SLU Football prepares for the upcoming season

CANTON, N.Y. (WWNY) — The 2022 college football season is just around the corner, with camps opening. In Canton, it looks like another solid season ahead for coach Dan Puckhaber’s St. Lawrence Saints, as the 2022 Saints report for Wednesday’s camp.

The Saints enter camp on August 10 with player reports.

And for the first time since 2019, Puckhaber is feeling a sense of normalcy that COVID has taken from their schedule for the past 2 seasons.

“We are able to do what we were looking to do when we did it in 2019. Just by having our normal launch picnic with all the parents. We can bring everyone together because that’s kind of the reason we do what we do. Just to get families and all the kids together and start a fun little experiment. What we call college football here in St. Lawrence,” coach Dan Puckhaber said.

Offensively, the Saints will be led under center by second Danny Lawther, who returned to the offense in Game 7 last season after Tyler Grochot fell.

Lawther threw for 893 yards and 9 touchdowns and also rushed for 168 yards and a touchdown, a true dual-threat quarterback for the Saints.

“His mobility and athleticism really changes the offense and what we can do. It’s so different from what we did with Tyler Grochot, who was a great quarterback, but he was more your pocket man,” Puckhaber said.

Another key offensive player for Puckhaber will be senior running back Peyton Schimtt.

The Gouverneur product as a junior rushed for 624 yards and 4 touchdowns and had 181 receiving yards with a touchdown.

“I want to put the ball in his hands and I want to give him that cowbell status. It just means that if someone wants to know who the offense is going to be by, they’re going to find out very quickly in the first quarter against Endicott,” Puckhaber said.

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Defensively, the Saints will be led by Brian Casazza and Reece Gillette, a defense that in 2021 ranked 2nd in the Liberty League in sacks and 3rd in steals.

Puckhaber says he thinks the defense has a chance to be special in 2022.

“Defensive line, I think we’ve got 6 guys who can really play, linebackers, I think we’ve got 7 guys who’ve been proven ready to be college football players. Secondary, same thing. There’s about 8 guys in our program who can really play,” Puckhaber said.

The Saints finished the 2021 season with a 5-5 record, 2-3 on aggregate in a very tough Liberty League.

Puckhaber said again this year the Liberty League will be one of the toughest leagues in the country.

“Just so people understand there are 250 schools of football in Division 3. We have 4 teams in the top 25 so we have 4 teams in the top 10% in this league so that’s the “one of those things. For us, I really believe we had the opportunity to beat 2 of those teams last year,” Puckhaber said.

The Saints open their season on Saturday, September 3 by hosting Endicott College.

The Watertown Redblacks improved to 5-0 on Saturday night at George Ashcraft Field, beating the Plattsburgh Northstars 47-0.

The Reds and Blacks with a balanced attack on attack, defense and special units.

Over the past 2 weeks, Les Rouge et Noir have outscored their opponents 78-0, continuing their dominance and maintaining a stronghold in 1st place in the Empire Football League.

“You have the line, it starts in front, the lines do their job. We have our running backs hitting the right holes and getting on the field, making plays. You have your receivers who are dominant at their position, finding their open areas, able to get past 2nd level to make plays on the field. It’s just a blessing to have,” quarterback Jason Williams said.

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“We are big, fast and physical, you know what I mean. We worked in the offseason and it shows game after game,” linebacker Derrek Dalton said.

It was a special night for Rouge et Noir head coach George Ashcraft.

Ahead of the match, Ashcraft was honored for his 50 years of involvement with the Red and Black organization and recognized for the pitch bearing his name earlier in the week.

After the match, the Hall of Fame coach received the match ball after claiming the 250th victory of his career.

A whirlwind week that Ashcraft will never forget.

“It’s a very big honour. When they name the field after me this week and then get my 250th win in the same week, it’s surreal. A lot of good people have been here to make this all happen. My family, they have been part of it every day of my life. I’ve been doing this for 50 years. I can’t say enough to all the coaches, players, people who support us. We have a great community here and I’m just happy to have been a part of that tradition,” Ashcraft said.

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