D2football.com’ Independent Columnist David Bykowski breaks down Hillsdale – St. Joes

Hillsdale Chargers at Saint Joseph’s Pumas, Saturday, 12:00 CT

Near misses in 2008 against Kentucky State, Missouri S&T, and Kentucky Wesleyan resulted in a disappointing 5-5 season for the Pumas. But with most of last year’s starters returning, Saint Joseph’s may be better prepared to face adversity in 2009.

Now entering his sophomore year, QB Mike Hladik has already shown he has what it takes to lead the team on offense. Junior RB Jashon Banks and senior FB Terrance Freeman should be able to rack up yards on the ground with their contrasting “lightning and thunder” styles, and a number of capable receivers return, all likely battling for playing time. Two of the main cogs on the offensive line have graduated, and that could force Hladik to be a more mobile quarterback than in 2008. On the other side of the ball, look for the strength once again to be in the backfield with Ronnell Tibbs at DB and Deshon McClendon moving to LB to fill in the gaps left behind with Rob Perricone and Payne Schoen’s graduations. Still, despite the number of returnees, it remains to be seen how effective the Pumas will be on defense.

Hillsdale, meanwhile, looks loaded for another competitive season. WR A.J. Kegg, a preseason All-GLIAC first teamer, is back, as are second team preseason All-Americans LT Jared Veldheer, DE Drew Berube, and K Mark Petro. QB Troy Weatherhead threw for nearly 3,000 yards last season, and RB Vinnie Panizzi is back as well. Those two players, along with Kegg, were a deadly combination last year against the Pumas, helping the Chargers amass over 500 yards of offense in a 49-6 rout in the season opener last year.

Hillsdale may be somewhat underrated, but that only speaks to the level of competition in the GLIAC every year. Offensively, look for the Pumas to start the season better than they did in 2008, but in the end, the result won’t be much different from last year, as the Chargers simply have too much talent for Saint Joseph’s to be competitive.

Prediction: Hillsdale 48, Saint Joseph’s 17

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