#NECFB: Sacred Heart Nowhere Near Where It Started

They started from the bottom, now they’re here.

Drake couldn’t have said it any better if, indeed, he was trying to describe the 2013 Sacred Heart Pioneers with his recently-released hip hop single.

After all, the Pioneers finished the 2012 season at the bottom of the NEC standings with a 2-9 overall record. Sacred Heart posted just one conference victory last year and were mired in a five-game losing streak when the season came to an end.

Eight months later, outsiders’ perception of Pioneer football remained the same.

In fact, the annual NEC preseason coaches’ poll suggested that 2013 would not be much different for SHU. The Pioneers were the bottom-ranked team in the predicted order-of-finish.

Fast-forward to the scene that unfolded at Joe Walton Stadium on Saturday, November 16, 2013. Entering the game at 9-2 overall, Sacred Heart had already demolished preseason projections and produced one of the top turnarounds in NEC history.

Life was good for SHU.

And over a three-hour period on Saturday, it only got better.

With the winner of the Week 12 Robert Morris vs. Sacred Heart matchup automatically earning a share of the NEC crown, the Pioneers found themselves playing their most-important game in more than a decade.

As they had already done twice before this season, rising to the occasion, Sacred Heart won a road game in the state of Pennsylvania. The Pioneers, who won at Lafayette and later blanked Bucknell, jumped out to a 14-0 lead and raced to a wire-to-wire victory over Robert Morris.

As a result, the Northeast Conference championship trophy will take up residence in Fairfield, CT for the first time since 2001.

As their regular season finale came to a close, the already-jubilant Pioneers received more reason to celebrate.

Word that Wagner had defeated Saint Francis had reached Joe Walton Stadium.

Not only were the Pioneers holding the NEC trophy, but they clinched their first-ever bid into the NCAA Division I FCS playoffs.

To say that the SHU community took over #NECFB Twitter when the news broke would be somewhat of an understatement. But, when a team completes a transformation from 2-9 to 10-2, a social media explosion should be expected.



With its win over Central Connecticut, Duquesne (4-2) clinched a share of the NEC title for the second time since joining the conference in 2008. The Dukes also tied for first place in 2011 after posting a 7-1 league mark.

Robert Morris (3-2) can also join the party with a Week 13 win over Saint Francis. Should the Colonials earn a share of the title, it would be their seventh under head coach Joe Walton.

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