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SLU gridders open season at home today

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CANTON - The St. Lawrence University football team is set to host its 2013 opener today against a former foe, the Coast Guard Academy, at Leckonby Stadium at noon. The two teams will meet for the first time since 2005, with over 50 new players donning the Scarlet and Brown for the first time along the Saints’ sideline.

Head coach Mark Raymond and his staff brought in their largest recruiting class since arriving to campus. Several of the incoming players have won starting jobs entering the Coast Guard game, having key roles on each sides of the ball.

St. Lawrence’s defense returns only three starters from last season, including senior linebacker Andrew Cox and sophomore cornerbacks Rajiv Heron and Leondre Simmon. Joining the secondary will be newcomers at safety are Evan Lapice, a sophomore transfer from Division II Merrimack, and rookie James Holley-Grisham. The Saints, who will set up in a 3-4 defense, will also have first-time starters in senior Obi Nwaigwe, Connor O’Brien and first-year Alec Dietsch. Meanwhile, the defensive line will be comprised of senior Sean Gretz and juniors Mark Heath and Dillon Knight, who will each be making their first collegiate start.

Offensively, the Saints return their primary skill players at wide receiver and running back including senior wide out Mike Tateosian, whose 62 receptions last season was a new University record. Tateosian, along with Colby Johnson and Evan Shifley, are a wide receiving corps that can stretch the field and move the chains. The sophomore tandem of Jake Gnieser and Maurice Irby is expected to handle the bulk of carries, as Gnieser finished as the team’s leading rusher as a sophomore (4.1 yards per carry). Former starting quarterback Nik Busharis will also get the nod as the team’s starting tight end on Saturday, using his 6’3, 200 pound frame to provide another weapon in the passing game.

Junior quarterback Mike Lefflbine is set to become the ninth different quarterback to start under center for St. Lawrence in the last nine seasons (2005-2013). Lefflbine joined the Saints as a transfer student during the spring semester from Division I Sacred Heart University. He won the starting job in camp, battling for the gig with former starters Zane Fish and Danny Metzgar.

For Lefflbine to succeed, however, he’ll need time in the pocket to deliver the football. He’ll be protected on his blind side by all-conference lineman Ryan Schmidt, while four others join the offensive front for the Coast Guard game having made one career start between them.

Seniors Paxton Cane and Mike Harris will play left guard and center, respectively, while junior Luke Lendway and first-year Kevin Dean handle the right side of the line.

St. Lawrence and Coast Guard played a home-and-home series back in 2004 and 2005, with the Saints sweeping those contests 34-33 and 21-7. The latter victory came in Canton, NY on the back of a pair of touchdown receptions from Mike O’Donnell ’08.

Tickets for today’s opener are $4 for adults and $3 for students/children.

All St. Lawrence University students and faculty/staff will be admitted with a valid SLU ID.

For those unable to be in attendance, a free HD broadcast and live stats will be provided.

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