Stonehill Makes Transition to New coach Eli Gardner

August 19, 2016


The start of training camp one week ago today marked the beginning of a new chapter for the Stonehill College football program.

After nine seasons with Robert Talley as the head coach, the Skyhawks are now being guided by one of his assistants, Eli Gardner, (right) whose first game is two weeks from Friday night.

Stonehill has gone through eight practices in seven days at W.B. Mason Stadium, quickly getting adjusted to a new head coach who has been on the Skyhawks' staff since 2009.

"It was a very smooth transition,'' said senior offensive lineman Joe MacInnis of Raynham after practice Wednesday afternoon. "We went in-house and everybody right away wanted coach Gardner to get that position. It was definitely the right move.''

Talley stepped down as Stonehill's coach in late April to become the director of development for the athletics department at California State University-Chico. Gardner, the team's defensive coordinator since 2011, was hired full time on June 9 after holding the position on an interim basis.

The players returned to campus this month ready to be guided by someone who is quite familiar with the program.

"It was definitely a shock,'' said senior linebacker Ryan Doherty of Talley's departure. "But the whole time I was with him for three years, it was the next man up mentality.

"We have that on the field and we applied that there, too. We said our goodbyes to him. We appreciate everything he did for this program. But it's the next guy up mentality and the whole team is behind coach Gardner.''

The Skyhawks feel comfortable knowing that a coach from inside the program will make it an easier transition from one leader to the next this season.

Stonehill went 7-4 a year ago and returns a significant number of key players in a season that begins with a home game against Bloomsburg University Sept. 2.

"It was huge, vital to our success,'' said junior quarterback Matt Foltz of the hiring of Gardner. "We think we have something special going here. We want to keep the ball rolling.

"It was tough to see (Talley) leave, knowing how much he did for the program and how much he did for me personally. But I feel pretty confident with the way he's left the program. He left the program in good hands. We feel really confident in coach Gardner and the staff.''

Training camp will continue until practice begins for Bloomsburg on Aug. 27, giving Gardner time to watch his team take shape.

"We're definitely ahead of where we've been in my past seven years from an install standpoint, a situation standpoint,'' said Gardner. "It's been great to see them respond. We're keeping them on their toes and continuing to change things up and see how they respond.

"It's been a strong first week. We expect our second week to get better. We're getting better as a team. It's pleasant to see things you were hoping to come to fruition happen.

"This team can be as good as it wants to be. We have tremendous leadership, top to bottom, not just the four captains. They hold each other accountable and know the right way.''

Stonehill, which played in the Northeast-10 Conference championship game in 2013, is looking to continue moving in the right direction with Gardner now making the decisions.

"He's been my defensive coach for three years,'' said Doherty, the team's top tackler last season, "and I've seen his talent as a coach and what he can do. The stats are behind him, what he's done with this defense.

"We have full faith in him and we're excited what he can do as a coach and the staff he has. We trust him 100 percent.''