Since entering the Colonial Athletic Association in 2013, the Stony Brook football team has been in a prolonged state of mediocrity.
But last season appeared to be different.
The Seawolves won five of their first seven games, including their first four conference games. It was highlighted by a 42-14 home victory Sept. 17 over then No. 2 Richmond.
The Seawolves were 5-2 after a 28-3 victory over Delaware on Oct. 22, but a 29-point loss to New Hampshire the following week was the beginning of a four-game losing streak to end the season. It was the program’s fourth straight five-win season.
“I feel like as a whole team, we fell victim to the hype,” said senior wide receiver Ray Bolden, who had a team-high 37 receptions and 536 yards last season. “We were worried about everything outside the white lines. Where we should be ranked, who’s where and this and that. After the Richmond game, even myself included, I feel like we were acting like we did something that we shouldn’t have done.”
But with a new season brings a new level of excitement, beginning with next Saturday’s opener at No. 19 South Florida. The Seawolves return nine offensive and nine defensive starters, and there might be good reason for the team pre-ranked eighth of 12 CAA teams in the FCS to feel it can surprise the conference.
“Main thing is we need to finish,” said senior linebacker Tyrice Beverette, who led the team in tackles, sacks, interceptions and forced fumbles last season. “Most of the games we lost was due in the fourth quarter to fatigue, maybe. We need to finish. We need to overcome adversity.”
For Beverette and the defense, it’s about pride. The Seawolves have a strong linebacking core with Beverette, Noah McGinty and Shayne Lawless, who each started all 11 games last season. Defensive backs Darin Peart, Chris Cooper and Travon Reid-Segure along with linemen John Haggart, Ousmane Camara and Josh Valentin return to a Seawolves unit which ranked No. 3 in the nation among FCS opponents for yards allowed per game (274.2) and No. 13 in points allowed (20.2 per game).
Stony Brook’s defense finished in the top three in yards allowed and top six in scoring in 2015 and 2014.
“We’ve been a top five defense,” Beverette said, “so we think our duty is to uphold that and keep this tradition going with the Stony Brook defense.”
Offensively, the Seawolves feature a strong line, including three seniors that started 11 games last season in Armani Garrick, Jackson Miller and left tackle Timon Parris, a Floral Park standout who was a STATS FCS second-team All-American last season and preseason All-American pick this year.
“We’re bringing back a lot of guys that have been on the field,” said coach Chuck Priore, now in his 12th season. “All of them needed to get better at some level and they have, which is good, but I think there’s great pride when you’re on a field and you end the year with a loss, it’s pretty exciting to get back to playing a game.”
The Seawolves hope to get better production out of quarterback Joe Carbone, who started nine games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. Carbone had nearly a 52 percent completion percentage. He was 93 of 179 for 1,017 yards with three touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
“I’m trying to improve on my mental toughness during the game and just staying in the game the whole time,” said Carbone, a junior. “A bad play happens, just stay in the game and move on.”
The Seawolves hope to take advantage of a loaded backfield, highlighted by senior Stacey Bedell, who rushed for 698 yards and 10 touchdowns in 10 games last season. The Mastic Beach native ranks second in program history with 12 100-yard games and third with 23 touchdowns.