Charles Nailen/The Hoya Crawford gets off a pass to one of his wide receivers during Thursday’s practice on Harbin Field. He is expected to start in the season opener against Colgate on Sept. 6.

As Georgetown’s sidewalks and pathways once again fill with students, so too do athletes begin to fill the fields in preparation for a fast-approaching opening day.

One of the programs looking to improve on a convincing conclusion to last year is the football team, which closed out the 2002 season winning three of its four final games – including the club’s first ever Patriot League wins.

Head coach Bob Benson has addressed the team’s needs on both sides of the line of scrimmage, though much of the focus has been placed on ending the quarterback controversy that beset the Hoya football team last fall and throughout the offseason.

Senior Morgan Booth, junior Andrew Crawford and Dave Paulus (COL ’03) all started at least two games last season. Booth played three games before being pulled in favor of Crawford, who saw limited success in the pocket before sustaining a collarbone injury against Fordham, prematurely ending his season. Paulus went on to close out the year, making the last five starts.

Questions about Crawford’s ability to perform, coupled with the skill of the freshman recruits, led to a tight competition for the starting job. He has emerged as the leader of the pack, thanks in part to his being the only quarterback currently on the roster with any college playing experience. He threw for 277 yards, completing 21 of 45 attempts,

“He’s been coming along the last few days,” senior wide receiver and tri-captain Luke McArdle said of Crawford’s progress during preseason practices.

Any changes made in the pocket will have a heavy effect on cArdle, who was the primary target of Hoya passers in 2002. He led the team with 1,037 all-purpose yards, 802 receiving yards and 47 receptions.

Freshman newcomers Keith Allan, David Fajgenbaum and, in particular, Alondzo Turner have also shown promise during preseason practices. The team’s most recent depth chart has Turner listed as second string, a result of his success during workouts and his running-back style that has become popular in football leagues of all levels, from high school to professional.

But the offensive backfield is not the only place where the Hoyas have worked, as the coaching staff has tinkered with the offensive and defensive lines. In an effort to lessen the 37 sacks the Hoyas suffered last year, junior Jon Cummings was moved from defense to offense and junior Ryan Goethals was shifted to center.

“Overall, we had a great offseason. This is a great group of guys – one of the tightest teams I’ve ever seen,” senior linebacker and tri-captain Andrew Clarke said.

Senior strong safety and tri-captain Matt Fronczke will play the 2003 season wearing the Eacobacci Memorial Jersey, a tribute to former Hoya Joe Eacobacci (COL ’96), who was killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Fronczke is the first player to receive this honor which the Georgetown athletic department plans to continue as an annual tradition. He is also the first player since 1986 to serve as team captain for two consecutive seasons.

The Hoyas enter their third season of Patriot League play ranked seventh among the league’s eight teams, based on a poll of conference coaches. This is a welcome change of pace, as the team has been ranked last in the bottom spot in both of the previous years.

This has only added to the wave of momentum that began late last year and has prevailed in the Hoya locker room through the offseason and into the preseason. Both Benson and his players continue to be looking confidently and eagerly to Sept. 6, the date of the team’s first match of the season at home against Colgate.

“We have high expectations of each other, of the team,” McArdle said.

Though the Hoyas will play a full 12-game season for the first time in program history and will open the year against a Raider team that shared last season’s league championship with Fordham, the team remains positive.

“We’re excited to play everybody,” Benson said. “Nobody intimidates us.”

The program is holding an intra-squad scrimmage today at 1 p.m. on Harbin Field.

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