Football team prepares for exciting 2021 season


Michael Guido, Managing & Sports Editor

The Gannon University football team is returning to the field in 2021 looking to establish itself  as a premier team in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.

The Knights struggled in their postponed and abbreviated spring 2021 season, which came as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic eliminating the ability to fully compete in the fall of 2020.

In their abbreviated campaign, the Knights finished 1-3, losing to Davenport twice and Tiffin, while pulling out a 28-21 overtime win against rival Mercyhurst in the season finale. A game with Hillsdale College was canceled.

Now with most social distancing guidelines removed and a full schedule ahead of them, the Knights eagerly return to the field.

In the 2021 PSAC preseason coaches poll, Gannon was given an unfavorable ranking, being projected to finish seventh in the West just ahead of rival Clarion.

The preseason rankings had Slippery Rock finishing first, followed by Indiana University of Pennsylvania in second, California University at third, Mercyhurst ranked fourth, Edinboro University coming in at fifth, and Seton Hill ranked just ahead of Gannon at sixth.

When it comes to the players, many fresh faces will be present, while other returning athletes will look to make their mark in the full season.

A key member of the defense is redshirt sophomore Nick White, who helps man the defensive line. White ranked in the top three in all of Division II in sacks per game with 1.38 and tackles for loss per game with 2.10.

White also finished ninth in the country with 0.50 forced fumbles per game, and carries a stat line that showcases 20 tackles, 11 solo stops, 8.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks, all in just four games.

Fellow players Jay Bullock, a two-time all-PSAC West athlete who did not play in 2020, and redshirt junior Malachi Woody will also be anchoring the defensive line.

Bullock was a two-time all-PSAC West second team defensive lineman in 2018 and 2019.

Woody appeared in three games for the Knights last season, recording seven tackles, including six solo stops, and accrued 1.5 tackles for loss.

On the offensive side of the ball, running back Melvin Blanks returns as a junior, where he will be anchoring the offense. In two starts in 2020, Blanks led the team in rushing touchdowns with three, rushing yards per game with 67.7 and rushing yards per attempt with 4.6.

Blanks amassed 203 yards on 44 attempts last year and caught one pass for 58 yards. Blanks’ three rushing touchdowns were ranked 27th in the country.

The offensive line will feature returning sophomores Montana Nietert and Jacob Petit, who bring experience to the line.

This will also be the first full season for second-year head coach Erik Raeburn, who was hired after the 2019 season. Raeburn is the sixth head coach in the program’s history and brings 30 years of coaching experience to the job.

The season will kick off at 7 p.m. Thursday as the Knights take on the Northwood Wolverines  in Midland, Mich.

The first home game for the Golden Knights will take place at noon Saturday, Sept. 11, versus Shepherd at McConnell Family Stadium.


Michael Guido

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