Local talent helps Fordham football to hot start

Published October 12, 2013, in The Journal News/LoHud.com.

NEW YORK — Fordham senior defensive lineman George Apostolopoulos had a hard time describing the turnaround the Rams’ football team has made over the past few seasons.

Few would fault him, as Fordham seemingly has come out of nowhere to stand among the country’s elite.

Only a season removed from a 1-10 record in 2011, the Rams enter Saturday’s game at Georgetown at 6-0 — their best start since 1988 — and ranked ninth in the NCAA FCS Coaches Poll.

“I know Fordham was a great Division I program in the past, and when I first came here, I had expectations of being great,” Apostolopoulos said. “I just never knew it would have to come down to senior year. It’s here, and I love it.”

Apostolopoulos, an Iona Prep graduate from Scarsdale, is one of four locals on the squad. Junior linebacker Victor DiFusco (Mahopac), junior running back Kevin Soares (Croton-Harmon) and freshman offensive lineman Charlie Credendino (Harrison) all got their starts just north of the Rose Hill campus.

“To have four guys from right up the road contributing in different ways to the program is very important to us,” Fordham coach Joe Moorhead said. “All those guys have a valuable role on the team, and they all give very important contributions.”

Apostolopoulos and DiFusco have been staples on the Rams’ defense, both playing in all but one game due to injury. DiFusco was named Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week after posting seven tackles, three for losses, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in Fordham’s 27-24 win over eighth-ranked Villanova on Sept. 7, the first home win against a top-10 FCS school in program history.

“It was a big game for me because I just needed to prove to everyone that I could play after having back surgery,” said DiFusco, who missed the entire 2012 season due to the injury. “It was a huge win for the team and the school, too. It was a great opportunity, and I took advantage of it.”

Soares, part of a deep running-back group, has made an impact on the scout and special teams, while Credendino has a bright future with the Rams, according to Moorhead.

“It’s just nice to be close to home and winning football games at the same time,” Credendino said. “Obviously, going to Harrison, I was pretty used to winning games, especially under coach (Art) Troilo (Jr.). So now coming to play for Coach Moorhead and winning games, it feels like home.”

The turnaround for the Rams started immediately after Moorhead was named head coach in December 2011, according to the local foursome. A fresh start proved to be what the program needed as Fordham went 6-5 in 2012, its first winning season since 2007. The Rams seemed on the cusp of real success, as three of their Patriot League losses were by a combined eight points.

“We knew we just needed that one more push, that one extra rep, that one extra effort to really get where we are now,” Soares said.

That attitude translated into solid offseason workouts that had the entire team feeling confident at the start of the season.

The upset of Villanova in Week 2 followed by a win at Temple in Week 3, the Rams’ first since 1954 over a Division I-A or FBS opponent, proved Fordham had turned the corner. And last week, the Rams posted a second win over a top-10 FCS opponent, beating Lehigh 52-34.

“I love it,” said Apostolopoulos of the season. “I don’t want it to end.”