We have reached the 5th non-conference game of Liberty’s 2017 schedule.
Week 5-September 30th:
VS. Saint Francis
Head Coach: Chris Villarrial
2016 Record: 7-5
To close out the month of September, the Saint Francis Red Flash will make the trip from Pennsylvania to Lynchburg with the hopes of taking down the Flames. SFU is apart of the Northeast Conference, a mid to low-level conference within the FCS. Liberty has grown to recognize members of the NEC as they have met with both Bryant and Robert Morris in recent years and will welcome Duquesne later this season. Last year the Red Flash clinched the automatic bid and represented the NEC in the FCS Playoffs. They fell to Villanova in the first round.
Chris Villarrial has been the head coach of the Red Flash since 2010. In that time he has accumulated a 31-49 record. He has also steadily increased team wins each season, starting out with a 1-win season to just have completed back-to-back 7-win seasons. Should the trend continue, Saint Francis could very well see the playoffs again this season. And here is a fun fact for you: Villarrial’s first game as the head coach for Saint Francis was against Liberty. The Flames won 52-7.
Offensively, Saint Francis lost their starting QB, Zack Drayer, who threw for 2,594 yards and 22 touchdowns, then rushed for another 7. They will look to a number of options to replace him including Andrew Koester, Tyler Magaha, and Freddy Bopst, though none of them have any game experience. Luckily they will have Kamron Lewis to throw to. As a sophomore, Lewis led the team in receiving yards and TDs. He returns with another year of experience behind him, but after Lewis, they didn’t have much success at the WR position which will be an area of concern in the coming season. They also have an experienced RB returning in Marcus Bagley. Last season Bagley led the team in rushing with 941 yards, but interestingly had just one rushing touchdown.
On defense, the line has some big shoes to fill as DL Solomon Leaeno, who racked up 10.5 sacks last season, graduated. Part of that slack will be picked up by Austin Grey who had 3 sacks himself last season, 2nd most among linemen behind Leaeno. It also looks like the Red Flash will rely on underclassmen to make up their depth at the position Apart from the defensive line, they have a solid linebacking core. Zane Stewart and Da’Jon Lee had 5 sacks apiece and 40 combined tackles. And Malik Duncan, who had the 3rd most tackles on the team last season, returns to lead the secondary.
Liberty will have their hands full with Kamron Lewis. Can their depleted secondary keep up with him?
The crowd should be robust for this game. It’s Hall of Fame Weekend and CFAWers will be in town.
This is a game the Flames should win. But we have seen how they have faired in those match-ups before.
Liberty hasn’t lost before their bye-week since 2013, for what it’s worth. Coach Turner Gill seems to have them focused before they get a break.
Players to watch
WR Kamron Lewis-Lewis was the 2016 NEC Offensive Player of the Year with 1,478 receiving yards and 11 TDs.
DB Malik Duncan-Poised to be the leader in the defensive backfield, this All-NEC player could disrupt Liberty’s passing game.
Kickoff vs. Saint Francis