GAME #1: Salve Regina University (0-0-0) at Plymouth State College (0-0-0)
Sat., Sept. 11, 1998, 2:00 p.m., Currier Field, Plymouth, NH
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – There’s little doubt the Plymouth State College football players will have their memory banks open when the 1999 season kicks off Saturday at Currier Field.
The Panthers will host the Seahawks of Salve Regina University Saturday in a non-conference encounter at 2:00 p.m., beginning the 30th season of varsity football at Plymouth State. PSC will have to remember only back to the final game of last season, the ECAC Northeast Championship game in Newport, R.I., when Salve Regina handed the visiting Panthers a dominating 36-6 verdict. The Seahawks outgained PSC in total yards 98-0 in the first quarter and 327-79 in the game.
That was a disappointing end to what was an otherwise successful year for PSC. The Panthers posted its second straight 7-3 regular season, tied for second in the Freedom Football Conference with a 4-2 mark, and earned its record 10th ECAC post-season appearance.
This Saturday’s game also marks the debut of PSC’s new head coach Chris Rorke, who joined the Panther staff over the summer. Rorke took over the reigns following the departure of Mike Kemp, who is now head coach at Utica College in upstate New York.
“We have an excellent group of seniors, who have been providing strong leadership in the transition to a new coach,” said Rorke. “We have a different style of play and a different philosophy, but when it gets down to it, it’s still playing football, and things are going all right so far.”
Plymouth State has won five straight season openers, including a 37-3 decision at Maine Maritime last fall. PSC is 20-7-2 in its 29 home openers, including an 8-1 mark in the ‘90s and an 8-2 record in the ‘80s.
Salve dropped its opener last season to Frostburg State, 14-7, but went on to capture its final nine games, including the ECAC Championship contest. The Seahawks captured the New England Football Conference title in 1998 after winning Eastern Collegiate Football Conference championships in 1996 and 1997.
PSC AT CURRIER FIELD: Plymouth State has had tremendous success over the years at Currier Field. PSC has an all-time home record of 107-32-3 for a .764 winning percentage. The Panthers are 25-6 at home the last five years, and 34-11-1 in the ‘90s.
ALL-TIME SUCCESS: The Panthers enter the 1999 season as the winningest Division III football program in the NCAA with at least 25 years on the gridiron. PSC has an all-time winning percentage of .702 with an overall record of 193-80-7, just ahead of Wisconsin-Lacrosse, which has a .696 winning percentage in 74 years of football (456-188-40). Salve ranks sixth on the NCAA’s list for winningest Division III football program in the 1990s.
THE HEAD COACHES: A 1989 graduate of Dartmouth and former assistant coach at Georgia Tech and his alma mater, PSC head coach Chris Rorke joined the Panther staff from Illinois Wesleyan, where he spent the past five seasons as an assistant. Tim Coen (Salve Regina ’76) has guided the football program at his alma mater since its inception as a club team in 1992 before turning varsity the following season, and has led the Seahawks to a 45-9-0 record for a sparkling .833 winning percentage.
A LOOK AT THE PANTHERS: PSC is coming off back-to-back ECAC Championship appearances the last two seasons, and return 25 veterans from last year’s varsity squad. The Panthers finished the 1998 regular season with a 7-3 overall record, and tied for second in the Freedom Football Conference with a 4-2 mark. The Green Wall defense returns eight starters from last year’s squad, while the offense has six players with starting experience.
A LOOK AT THE SEAHAWKS: The defending New England Football Conference champions have 17 starters returning, including its entire offensive backfield. In fact, Salve has not lost a conference game since 1995 and has won three straight conference championships (NEFC in ’98, ECFC in ’96 and ’97). The Seahawks had the fourth-best rushing offense in the country in 1998 with 331.5 yards per game, while ranking sixth in total defense.
TEAM CAPTAINS: Plymouth State has elected a pair of seniors to serve as team captains in ’98: fullback Dan DeMuth of LeMars, Iowa, and safety Colt Meredith of Saugus, Mass.
PRE-SEASON HONORS: Two Plymouth State players earned pre-season All-America honors by usafootball.com — senior safety Colt Meredith (Saugus, MA) and junior center Chris Belmont (Campton, NH). Both players earned All-FFC, All-New England and All-East Region honors last fall.
QUARTERBACK SHUFFLE: PSC will likely have anew starting quarterback in 1999. Junior Zach Matthews (Sanford, ME), who was the starter in 1998, is suffering from a bout of mononucleosis and is probably out for the season. The name at the top of the depth chart is currently sophomore Justin Connors (Andover, MA), who red-shirted a year at the University of New Haven before transferring.
FFC PRE-SEASON POLL: Defending Freedom Football Conference champion Springfield was picked to repeat its title in the annual FFC pre-season coaches poll. Kings Point edged out Plymouth State for second, with the Panthers finishing third and followed in order by Western Connecticut, Norwich, WPI, and Coast Guard.
A LOOK AHEAD: PSC hits the road the next two weekends, making the long trip to Western New York next Saturday to face Brockport State and then opening the conference schedule in two weeks at Norwich. The next home game is Oct. 2nd against Western Connecticut. Salve opens its NEFC slate next Saturday at Bridgewater State before playing its home opener on Sept. 25th against MIT.