When Merrimack College started its transition to Division I in 2018, games like the one slated against Holy Cross on Friday, Sept. 2, at 7 p.m. were among the top aspirations.
The Warriors will host No. 16 Holy Cross in front of a capacity crowd at Duane Stadium for Friday Night Kick-Off presented by Dunkin’. This will mark the first time in program history the Warriors will host a nationally ranked Division I opponent.
Merrimack will welcome the Crusaders to North Andover after last season’s Week 2 matchup in Worcester in which Merrimack beat Holy Cross, ranked No. 24 at the time, 35-21.
“It’s a great opportunity for our program to have a nationally ranked team like Holy Cross come to our place opening week,” said head coach Dan Curran. “They have a really talented group coming back and they are the standard that everyone else is trying to get to.”
The significance of the game is not lost on the players, said Anthony Witherstone ’23, a defensive back and team captain. He said he is already getting chills thinking about taking the field for the opening kickoff.
“As a student-athlete there is really nothing more you could ask for,” he added. “I have no doubt that the atmosphere will be amazing and it will definitely be a night to remember.”
Prior to the game, the Office of Student Involvement will host its fall Student Involvement Fair, where new and returning Merrimack students can meet different organizations and clubs, offices and resources available at the College. Tailgating will also take place in Lot M beginning at 4 p.m.
“The home opener is always an important date on the calendar,” said Isaiah Voegeli ’12, a former Northeast-10 Player of the Year and one of the most decorated Warriors in program history. “It’s a night that we as alumni get to see the next wave of players create new legacies with continuing the traditions each prior class has left in their own way.”
This year’s Warriors squad features three All-Northeast Conference Preseason Team selections: wide receiver Jacari Carter ’25, who compiled one of the most prolific offensive seasons in program history in 2021 with 89 catches for 713 yard and eight touchdowns; linebacker Rodney Samson ’23, Merrimack’s leading tackler last year with 82, garnering him NEC All-Conference First Team honors; and defensive back Darion McKenzie ’23, who finished first on the team in pass break ups in 2021 with nine, to go along with 34 tackles.
Merrimack was selected fifth in the NEC Preseason Poll.