Gone are the times when moving up is a death sentence for immediate success. Of course the biggest example of this in college football right now is James Madison which is 4-0 in this its first season of Sun Belt play since moving up last year. The Dukes are showing that they were indeed ready for the ascension, however, they are not the only ones finding their footing in their new home.
Back in the subdivision that JMU left behind, there are other examples of fresh faces proving they belong. Texas A&M-Commerce and Lindenwood are both holding their own as new FCS members but one team in particular is really standing out: the Stonehill Skyhawks.
Stonehill, like A&M-Commerce and Lindenwood, moved up from the DII ranks last offseason. They found a new home in the Northeast Conference but not many onlookers gave them much of a chance to make waves this season. After last Saturday, though, folks might want to rethink that notion.
After starting the season with two wins over previously scheduled DII teams, the Skyhawks didn’t really turn any heads. Last weekend, however, they not only played their first bonafide FCS v FCS game but they hosted one their first NEC game and they won over a Duquesne team that was pegged to have a solid season. Now people might be starting to take notice.
Running back Jermaine Corbett has been a big reason why Stonehill is experiencing the early success. He leads the team in rushing with 347 yards and four touchdowns. Corbett a had a big day against Duquesne also, rushing for 130 yards on 26 carries.
Quarterback play has also been instrumental for the Skyhawks and they have a good one in sophomore Ashur Carraha. Carraha has seven passing touchdowns and rushing one under his belt this season along with a completion percentage of nearly 60%.
What’s likely helped their transition more than anything, though, is consistency at head coach. Eli Gardner has been with the team for six seasons and brought them much success in their final DII seasons. Gardner strung together an 8-2 campaign last year and he is 27-24 all time as their head coach.
Now of course there are some caveats to this unblemished record. As mentioned prior, two of these wins are over DII schools but the team’s win over Post back in September was to the tune of 76-0. That’s nothing to scoff at.
The Skyhawks have also had several open weeks up to this point so they haven’t played as many games as most of their other FCS counterparts but fret not. After another off weekend coming up, Stonehill will face a major test when they travel to take on Sacred Heart, likely the NEC’s best team.
The win over Duquesne was impressive but if they can pull one off against the Pioneers on October 15 then it will be clear that they are indeed ready to not only be FCS but that they are a contender within their conference.
Of course the Skyhawks cannot complete for an NEC title or an FCS playoff spot right now but that hardly matters. A solid record this season with victories over quality opponents is what’s important and if they can manage that then down the line this will be a team to look for in those conversations.