When the St. Francis Red Flash start fast, they finish slow. When they start slow, they finish strong.
As the upstart program gains traction under coach Chris Villareal, it’s about playing strong through all 60 minutes.
Following road losses at FCS powers Georgia Southern and James Madison, the Red Flash open their home schedule today when Division II Lincoln visits DeGol Field. The game kicks off at 2 p.m.
“We’re looking to improve and of course correct the mistakes we’ve made the first two weeks,” Villareal said. “We’re looking to clean our style up.”
The home half of the St. Francis schedule creates a luxury that hasn’t been afforded to the squad very much in the past: six home games.
Villareal sees that as another element to aid the program in its rise.
“It’s really nice. We have to capitalize and make it work,” Villareal said of the six-game slate at home. “The (Northeast Conference) is gettting better this year. We have to learn to defend our home turf.”
The Red Flash (0-2) will see a Lincoln squad apt to move the football on the ground under the guidance of new coach Ramon Flanigan.
“Lincoln likes to run the ball,” Villareal said. “They have very good special teams. They’ve got a new head coach and they’re rebuilding. We’re looking for a hard-fought game.”
The Lions (1-1) visit Loretto after a 45-3 loss at Sacred Heart. Lincoln topped Cheyney 33-28 to open its campaign. The path to success against the Red Flash this season has been to run the ball. On Sept. 7, Georgia Southern toted the ball 43 times for 306 yards.
Last week, James Madison accrued 253 yards on rushes.
Six of the 10 touchdowns allowed by the Red Flash have come on the ground.
St. Francis’ salvation in defending against a run-happy team may be that Lincoln has rushed for 106 yards on 78 carries, averaging just 1.35 yards per rush.
St. Francis also isn’t afraid to run the ball.
Through the Red Flash’s first two games, the team has rushed for 306 yards on 98 attempts, scoring three of the offense’s four touchdowns on the ground.
Kyle Harbridge’s 242 yards and Khari Dickson’s two touchdowns lead St. Francis in those respective categories.
In St. Francis’ fast start at nationally ranked James Madison, it was the big-play prowess of the Red Flash that helped them to a 14-3 lead in the third quarter. Eventually, the Dukes overcame St. Francis, dropping the Red Flash 24-20.
What did St. Francis learn from the near-upset?
“You can’t make mistakes against good teams,” Villareal said.
“We had them on the ropes, we didn’t capitalize. It wasn’t for lack of effort; the kids fought hard. We made too many mental mistakes against a team that you can’t make mental mistakes against.”
Shawn Curtis is a news assistant for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/shawncurtis430.