NEW BRITAIN - The regular season finale for Central Connecticut State football will kick off Saturday, with Saint Francis University taking the field against the Blue Devils for one last game at Arute Field.
Kickoff will come at noon between the two clubs. CCSU currently sits at 3-7, with a 3-3 record in Northeast Conference play, and Saint Francis enters the weekend at 5-5 with an NEC record of 4-2.
The Blue Devils are coming off a heartbreaker loss to Duquesne last week, seeing a win opportunity slip away in the final minute of play and coming up just short of the go-ahead score on a drive that ended short as time expired.
Prior to last week's loss the Blue Devils were winners of its last two, seemingly starting to put it together with a healthy defense and emerging running game. The loss last week saw the rushing attack out-gain Duquesne by 51, but the defense couldn't hold off the pass as they allowed 329 yards passing.
Stopping the run has been one of the emphasis points to the defensive scheme for Ryan McCarthy and his team, and it's worked in some instances. In wins this season the Blue Devils limited their opponents to either negative yardage all together, or about 3.9 yards per carry. If the Blue Devils can contain SFU's leading rusher Marques DeShields (693 net yards, four scores) then they can be in good shape.
A 140-yard showing for DeShields earlier this season has been his biggest game of note this season, and is relied on primarily as a ball carrier with occasional receiving opportunities.
On the wing, Kahtero Summers is the leading receiver with 605 yards on 40 catches. His numbers are well ahead of the supporting cast of Brandan Lisenby (32 catches, 385 yards) and DeShields (18 catches, 202 yards).
A tag team of quarterbacks will likely keep the CCSU defense honest, with both seeing nearly equal time on the field. Justin Sliwoski is the leader in passing yards with 911, passing for nine scores and one interception, while Jyron Russell has 744 yards with five passing scores and four interceptions. Combined, the two average about 111 yards passing per game.
Between the mixed quarterbacks, who have a clear No. 1 receiver and a No. 1 running back to focus on, the Blue Devils may have their hands full on defense as SFU will look to lean on their guys and keep the defense off balance with different passers who can work under different schemes. CCSU leading tackler Jahlil Brown (53 stops) and Kelvin Apari (five sacks) will be chomping at the bit to get into the backfield and cause some issues, and Jonathan Cabral-Martin and Dexter Lawson will (two interceptions each) will try to be lockdown corners to keep the ball on the ground to make SFU play to CCSU's strength.
On offense, the usual suspects remain constant for CCSU. Tyshaun James (42 catches, 641 yards) returns for the finale as the team's leading receiver, Nas Smith (106 rushes, 512 yards) looks to be the primary running back again and the QB1 points to Romelo Williams (1,452 yards passing, 10 touchdowns) again.