Robert Morris football seeks apt sendoff for coach Joe Walton

Soon, the warm breezes of summer will give way to the refreshing winds of fall. The Robert Morris University Jam Blues Marching Show Band is preparing new half-time routines to perform at Joe Walton Stadium. It is the season for Northeast Conference football and time for Colonial Pride to take center stage on Saturday afternoons in Moon Township.

Head coach Joe Walton has been the only coach in the program’s history, and he is headed into his 20th season on the sidelines at the stadium that now bears his name on the Robert Morris campus. At the conclusion of the season, Walton, 77, will step down as head coach and serve as special assistant to the athletic director at RMU.

In 19 years guiding the Colonials, Walton has compiled an overall record of 109-86-1, good for a .559 win percentage, including a mark of 70-44 (.614) in the Northeast Conference. During that 19-year stretch, Walton has captured six NEC regular-season championships (1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2010). The Colonials are motivated and determined to send the legendary coach out with another NEC Championship run and a return to the FCS playoffs.

Last season, RMU went 4-7 overall and 3-5 in the NEC. The NEC coaches selected the defending NEC co-champion, the Wagner College Bulldogs as No. 1 in their preseason poll, followed by the Duquesne Unversity Dukes, the Bryant University Bulldogs third and the Colonials in the number four slot. Rounding out the poll are the Saint Francis University (PA) Red Flash, the Central Connecticut State University Blue Devils, and finally the Sacred Heart University Pioneers in seventh place.

Senior left tackle A.J. Dalton, redshirt senior defensive tackle Farren Mason, redshirt senior linebacker Mike Cook, sophomore cornerback Marcelis Branch, and junior punter Tony LaMancusa were named to the All-NEC Preseason Team. The Colonials return 13 starters with seven on offense and six on defense along with a total of 34 letterwinners.

Last Thursday, Andrew Chiappazzi from ColonialsCorner.com reported from the final scrimmage that Penn State transfer and redshirt junior Paul Jones won the battle to be the starting quarterback for RMU with sophomore Derik Abbott as the backup. Jones replaces four-year starter Jeff Sinclair.

Jones will get help in the backfield from senior running back Evan Taylor, who was RMU’s leading rusher in 2012 with 847 yards on 183 carries.

The receiving corps will feature senior wide reciever Donte Jeter who had 631 yards on 37 receptions and five touchdowns last season, as well as junior wide receiver Duane Mitchell, who contributed 437 yards on 27 receptions and six touchdowns. Senior tight end Andrew Mitchell had 76 yards on 10 receptions.

The new season gets under way on the road as the Colonials travel to Roy Kidd Stadium in Richmond, Kentucky on Thursday, Aug 29, to take on No. 19 Eastern Kentucky University at 7 p.m. Last season, the Colonels went 8-3 overall and 6-2 in the Ohio Valley Conference under head coach Dean Hood. It will be the inaugural meeting between the two schools, as well as the first game on a Thursday for RMU and the Colonials first-ever game in August.

Colonials Clipboard: Homecoming is set for 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct 19 when RMU hosts cross-town and NEC rival, Duquesne University at Joe Walton Stadium.

The Northeast Conference and ESPN have reached an agreement to make ESPN3 the exclusive home of 2013 NEC football. ESPN3 will be at RMU when the Colonials host Bryant University at 12 p.m. on Saturday, Nov 2.

Coach Walton will be the only member to be inducted into the RMU Athletic Hall of Fame over the weekend of Nov. 15-16. The contest that Saturday with Sacred Heart will be the final regular season home game in his coaching career.

Topics: Joe Walton, NEC Football, Robert Morris University

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