Eagles kick off 2016 season

Noah Cloonan

 After being bounced in the opening round of the playoffs in 2015, the Eagles are ready to kick off a new season with hopes of a national championship.

After returning seven starters on an offense that averaged 39.5 points per game, the Eagles are ready to light up the scoreboard, and it starts Thursday against the Mercyhurst Lakers. 

Redshirt junior, Travis Tarnowski, leads the offense after passing for 3,121 and 30 touchdowns a year ago. Adam Shaheen, the leading pass catcher for the Eagles, will also be returning to the offense.

Vance Settlemire will be starting in the backfield after rushing for 13 touchdowns and adding another six receiving. He will be joined by freshman, Kieshaun Sims who won the 2015 Ohio Mr. Football award at Massillon Perry High school.

“We’re going to create some issues for defenses, to have [those] kind[s] of weapons,” head coach Lee Owens said. “We have to be creative.”

The offense will look to put up some big numbers against the Mercyhurst Lakers who come into the season after a rough 2015 campaign. The Lakers ended the season at 5-6 after starting off 3-0.

They ended the season on a bad note dropping a game to Shippensburg 69-20. On top of the down year last season, they lost most of their wide receiving core. They return just two receivers who combined to catch just five passes in the 2015 season. 

They also lost their starting running back and will be looking for some younger guys to step in and make a difference in their first game against a very stout Eagle defense.

The Eagle defense, led by Zach Olzwecki and Brandon Gency, who combined for 185 tackles last season, will be looking to make an early statement by shutting down the Laker offense. 

The defense was very strong in 2015 ranking fourth in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in both scoring defense and in total defense.

“Defensively, we played really good football,” said Owens about the 2015 season. “There were a couple times when we stuttered on offense, and we had to win on defense, and that will happen again this year.”

The Eagles open up with three straight home games before taking the road and they will look to continue their success at Jack Miller Stadium starting on Thursday night against the Lakers. 

Prior to the game there will be a Fan Fest for students and the community. There will be live music, ticket giveaways, cornhole, and many more festivities as the Eagles prepare for their first test of the season.