 30. Junior Niko Kvietkus plays tackle alongside Lewis and junior Gunner Gibson is at one end spot and freshman Josiah Silver the other.

Senior Pop Bush and redshirt freshman Noah Stansbury are safeties along with Horn and sophomores Derek Thompson and Randall Harris are the corners.

The starting linebackers are sophomore Bryce Shaw, a transfer from Navy, and redshirt freshman Ryan Toscano. They’re backed up by redshirt freshman Zedane Williams and freshman Brandon Perkins at linebacker. Oleh Manzyk, who started as a freshman in 2019, is out with an injury.

McDonnell said he likes the way junior Jordan Conn, who has won the kickoff and place-kicking duties, has come on. Redshirt freshmen Aidan Cadogan and Sean Lehane may share the punting work to start.

XTRA POINTS 

  • Stony Brook had a 1-3 record in its abbreviated spring season.
  • The Seawolves were 5-7 in 2019.
  • UNH beat Stony Brook, 20-14, its last game in Lavalle Stadium on Oct. 12, 2019.
  • The Seawolves like to run the ball and had 206 yards rushing in that game.
  • Ty Son Lawton, now a junior, carried 23 times for 124 yards and a score.
  • Espanet caught a pair of touchdown passes from Brosmer last time out at Stony Brook.
  • Grad student quarterback Tyquell Fields is back to lead the Seawolves.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login