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The Lions open up the 2012 football season in grand fashion, hosting Ursinus College under the lights on Friday night at Lions’ Stadium. The game is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. It is the first of four Friday night games for TCNJ this season, three of which will be played on their home turf.

Eric Hamilton enters his 36th season as the Lions head coach. Coming off a strong 2011 campaign that saw his squad post a 7-3 overall mark, the veteran coach is pleased with the energy this preseason, and feels their success will be determined by minimizing mistakes.

“Playing at home last year was a big plus and with all the new faces this year, it is important to gain confidence as a team against an out of confer- ence opponent before the NJAC wars begin,” note Hamilton. “Without a scrimmage, this will be the first time we will have a chance to measure up against the unknown. This is truly a wild-card game.”

Coming off a season which the defense permitted the fewest points per game in the New Jersey Athletic Conference, Hamilton will look to the strength of his linebacking corps to continue its stingy play. Seniors Greg Burns (Hamilton, NJ/Hamilton West) and Michael Lambert (Holmdel, NJ/ Holmdel) will line up with junior Nick Bricker (Middletown, NJ/Middletown South) to spearhead the defensive unit. Defensive lineman TJ Hoppe (Manville, NJ/Immaculata) also returns after a terrific season in 2011 which earned him all-conference honors.

On offense, seniors Zach Friedrich (Berlin, NJ/East Stroudsburg South) and Dan Dugan (Clark, NJ/Arthur L. Johnson) will take over quarterback duties, while Nicholas Tyson (Freehold, NJ/Freehold Boro) will assume the role of leading running back along with a healthy Justin Doniloski (Rockaway, NJ/Morris Hills). Senior Matthew Rosati (Bayonne, NJ/ Bayonne) grabbed 33 catches last season, while classmate Glenn Grainger (Island Heights, NJ/Holmdel) enjoyed a strong finish to the season with 24 receptions.

TCNJ was picked to finish fifth in the 2012 NJAC Preseason Coaches Poll. SUNY Cortland topped the list followed by Montclair State, Kean, and Rowan University. Ursinus was picked to place second in the Centennial Confer- ence in their preseason coaches poll.

The Lions follow their home opener with their second non-conference game of the season against FDU-Florham next week. That will also be a Friday night contest that is slated for a 7 p.m. kickoff. TCNJ opens New Jersey Athletic Conference action the following week on Saturday, September 15 at The College at Brockport at 1:30 p.m.