West Xtra: Stadium improvment will bring things to light at Robert Morris

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

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It is not really true and Robert Morris University coach Joe Walton knows it.

A player's time in the 40-yard dash is the same in the sunlight or the moonshine. But still, he agrees that players appear faster at night.

"I know what you mean and they do look faster at night," Walton said with a laugh.

Robert Morris football fans will have an opportunity to make their own judgment on that this season. Lights have been added to Joe Walton Stadium on the school's Moon Township campus and the Colonials will play their first home night contest at the stadium Oct. 8 when they entertain Saint Francis of Loretto, Pa., in a Northeast Conference game.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game is also homecoming.

"It'll be exciting and having it for homecoming makes it special. We should have a nice crowd for that game," Walton said.

He pointed out that being able to play home night games might not be the most attractive feature of the addition of lights ... at least to him. Now, Walton won't have to stop a practice because of darkness.

"That can be a problem later in the season," he said. "And there is always the possibility for high school playoff games with the lights."

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School in Moon will again play its home games at the stadium this fall. But unlike last year, which was OLSH's inaugural football season, the Chargers will be able to play Friday night home games instead of Saturday afternoons. They have five home games scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

And with its easy access from Interstate 376 and Route 65, Joe Walton Stadium would make a nice neutral site for WPIAL or PIAA playoff games.

Walton would not mind playing more home night games but pointed out the distance that many opponents travel and the added cost of a team's lodging for an extra night make it tough. That's why most of the Colonials' games, home and away, are Saturday afternoons.

"It would make it tough for a team like Dayton to bus here the day before the game, because you wouldn't want to travel the day you play, and then sit around all day before playing and then stay that night before going home," Walton said.

"Now with Saint Francis that isn't as much of a problem because it's close enough that it can bus home after the night game."

Robert Morris plays at rival Duquesne University at noon on Nov. 19. It's the final contest on the Colonials regular-season schedule and would also seem to be a natural to be played under the lights at Joe Walton Stadium in 2012.

The Colonials opened training camp Tuesday and this will be Walton's 18th season on the sideline after starting the program in 1994. In the preseason poll of NEC coaches, Robert Morris was picked to finish third behind Central Connecticut State and Duquesne.

Last season the Colonials tied Central Connecticut State in the NEC standings at 7-1, but advanced to the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs because they defeated Central Connecticut, 42-24.

Walton has just nine starters returning for the 2010 squad that finished 8-3 and lost to North Dakota State in the first round of the playoffs, but one of them gives the Colonials an outstanding chance to finish on top of the conference again.

"With Jeff [Sinclair] at quarterback, we're competitive. The offense should be as good as if not better than last year's," Walton said.

Sinclair, a Highlands High School product, completed 128 of 257 passes for 1,920 yards and 22 touchdowns last season. Also returning is tight end Shadrae King from McKeesport. He has 94 career receptions for 1,174 yards and 16 scores.

There is also senior running back Jamar Cromwell from Schenley High School.

He has received the Tim Hall Memorial Scholarship for this season. The award is named after former Robert Morris running back Tim Hall who was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the sixth round in 1996 and played in the NFL for two seasons. Hall was shot and killed in Kansas City in 1998.

A transfer from Kent State three seasons ago, Cromwell could start at fullback for the Colonials. He has played on special teams the past two seasons and has also rushed 19 times for 78 yards and scored one touchdown.

"He's a good football player. We used him a lot last year in crucial situations," Walton said. "He's an outstanding blocker and has good hands, too. He gives us another option out of the backfield on third downs."

Robert Morris opens the season at noon Sept. 3 against Dayton. The first road game is 7 p.m. Sept. 10 at Liberty.



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