Fairfield, CT - The SHU Club Football team hosted the North Atlantic Conference Championship for the third year in a row this past Saturday night and having been consistently in the NAC Championship game since the program entered the league in 2015. The 2018 Club Pioneers were trying to be the first team in the conference to win back-to-back Conference Championships since Vermont did it in the early 2010's. This year, they hosted newcomer Johnson & Wales University out of Rhode Island. Earlier this season, the Wildcats had pushed the Pioneers to the limit, taking a halftime lead 20-0 into the third quarter before the Pioneers scored 28 unanswered points to win. This game played out much differently. The Pioneers dominated from the opening kickoff through the fourth quarter.
The first punt of the game was returned for a touchdown, brought back almost 70 yards for a quick score. Following another punt return for a touchdown that was called back due to penalties, the Pioneers drove 60+ yards down the field capped by a 25 yard touchdown pass from Sophomore QB Mike Contento to Senior Captain Mark Barranger. Both PAT's were made, to make the score 14-0 heading into the second quarter. After several punts were exchanged, Sophomore Kicker Matt Lawrence drilled a 30 yard field goal right before halftime to put the Pioneers up 17-0.
The second half started out very similar, with the Pioneers benefitting from a couple of penalties against JWU to advance the ball downfield. Advancing the ball inside the two yard line, Contento handed the ball off to Sophomore FB Bryce McCanne who scored for the second week in a row. The ensuing PAT was blocked by JWU, but the damage had pretty much been done. The SHU defense was relentless, only allowing JWU to move past midfield one more time the rest of the game, creating multiple turnovers and long yardage situations while continuing their great pursuit to the football every play. Two David DePalma's touchdowns sealed the game late, and the Pioneers prevailed 36-0.
This victory was the third Conference Championship in the teams four year existence in the league. The Pioneers will play this Saturday at Dollinger Field in Erie, PA against Oakland University. Oakland is currently ranked #1 in the NCFA Power Rankings and a perennial powerhouse in the NCFA. They have won three consec Great Lakes Conference Championships and have been in the National Chamionship conversation since joining the league. Kickoff is at 3 pm.