After finishing last season with a 4-7 record, the Georgetown football team is ready to begin the 2016-17 season and continue their upward trend of improving by one win each year since the 2013-14 season. The season kicks off Saturday at Cooper Field with a nonconference matchup against the Davidson Wildcats of the Pioneer Football League.
The Hoyas were a few crucial plays away from finishing last season with a .500 record or better. Behind the play of last year’s seniors, they had a few highlights such as the Homecoming weekend 38-7 blowout of Lafayette College and the win against Bucknell on the road. The last time the Hoyas and Wildcats faced off was in 2013. The Hoyas grabbed an impressive 42-6 victory that day, with six different Georgetown players scoring touchdowns. Another win like that to kick off this season would give this young Georgetown football team a nice kick start.
The Hoyas must prove they can overcome the losses of key senior players from last year who graduated, such as quarterback Kyle Nolan, running back Jo’el Kimpela, wide receiver Jake DeCicco, and linebacker Matt Satchell. Georgetown will have to work to fill the voids left both on and off the field by those players. On offense, senior receiver Justin Hill, an All-Patriot League Second Team choice in 2015, will look to carry the Hoyas and help out senior quarterback Tim Barnes, who takes over for Nolan after sitting behind him for three years.
“Obviously losing Jo’el, Kyle, and Jake is obviously tough to replace but we have a lot of young guys who are ready to play and fill those roles, so I think our offense is looking pretty strong this season,” Hill said.
Barnes, a senior from Oradell, New Jersey, was selected as the No. 35 Joe Eacobacci Memorial Jersey recipient for the 2016 season, and will need to help steady the shaky Georgetown offense that was very inconsistent last year. The Eacobacci #35 jersey is given annually to the player who best embodies the spirit and memory of Georgetown alumnus Joe Eacobacci, who was killed in the 9/11 attacks.
“It means a lot,” Barnes said. “It’s such a great honor to be honored by my teammates and coaches. It’s just an honor to wear it and I’ll do my best to represent it and honor his family,”
Georgetown Head Coach Rob Sgarlata, in his third season with the team, expressed his confidence in Barnes to lead this team. “You’re lucky in the fact that Kyle Nolan graduates and Tim Barnes is right there, and I think he’s going to be one of the better players in the conference … Timmy’s one of those guys you want people saying he’s a Georgetown football player on and off the field. He holds himself to an extremely high standard and he’s done a good job of raising the level of the entire offense and the team,” Sgarlata said.
Last season in the Pioneer Football League, Davidson finished last, or second to last, in every offensive or defensive team statistic, out of 11 total teams in the conference. The Wildcats averaged only 12.5 points per game and only averaged 241.2 yards per game, which was last in both statistical categories in the conference. In hopes of improving team performance, Davidson Head Coach Paul Nichols had a lot of turnover on his coaching staff this season, bringing in seven new members to the coaching staff, including a new offensive coordinator and special teams coordinator.
“[Davidson’s] offense is a little bit sporadic but we think we have schematically-sound defense, so anything we can see them throwing out, we’ve experienced all the different situations and things they can come out with so we’re confident that we can stop anything,” junior safety David Akere said.
The Wildcats do boast one of the elite punt returners in the FCS in junior defensive back Ben Rowell, who comes into the season as a preseason All-America third team member. Rowell returned 17 punts last season for an average of 28.4 yards per return.
“We’re just excited and grateful and blessed to have an opportunity to play, especially to play with all my brothers and remember everything we’ve been through last year. … We didn’t come here for nothing, we believe we didn’t get this far to get this far,” Akere said.
A new season provides renewed hope, and optimism that this football program can get back to where it once was, and it all starts Saturday against Davidson.
The Hoyas are set to kick off the 2016-2017 season at 1 p.m. at Cooper Field.