Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore said he hasn't stressed the importance of the Seawolves' Colonial Athletic Association opener against defending champion New Hampshire at 7 o'clock Saturday night at LaValle Stadium more than any other game because his focus is on improving his own team.
But it's one of those things he doesn't have to tell his players because they know what it felt like last season to take a 14-0 lead against the Wildcats (1-1) and to miss an extra point to tie at 21 with 3:22 left in what became a 28-20 loss. If the Seawolves (1-0) hope to be an FCS playoff contender in the CAA, an upset of UNH would go a long way toward achieving that goal.
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"We all know it's a big game for us," Stony Brook running back Stacey Bedell said. "Everybody is saying this is our national championship because these guys won the CAA last year. We were up most of the game last year, and they came back. It was a tough loss for us.
"I feel like everybody is ready to play this game . . . We know we can play with anybody if we play our game."
This year's matchup has an added element of intrigue because it marks the first time former Floyd star Bedell has faced former Sachem North running back Dalton Crossan since they met four times in the 2010 and 2011 seasons, including the Suffolk Class I championship won both years by Floyd.
Priore appreciates the circumstances, but he said, "I would hope it's about the football game. Dalton is a class kid and a good football player. He'll have a good career there, and we hope Stacey has a good one here."
Crossan is looking forward to the matchup, but he knows Stony Brook has one of the strongest defenses at the FCS level. "We've been watching film on them, and I remember from last year," said Crossan, who sat that game out with a hamstring injury. "They have a bunch of very good players. Victor Ochi at defensive end is very athletic and big, but we've got a good game plan."
In addition to stopping Crossan, the Seawolves must contain quarterback Sean Goldrich, who is a run-pass option threat in what Crossan describes as a fast-paced, Oregon-style offense.
"We don't have any fear of our opponent," Priore said. "Certainly, they're a good football team. We've played them well both years [in CAA], but we didn't win. So our objective is to learn how to win."