SALISBURY, Md. – There are a lot of reasons for the Salisbury University football team to be happy with the progress from the 2018 season into the upcoming season. The 2019 Sea Gulls are looking to build off last season where they made it to their 15th consecutive postseason appearance and starting off the season 8-0.
"We were hampered with injuries throughout the season and we were still able to be undefeated for a majority of the season," said 21-year head coach Sherman Wood. "Those last three games of the season were all decided by seven points or less so in the offseason, spring ball and in camp, we stressed on our guys that we have to 'finish strong' in order to make another trip to postseason play."
Salisbury has a solid group of players returning to the fold, highlighted by All-New Jersey Athletic Conference performers in senior linebacker Patrick Bernardo, senior defensive lineman Matthew McFarland, senior linebacker Harold Kwigova, senior offensive lineman Tyler Norwood, and junior defensive back Sean Carroll.
The top rushing attack in all of Division III last year, Salisbury looks to carry that momentum into 2019. The Sea Gulls have ranked in the top 10 in Division III in rushing yards per game and total yardage every year since 2010.
The quarterback position will be highlighted by juniors Jack Navitsky and Jack Lanham. Lanham started the 2018 season as the starter before going down with an injury during the second game of the season. Navitsky stepped in for Lanham and played in nine games with 642 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
"It's the two-headed monster at quarterback with both Navitsky and Lanham. Both players did very well at camp and we are in good shape at that position heading into the year."
After graduating leading rusher Kadarrius Campbell, the Sea Gull backfield will feature seniors Mike-Ryan Mofor and Michael Fowler. Mofor rushed for 660 yards last season, including a 237-yard performance in the 2018 season opener against Albright and 10 touchdowns. Fowler is battling back from an injury last season and will factor in on the ground.
The road graders on the offensive line look to propel the Sea Gull offense this year with seniors Tyler Norwood, Owen Bolyard and Tyler Rosello and juniors Joey Osborne and Caleb Weatherford returning to the line.
"Our offensive line is very strong and healthy. It is a group that has had some game experience and that would be a factor in running our offense."
A defense that returns eight starters from the squad that was fourth in the nation in rushing defense in the country, holding opponents to 60.5 rushing yards per game. The defense was also ninth in total yards allowed and 15th in scoring defense. The Sea Gull defense only allowed 12.5 points per contest and gave up 20-plus points only twice in 11 games in 2018.
"It will be tough to top the performance the defense put up last season. But, we have some great leadership on that side of the ball which will be big for the upcoming season."
The defensive line will be spearheaded by seniors Matthew McFarland and Felix Fonmedig. McFarland collected 39 tackles in 2018, including nine tackles for loss and six sacks, which tied for seventh in the NJAC. Fonmedig tallied 26 tackles a season ago in his first full season as a starter.
The linebacker group returns three starters from last season, led by All-NJAC and All-Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) linebacker senior Patrick Bernardo and fellow All-NJAC senior Harold Kwigova. Bernardo and Kwigova finished one-two in tackles a season ago with Bernardo registering 72 tackles while Kwigova notched 65 tackles. Kwigova finished in a tie for sixth in the NJAC in tackles for loss with 10.0. Junior Andrew Raines looks to improve from a 2018 season where he tallied 37 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
A young secondary will be paced by All-NJAC and All-ECAC junior defensive back Sean Carroll. Carroll finished his sophomore campaign with 61 total tackles including 35 solo, one and a half tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and a team-high five interceptions.
Salisbury will feature Bert Schrecongost as the primary placekicker for the upcoming season. Junior Chad Gleason will return punts while senior transfer Octavion Wilson and junior Damien King returning kicks.
Due to the departure of Regents Cup rival Frostburg St., and Southern Virginia from the NJAC, the Sea Gulls 2019 schedule looks a bit different from previous years highlighted by UW-Oshkosh coming to Sea Gull Stadium on Saturday, Sept 14.
Salisbury begins New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) play on Oct. 5 when they travel to the outskirts of New York City to battle the Montclair St. Redhawks.
The Sea Gulls then return home for back-to-back weeks, starting with Wesley making the short trip down Route 13 on Oct. 12 before celebrating Homecoming 2019 on Oct. 19 against the Rowan Profs. Both games are slated for a 1 p.m. start at Sea Gull Stadium.
Following a road contest on Oct. 26 at Kean, Salisbury wraps up the home portion of their schedule on Nov. 2 when the maroon and gold host the Christopher Newport Captains. The Senior Day game is set for a 1 p.m. kickoff.
Salisbury finishes the 2019 season with a pair of road games in New Jersey against the TCNJ Lions on Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. and the William Paterson Pioneers on Nov. 16 at 1 p.m.
Salisbury opens the season on Friday, Sept. 6 in Reading, Pa. against the Albright Lions. Kick off from Gene Shirk Stadium is set for 6 p.m.
To view game notes for the Albright game, click here.