Aug. 5, 2009
WASHINGTON, D.C. - After finishing one game off the pace in each of the last three seasons, Holy Cross was picked to capture the 2009 Patriot League Football Championship in a poll of the League's head coaches and sports information directors, it was announced at Tuesday's Football Media Day at Green Pond Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa.
The Crusaders were picked first on half of the 14 ballots, and finished with 67points to earn the top spot. Defending champion Colgate was just behind with six first-place votes and 64 points. Archrivals Lafayette and Lehigh shared the third position in the poll, each garnering 46 points while the Mountain Hawks also took home the remaining first-place vote. Fordham (35), Bucknell (24) and Georgetown (12) round out the rankings.
The poll voters also picked Holy Cross senior quarterback Dominic Randolph as the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and Lafayette senior linebacker Mark Leggiero as the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Randolph has won two consecutive Offensive Player of the Year honors and was also the preseason choice last year. Leggiero was a First-Team All-Patriot League selection in 2008.
Holy Cross will seek its sixth Patriot League title, and first since 1991, with a veteran team that includes 15 returning starters. The Crusaders bring back six starters on the offensive side of the ball, with Randolph back at quarterback and already in possession of Patriot League career records for completions and passing touchdowns and nearing the League marks for passing yardage and total offense.
Colgate will have to replace 11 starters from last year's Patriot League champion team, but the Raiders have solid returnees on both sides of the ball, with quarterback Greg Sullivan, running back Nate Eachus and wide receiver Pat Simonds each earning All-Patriot League recognition on offense a year ago.
Lafayette and Lehigh tied for the third spot in the poll, and each have reason to believe they can contend for the 2009 title. The Leopards have 14 starters back, with six on both offense and defense. Lehigh has just 10 starters back and only four on the offensive side of the ball, but does have quarterback J.B. Clark in the fold after a breakout sophomore season and First-Team All-Patriot League pick Will Rackley leading the offensive line.
Fordham fell to 1-5 in the Patriot League last season after winning the title in 2007, but still has a strong core in place to compete in 2009 with 16 starters returning. That group includes fourth-year starting quarterback John Skelton and the Patriot League's leader in rushing yardage in 2008, Xavier Martin, on offense. Bucknell was selected sixth place in the poll, though the Bison have reason for optimism with 17 starters returning. That includes All-Patriot League picks at running back (A.J. Kizekai) and wide receiver (Shaun Pasternak) to go with quarterback Marcello Trigg among nine starters on the offensive side of the ball.
Georgetown rounds out the poll, but has a League-high 19 starters returning. That group includes All-Patriot League defensive back Travis Mack (West Chester, Pa./The Hill School), as well a defensive line that includes senior Chudi Obianwu (Southampton, N.J./Bishop Eustace) and junior George Cullen (Janesville, Wis./Janesville Craig).
On the offensive side, senior back Charlie Houghton (Toronto, Ontario/Phillips Academy [Mass.]), the 2006 Patriot League Rookie of the Year, leads a unit that should provide some punch. He will be joined by junior Keerome Lawrence (New Haven, Conn./James Hillhouse) and sophomore James Brady (Melville, N.Y./St. Anthony's), who split quarterbacking duties last year, as well as senior slot Robert Lane (Greensboro, N.C./Grimsley).
Six of the seven Patriot League teams open the season on Sept. 5, which includes Georgetown visiting Holy Cross in the League opener. Lehigh and Colgate will host games that day, while Bucknell and Fordham are on the road. Lafayette opens up the next week, as the Leopards begin their season with Patriot League action at Georgetown.
Patriot League Preseason Poll Results
1. Holy Cross (7 first-place votes) 67
2. Colgate (6) 64
3. Lafayette 46
Lehigh (1) 46
5. Fordham 35
6. Bucknell 24
7. Georgetown 12
Patriot League Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: Dominic Randolph, QB, Holy Cross (Sr., 6'3, 223, Amelia, Ohio/St. Xavier)
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Mark Leggiero, LB, Lafayette (Sr., 5'11, 220, Bohemia, N.Y./ Connetequot)