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Hobbled Red Flash Hit the Road vs. Monmouth
LORETTO — Forgive St. Francis coach Dave Opfar if he thinks of his team as an injury ward right now.
His Red Flash team has incurred some major injuries this year, leading him to try to change his approach on both sides of the ball.
St. Francis (0-4, 0-1 Northeast Conference) visits West Long Branch, N.J., for today’s Northeast Conference game with Monmouth (2-3, 1-0) that starts at 1 p.m.
“It is a matter of trying to find some pieces to put it all together,” Opfar said. “We are really busted up, and we lost two more this week. We are out of outside linebackers right now, and we are down to one fullback. This is very interesting when you are down to 14 scholarship players and you have only 20.”
The Red Flash had lost their top wideout, Antoine Rivera, in the Marist game, and linebackers Tyler Gillmen, Dan Conley, Chad Iachini and Jesse Stasko are also out, with some possibly done for the season.
That injury situation has led Opfar to change his defense from his conventional five-man front.
“We are going to a four-man front out of necessity,” Opfar said. “We have to simplify it because we have so many kids in their first game action.”
The three remaining linebackers on that defense are good ones. Former Bishop McCort standout Scott Lewis continues to lead the Red Flash with 40 tackles from his linebacker position, with fellow sophomore Matthew Parker second with 39.
While Monmouth has lost three games, the Hawks have played up in competition, losing to Maine (21-17), Rhode Island (27-24), and Coastal Carolina (26-7).
Monmouth defeated Robert Morris 26-7 in the NEC opener.
“They’re really good,” Opfar said about the Hawks, who beat the Flash 47-17 last year. “They have played a very tough schedule against some of the (Football Championship Subdivision) teams, and they have played them very close,” Opfar said. “They had a very physical game against Robert Morris.”
Red Flash quarterback George Little is injured but will play today. Little has completed 61 of 117 passes for 779 yards and five touchdowns. He also has thrown five interceptions.
Junior wideout Omar Winston is now the go-to receiver for Little, with 21 catches for 213 yards and a touchdown.
The Red Flash have had difficulty sustaining a running game, rushing for a net 262 yards in four games. Tailback Calvin Williams leads the running attack with 197.
Monmouth running back David Sinisi averages almost that many per game. He leads the Hawks with 717 yards, averaging 143 yards per contest.
Brett Burke is the quarterback for Monmouth, connecting on 71 of 120 passes for 720 yards and five touchdowns. He has thrown four interceptions.
Hobbled Flash hit the road
By Hugh Conrad, The Johnstown Tribune-Democrat (PA)