Fighting Scots aim to surprise on gridiron

Sports Information
QB Cody Harris looks to lead Edinboro to the postseason.

By Mike Fenner
Contributing Writer

In 2013, Edinboro posted a 5-6 record, representing just the second losing season in the ongoing nine year Scott Browning era. It also marked the first time the Fighting Scots had faced consecutive losing seasons since 2002.
Despite being picked sixth out of eight divisional teams in the coaches’ preseason poll at the 2014 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West football media day for the second time in as many years, expectations remain high and optimism reigns supreme.
“We’ve got tremendous expectations,” said head coach Browning. “I think that we bring back a good nucleus of veteran players. I think we filled the gaps with some very athletic players that are going to have to step up and be thrown to the wolves right away.”
Quarterback Cody Harris returns for a sixth season to provide plenty of experience on offense after receiving a medical hardship waiver from the National Collegiate Athletic Association this spring after he broke his ribs in week two last year which ended his season.
“It was tough at times, but that’s what you get when you have some inexperience and guys learning new things,” two time all-PSAC selection Harris said. “You can’t blame it on anybody and everybody’s out there trying and doing their best. It’s kind of just the way the cards fell with inexperience. Those guys have grown from that experience and that should benefit us this year so I’m excited.”
Harris, whose marvelous start to the season included completing 77 percent of his 79 passes for 666 yards, will look to return to his 2012 form where the Waldo, Ohio native threw for 2,823 yards with a 67 percent completion percentage to go along with 20 touchdown tosses.
“This is going to be his sixth year, so I mean it’s nice having a guy that’s been around the system,” said senior wide receiver Ben Eisel. “He’s been here, been working with us. A lot of us are upperclassmen receivers, so we’ve been working with him for the past five, six years now. It’s nice to get him back.”
Though Edinboro’s aerial attack will regain some explosiveness, the ground game will feature several new faces after averaging 113.8 rushing yards per game a year ago.
The Scots backfield behind Harris will be a major question mark heading into the season as well as a position with a lot of potential according to Browning.
“There’s three or four guys that I’m really excited about,” he said. “We’ve got a first year guy by the name of Corey Beck. We’ve got another young man by the name of Keith Regis that’s got a year under his belt with us. I’m really excited about our running back situation.”
Up front, the Scots return four starters from a year ago, headlined by junior right tackle Jaycen Watts.
“I think we’re going to show a big improvement,” Browning said. “I like our offensive line and they’ve gained a lot of experience last year and I look for a good productivity out of the offensive line this year.”
Defensively, junior linebacker and former Cal Vulcan Mike Shansky will lead a group seeking more consistency after surrendering 28.2 points per game last season.
In his first season with the Scots, Shansky racked up 87 tackles and led the defense in both tackles for loss (11) and sacks (3.5).
“He’s just a heck of a football player,” Browning said. “The thing people don’t understand about Mike Shansky, he played probably eighty percent of the season last year. I think you’re going to see a healthy, energized Mike Shansky.”
Giving up at least 30 points in six of their 11 games last season, the defense will need to improve and it starts in the trenches.
“I think group-wise the defensive front as well as the line backing corps” Browning said as to what are the team’s defensive strengths. “I think we’ve gained some experience there. I’m really excited about those two groups on defense. I think they’re going to have to carry us somewhat on that side of the football.”
Senior strong safety Veuntrae Robinson is the lone returning starter in a secondary that was gutted by graduation and transfers.
Edinboro opens up on the road in Jefferson City, Tennessee on September 4 against nationally ranked Division II powerhouse Carson-Newman. The Eagles, led by head coach Ken Sparks, present an early challenge for the Fighting Scots.
“I think it’s going to be a tremendous trip for us playing that caliber of a football program and also just the road trip alone will prepare us for the rest of the travel for the rest of the season,” Browning said. The Scots face three road tests in their first four contests with the home opener coming against East Stroudsburg University on September 20.
The Indiana (PA.) Crimson Hawks invade Sox Harrison Stadium on October 4 for homecoming followed by contests with crosstown rivals, Gannon and Mercyhurst, on back-to-back Thursday nights just a week later. The Fighting Scots close out their 2014 regular season campaign with a home game on November 15 against Millersville at 12 p.m.

Mike Fenner is a member of the sports department at The Spectator. He can be reached at sports.spectator@gmail.com.