Merrimack College football coach Dan Curran is ready to face a whole new mess of challenges this fall.
His team met for the opening day of training camp yesterday, in its first season as a Division 1 program. In case you haven’t heard, the Warriors are now part of the 11-team Northeast Conference, meaning the competition level is about to get kicked up a notch.
And Curran is no fool.
He certainly expects his team to take a few bumps and bruises during this inaugural season with the “Big Boys.” But one thing is for sure.
He’s extremely grateful that former Central Catholic star Mike Mercuri will be one of his captains.
“The teammates make the vote, but I was obviously very happy with the pick,” said Curran, who is entering his seventh season with the Warriors. “Universally, he’s a very well-respected guy. He’s not necessarily a big talker, but his teammates have a lot of respect for the way he conducts himself and his work ethic.”
Mercuri, a redshirt-junior, has certainly earned the honor.
The former Eagle-Tribune All-Star linebacker is coming off a stellar 2018 campaign where he was named third-team All-Northeast 10. He finished fifth in the conference in tackles (team-high 81), while also leading the Warriors in both tackles for loss (10.5) and sacks (4.0).
A 6-foot-1, 215-pound linebacker who can do it all, it would be a rare site if Mercuri was not on the field for every defensive snap this upcoming season.
“Last year was a good year,” said Mercuri, who is from Lowell. “I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it was for me, but I was definitely happy with it.”
His successful campaign came as no surprise to Curran.
“We’ve known about Mike for a long time,” said Curran. “He played a bunch of snaps for us his freshman year. He’s just a guy that always finds a way to make a play.”
As a true freshman, Mercuri broke out during the back half of the season when he recorded 51 of his 52 total tackles in the final seven games. He suffered a broken foot that kept him out the most of his sophomore year, and last year a pair of concussion made him miss a game.
But Mercuri is more than ready to go for training camp, and is counting down the days until the Warriors kick-off their season by hosting Virginia of Lynchburg on Aug. 31 (6 p.m.).
“I’m pumped,” said Mercuri. “The talent is definitely going to be better, and the offensive linemen will be bigger. But I rely more on speed, not size, so that could help me out.”
Like Curran, Mercuri knows that there will undoubtedly be some struggles during the season, and to get through those times is going to take strong leadership.
Leadership that Mercuri is ready to provide.
“Being named captain was a great accomplishment,” he said. “Knowing that all of your teammates trust you with that responsibility is a great honor. ... I think just keeping everyone on schedule will be a big priority (of the captains). We don’t want anyone to be late to a meeting or a lift or something like that.”
So let the games begin!
The Warriors are ready for their first season in Division 1, and Mercuri is thrilled to lead the program into its next chapter.
And, hey, Mike, is there anything in particular you’ve worked on this offseason to prepare for the jump?
“I’ve definitely tried to gain some weight so I don’t get pummeled out there every game,” he laughed.
A RAIDER FAMILY
Before Mike Mercuri turned into a star linebacker for Merrimack College, he was a standout at Central Catholic — where he was the first child in a family of Raiders.
His sister, Meg, just graduated from the school this spring, younger brother J.J. is a rising senior who plays football and baseball and his youngest brother, Sean, will be a future Raider.
HIGH ON CARTER
Heading into the program’s first season in Division 1, Merrimack College football coach Dan Curran is very excited about the progression of sophomore quarterback Christian Carter.
As a true freshman last year, the Baltimore native was named NE-10 Rookie of the Year after he threw for 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns to just three interceptions. The dual-threat Carter also led the team in rushing, finishing with 465 yards on the ground while averaging an efficient 5.3 yards per carry.
“We’re all really excited for Christian this year,” said Curran. “He was very dynamic for us last year. The sky is the limit for him.”
MERRIMACK COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2019 SCHEDULE
Date Opponent Time
8/31 Virginia of Lynchburg 6 p.m.
9/7 at Central Connecticut 6 p.m.
9/14 at St. Francis (PA) noon
9/21 Mayville State 1 p.m.
9/28 at Lehigh 12:30 p.m.
10/5 Bryant 1 p.m.
10/19 at Deleware State 2 p.m.
10/26 Presbyterian 1 p.m.
11/2 at Rhode Island 1 p.m.
11/16 Franklin Pierce 1 p.m.
11/23 at Long Island University TBA