Preview: Dukes football heads to Sacred Heart

Duquesne wide receiver Kellon Taylor runs into the end zone during the second quarter of last year’s game against Sacred Heart at Arthur J. Rooney Field. Taylor finished the afternoon with a team-high 86 receiving yards.
Duquesne wide receiver Kellon Taylor runs into the end zone during the second quarter of last year’s game against Sacred Heart at Arthur J. Rooney Field. Taylor finished the afternoon with a team-high 86 receiving yards.

David Borne | Sports Editor

Oct. 17, 2019

The 2018 NEC co-champions will go head-to-head this weekend, as the Duquesne Dukes (3-2, 1-0) take on the Sacred Heart Pioneers (3-3, 1-1) on Saturday.

Last season, the Dukes grabbed a 28-24 win against Sacred Heart. This matchup will likely play a major role in deciding who represents the NEC in the FCS Playoffs later this year and could be one of Duquesne’s toughest tests of the season.

The Dish on the Dukes

Duquesne wrapped up its non-conference slate with a 2-2 record, including wins over Walsh and Dayton.

Both losses came against stiff competition, as both teams that defeated the Dukes (Youngstown State and New Hampshire), are featured in the most recent Top 25 FCS Coaches Poll.

The Dukes had a bye last week, but grabbed a 21-14 win over Long Island in their conference opener on Oct. 5 at Arthur J. Rooney Field. Running backs A.J. Hines and Mark Allen rushed for a combined 196 yards and two touchdowns on the day. A two-interception performance from Daivon Ellison led Duquesne’s defensive effort in the win over Long Island.

Overall, Duquesne’s defense has looked particularly strong to start the year. Allowing 314 yards per game, the Dukes currently rank second in the NEC in total defense. A shutdown group of defensive backs have limited opposing teams’ aerial attack, as the Dukes have allowed the second-fewest passing yards in the conference.

Panning the Pioneers

Sacred Heart’s high-octane offense has powered the team to its three wins so far this season. In four of the team’s six games, the Pioneers posted 20 or more points on the scoreboard.

Highlight wins include a 56-40 shootout against Lafayette on Sept. 14 in Easton and a dominant 34-10 performance against Long Island in Sacred Heart’s NEC opener.

Sacred Heart is carrying a two-game losing streak into Saturday’s matchup. Last weekend, the Pioneers were defeated by Penn, 38-24, at Franklin Field in Philadelphia. SHU’s rush defense allowed a total of 251 yards on the ground and gave up three touchdowns in the losing effort.

In the previous week, Sacred Heart was thumped by NEC foe Central Connecticut State in its most recent conference game. Four turnovers plagued the team’s efforts against Central Connecticut, and they ultimately dropped a 28-3 result on home turf.

Players to Watch

A.J. Hines (RB, Duquesne)

After missing some time with an upper-body injury, Hines got back on the field against LIU and looked as good as ever. The senior put together an 140-yard performance in his return and averaged 4.4 yards per carry.

Through three games this season, Hines has gained a total of 294 yards on the ground, and has found the end zone three times. He now stands just 132 yards short of passing Donte Small for second all-time in rushing yards in program history.

Last season against Sacred Heart, Hines finished with 213 yards on the ground, and should have another big day on Saturday.

Reid Harrison-Ducros (DB, Duquesne)

The Dukes’ defense will have its hands full this weekend, and Harrison-Ducros will surely play a major role in Duquesne’s efforts to slow down the passing game. The cornerback currently stands third on the team in solo tackles (16) and is tied for second in the team in interceptions (1).

Duquesne will rely heavily on the play of its defensive backs to find success on Saturday, and Harrison-Ducros will likely be assigned to shutdown Pioneers’ star receiver Tyrese Chambers.

Logan Marchi (QB, Sacred Heart)

Marchi has put together an impressive start to his career with the Pioneers. The quarterback spent his first four seasons of eligibility at Temple and East Tennessee State before transferring to SHU this year.

Marchi has quickly established himself as one of the NEC’s top quarterbacks, and leads the conference in average throwing yards per game (271.3). In last weekend’s loss on the road at Penn, the fifth-year quarterback threw for 278 yards and tossed two touchdown passes.

Julius Chestnut (RB, Sacred Heart)

With 2019 All-NEC Preseason selection Jordan Meachum sidelined due to injury, Chestnut has seen the majority of action in the backfield for SHU.

The sophomore halfback is the leading rusher in the NEC, having posted a total of 689 rushing yards on the year. Chestnut will likely have another very active day on Saturday.

Kick off for Saturday’s game is scheduled for 12 p.m. at Campus Field in Fairfield. The Dukes are riding a four-game win streak in games against Sacred Heart, and are 5-1 all-time at Campus Field. Since the start of 2015, Duquesne is 20-5 in NEC games, with a 9-3 record in league games on the road.