District football preview: Dukes facing tough test vs. Saint Francis

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It his homecoming weekend at Duquesne, and, fittingly, the Dukes will play the team they have faced more than any other -- Saint Francis -- in a key Northeast Conference matchup.

The Dukes (3-1, 1-0 NEC) and Red Flash (2-2, 1-0) will meet at 1 p.m. today at Art Rooney Field and, according to Duquesne coach Jerry Schmitt, the winner will likely be the team that defends the run best.

Saint Francis features the top running game in the NEC (271 yards rushing per game, No. 6 in Div. I-AA); the Dukes feature the conference's leading rusher, senior Larry McCoy, who averages 124.5 yards per game.

The Red Flash have three of the top seven rushers in the NEC in tailback Keion Wade (97 ypg, 3rd), quarterback John Kelly (66.2 ypg, 6th) and tailback Khairi Dickson (66 ypg, 7th).

Schmitt said stopping Wade is a big challenge, but he believes his team will be prepared.

"We know the NEC is packed with great tailbacks and we have one ourselves," Schmitt said. "So we know because [the Dukes] practice against Larry McCoy and we know that we have to contain [Wade] and keep him controlled so he doesn't have any big plays."

Duquesne and Saint Francis first played in 1913 and have met 38 times, with the Dukes holding a 32-6 edge, 17-2 in games played in Pittsburgh.

Saint Francis last beat the Dukes in 2009. With a win, Duquesne would extend its NEC winning streak to seven.

Other games

West Chester at California, 3:30 p.m., Adamson Stadium -- Fans of offense should like this one. Both teams are averaging more than 30 points and 400 yards of total offense per game.

It is a crossover game and doesn't count in the PSAC standings for either team, but it could be a preview of the PSAC championship game as both are in position to win their respective divisions.

California (4-0, 2-0 PSAC) beat IUP last week to take control of the Western Division; West Chester (3-1, 2-0) knocked off defending champion Kutztown to remain in a first-place tie in the East.

Kutztown at Slippery Rock, 6 p.m., Mihalik-Thompson Stadium -- The Rockets (2-2, 1-1) are the defending PSAC West champs, but they have struggled of late while the Golden Bears (1-3, 0-2), the defending PSAC champs, are coming off a tough loss,

Slippery Rock, however, will have to find a way to stop the Golden Bears high-powered offense (41 ppg, 2nd in PSAC), and that won't be easy as the Rockets defense has been quite inconsistent this year.

As bad as the Rockets defense has been (giving up 29 ppg, 10th in PSAC), it actually has been better than the Golden Bears (35.3 ppg, 11th), so this could be a situation where the team with the ball last wins.

This is a rematch of the PSAC championship last season, which Kutztown won, 21-14.

Grove City at Westminster, 1 p.m., Harold Burry Stadium -- This is a key game in the Presidents' Athletic Conference as teams are starting to break the logjam in the middle of the standings.

Grove City (2-2, 1-1 PAC) and Westminster (2-1, 1-1) are among the teams in the middle of the pack, so the loser will likely fall out of contention for the conference championship because W&J and Waynesburg are still undefeated in league play.

Westminster, which won the game between these teams last season, 25-20, will have to contain the Wolverines, who feature the highest-scoring offense in the PAC (32 ppg).

Waynesburg at Thiel, 1:30 p.m., Alumni Stadium -- It is homecoming weekend for Thiel (1-3, 1-1 PAC), and the Tomcats could use a shot in the arm to get rolling this year. A victory against the Yellow Jackets (4-0, 2-0) would be just that.

But that won't be easy. Waynesburg has won seven games in a row against Thiel, including the past four in a row at Alumni Stadium. The Yellow Jackets have won the past four games in the series by an average score of 42-16.


Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com and Twitter @paulzeise.


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