Kyle Harbridge sat out last season as his St. Francis University teammates produced five victories in what the Red Flash program hopes was a breakthrough year.
The role of an observer didn’t suit Harbridge, who in 2011 set the St. Francis single-season record with 1,474 rushing yards and had an eye-popping single-game mark with 346 rushing yards against Morehead State.
For good measure, the Easton native broke school records for rushing touchdowns, points and all-purpose yards.
“It was extremely frustrating watching, especially with the success we had last year,” said Harbridge, a redshirt senior who will return to the lineup this season after working his way back from a knee injury. “It was tough to not be a part of that. Coming into this year I feel great, really healthy and ready to go. I’m looking to build off that momentum we created last year. We’re ready to go.”
Harbridge spoke during St. Francis’ football media luncheon at the JFK Student Center on Wednesday. He will front a deep and talented backfield as St. Francis attempts to build on the momentum of a 5-6 season that included a 4-4 record in the Northeast Conference.
“Kyle is a very dynamic player that any time he touches the ball, he can score a touchdown,” St. Francis coach Chris Villarrial said. “I think that’s a great threat to have. Obviously, we know other coaches know we’re going to try to get the ball into his hands and they’re going to scheme us in different fronts.”
The All-American won’t be alone at running back.
Sophomores Khairi Dickson and Anthony Abeid gained valuable experience during their first college season. Dickson averaged 5.4 yards a carry (56-301) and Abeid gained 5.7 per run (45-258). They were part of a rushing game that produced a net 2,610 yards, 23 touchdowns and 5.3 yards per run.
“Khairi Dickson is more of a power back,” Villarrial said. “Anthony is more of a slash back. (Freshman) Kadarrius Campbell is a young guy who is a little bit of both. I think we can set different schemes up for these types of players. These guys having the ability to move out to wide receiver is going to be very helpful to us too.”
Villarrial also mentioned area incoming freshmen Johnny Sheesley of Blacklick Valley and Ben Myers of Cambria Heights for their work in the backfield.
New Red Flash running backs coach Patrick Junor said the group is pushing one another, which will only make the ground game even more effective.
“We have an incoming freshman Kadarrius Campbell who is doing pretty well and trying to gain as much respect as the upper guys like Harbridge, K.D. and Abeid,” said Junor, a Bronx, N.Y., native who played at Arkansas and was an assistant coach at North Dakota State. “Everybody is very versatile. All three guys can do it all, catch, run and block. We’re in good standing. Now, with the freshman, we’ll have four solid backs.”
Harbridge appreciates his time back on the field and welcomes the competition at his position. He’s been named to the College Football Performance Awards watch list for this year’s CFPA FCS National Performer of the Year trophy.
“We have great depth,” said Harbridge, who graduated this spring and is part of the MBA program at St. Francis. “We have Khairi Dickson coming back and Anthony Abeid. We have a few freshmen there as well. You need depth there. It’s a strong group and it’s exciting.”
St. Francis is poised to take the next step, according to Harbridge.
“Since I came here, from my freshman year, it’s been a 180-degree turnaround,” Harbridge said. “We’ve come a long way. We’ve got to continue to build on that.”
Notes: St. Francis opens at Georgia Southern on Sept. 7 and visits James Madison in Week 2. ... The Red Flash went 3-1 at home last season and has six home dates this year. ... The Flash open NEC play at Central Connecticut State on Oct. 5. ... WWGE 1400 AM will carry all St. Francis football games, according to play-by-play announcer Pat Farabaugh, the emcee of Wednesday’s event. ... Four St. Francis players were preseason All-NEC picks, including seniors Jakob DeMedal at safety, Joe Laukaitis at defensive line and Thurston Kino at offensive line, and junior outside linebacker Bishop Neal.
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him at Twitter.com/@masty81.