MORRISVILLE, N.Y. – Entering their 21st season in the modern era, and 11th as a member of the NCAA Division III in 2017, Morrisville State will kick-off their fifth season under the direction of head coach Curt Fitzpatrick (19-22 overall, four seasons) Saturday, September 2nd, as they host Norwich University on Drake Field in a non-conference battle in a first ever meeting between the two programs.
Morrisville State returns 70 to the roster this season, a core that made the commitment over the off-season to leave no stone unturned in 2017 after suffering disappointment in their overall record a year ago.
"This off-season we scoured and evaluated every aspect of our program in order to improve and get back to where we were in previous seasons," Fitzpatrick stated. "However, I believe the biggest difference will be in the resolve and mental toughness of our players."
"They made a commitment to one another in the offseason and have had an excellent pre-season training camp."
The Mustangs return 13 upperclassmen to the starting line-up this Saturday, six on the offensive side of the ball that include all-conference selection Marcus Thompson (Syracuse, N.Y.). Thompson is joined by senior Tyler Cowley (Brooklyn, N.Y.) to anchor the offensive line and provide protection for junior Brandon Gwinner (Schenectady, N.Y.) who will take the calls under center.
Gwinner made eight appearances last season, completing 63-of-110 passes for 812 yards and five touchdowns. He added 168 net yards in the Mustangs running game.
All four of the Mustangs top wide receivers return to the wings this season, including a trio of seniors to serve as targets for Gwinner in the passing game. Marcus Jackson-Conner (Sodus, N.Y.), who led Morrisville State a year ago with 727 yards and three touchdown scores on 55 receptions returns alongside Joseph Faniel (Clyde, N.Y.) who collected 507 yards on 53 catches.
Kyle Flash (Bronx, N.Y.) will also be a target for Gwinner, after pulling in 16 for 352 yards and two touchdown scores.
Senior Darrel West (Syracuse, N.Y.) and junior Nick Edmond (Blythe, Calif.) return to the backfield for Morrisville State after combining for 858 yards and 10 touchdown scores on the ground for the Mustangs a year ago.
Morrisville State returns seven starters to the defensive side of the ball, including captains Kendall Clarke (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Greg Elliott (Hubbardsville, N.Y.).
Clarke, senior linebacker, will once again be a leading force for the Mustangs, after compiling a team best 70 tackles a year ago, to go along with two sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
He will be joined by senior corner Anthony Deese (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and sophomore safety Mike Bodnar (Miller Place, N.Y.) who had a breakout season for the Mustangs in the secondary in 2016, combining for two interceptions, three passes defended and 40 total stops.
As with any program where adjustments are made in the off-season, Morrisville State will utilize the non-conference opener with the Cadets as preparation for the Empire 8 conference opener with Buffalo State on Saturday, Sept. 16, following a bye week on the ninth.
The Mustangs won't be able to look past the Cadets, though, as they began 0-4 in 2016 before capturing five wins in the final six weeks of their season to finish 5-5 overall. This will be the first meeting between the two programs.
What one can expect on the field from the Mustangs this season is unpredictable. But after a stellar preseason training camp, the energy among players and staff speaks volumes about the excitement as they approach opening day.
"We had some staff turnover so things might look a little bit different schematically on both sides of the ball, but I think the mental toughness, fundamentals, and discipline of our players will be the biggest reason for the successes we have in 2017," Fitzpatrick said.
Kick-off against Norwich is scheduled for noon on Drake Field in Morrisville.
Morrisville State College's curricula are enriched with applied learning and pave the way for opportunity at both the Morrisville and Norwich campuses. An action-oriented, interactive learning lab, the college is a national leader in technology and has been lauded for its exemplary, innovative and effective community service programs.
The college was ranked among the Best Regional Colleges in the North by U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges 2016 issue and was also recognized in the Top Public Schools, Regional Colleges North in the 2016 Best Colleges rankings. For more information about Morrisville State College, visit www.morrisville.edu.