WALTHAM, Mass. – With the season-opener at West Chester University only 24 days away, Bentley University head football coach Bill Kavanaugh and his staff greeted nearly 100 players Sunday as the Falcons returned to campus in preparation for the 2017 campaign. The first practice will take place on Monday.
"It's a long season and we'll be looking to build one step at a time," said Kavanaugh, whose first three seasons at the helm of his alma mater have concluded with identical 5-6 records.
"We have experience in our program and also have some promising newcomers who will complement guys who have done it the right way for one, two or three years."
The 98-player roster includes 26 seniors, a group that includes quarterback Mack Lowrie (Foxborough/Roxbury Latin HS), running back Martin Bannerman, Jr. (Pawtucket, R.I./La Salle Academy) and talented outside linebackers Joey Piatnik (Bethel, Conn./Bethel HS) and Brandon Brown (Oxon Hill, Md./Suitland HS).
The 6'4", 220-pound Lowrie, who began his collegiate career at Boston College and spent time at URI and a Mississippi community college before settling at Bentley last year, finished the 2016 season as Falcons' starting QB and is coming off a strong showing during the spring. He completed half of his 166 passes last year for 786 yards and eight TDs, and was intercepted only once every 40-plus attempts.
Brown and Piatnik are one of the top pairs of outside linebackers in the Northeast-10 Conference. Brown was second on the team in tackles with 66, Piatnik was in on 38 stops and the two combined for 20.5 tackles for losses. Brown was fifth in the conference in TFL (12) and Piatnik's five sacks ranked second on the club.
Those two are part of a group of six returnees who started every game for the 2016 Falcons. Senior Dan Catalano (North Reading/North Reading HS) was a fixture at defensive end. Juniors Drew Mahoney (West Suffield, Conn./Suffield Academy) and Jack Hansbury (Tyngsboro/Chelmsford HS) started all at 11 at slot receiver and right tackle, respectively, and corner Peter Thorbahn (Norwell/ Xaverian Bros. HS) started every game of an impressive rookie season that saw him earn second-team All-Conference honors.
Bentley's ground game struggled last year, due in large part to injuries to Bannerman and Davidson transfer Jeff Keil (Tampa, Fla./Wharton HS). Bannerman has run for 1,431 yards and 14 TDs as a Falcon, but totaled only 99 yards and two scores last year before having his season prematurely end. Keil (1,028 yards, 11 TDs in two years at Davidson) impressed in his only appearance for the 2016 Falcons, 78 yards on 12 carries.
When talking about this year's club, Kavanaugh praised senior Brendan Burke (Norristown, Pa./Haverford School), sophomore Quintin McDermott (Franklin/Milton Academy) and juniors Nick Athy (Holliston/Holliston HS), Andrew Carmichael (Wayland/Wayland HS) and Jordan Zlogar (Clifton Park, N.Y./Shenendehowa HS) as the team's "hungriest throughout the offseason, spring and summer". All will play key roles on special teams.
After the road opener against West Chester, Bentley will launch its home schedule Sept. 8 against Saint Anselm. The team's September opponents also include Merrimack, defending NE10 champion LIU Post and Pace.