Fall is here, and along with the leaves changing color and pumpkin-flavored everything, it’s about that time where we can start separating the men from the boys in the world of NESCAC Men’s Soccer. With the majority of conference play in the books, these next couple weeks down the stretch are going to be fun to watch, as the battle for the top of the table in the NESCAC is wide-open. Let’s take a peak of what we have to look forward to this weekend.
Trinity @ Middlebury
The Bantams are going to give the Panthers everything they have this weekend. That will mean Cody Savonen ’18 playing at his highest level, as he has all season. Savonen has 8 goals in 12 games, and just pulled ahead of Conn.’s Ben Manoogian in the golden boot race. Anchored by the versatile play of defender Alex Steel ’19, who leads the team in assists, Trinity could be due for a big win after a dropping a heartbreaker last week in OT to Bowdoin. For Middlebury, Drew Goulart ‘20 will supply the fire up top, as he’s tallied a team-high 3 goals and 2 assists. Goulart’s efforts will be aided by Jed Sass ’18, Daniel O’Grady ’19, and Ben Potter ’20. They’ve each chipped in a pair of goals this season, and will need to do more of the same on Saturday if Middlebury wants to show they belong in the top tier of the league.
Prediction: Middlebury 2 – Trinity 3
Tufts @ Bates
There’s no real reason to overthink this one here. Tufts stands at the top of the table, is a top ten team in the country, and has surrendered just one goal this season. If that doesn’t convince you, they are coming off of a 10-0 mid-week result (you read that correctly) against a 5-5-1 Mt. St. Vincent squad. Tufts seems to subscribe to the “Do Your Job” approach, as their 27 goals this season have come from 16 different players. They even platoon the goalkeeping duties, starting both Conner Meith ’19 and Bruce Johnson ’18 in conference games, a luxury of having two very talented keepers. The Bobcats will look towards Nate Merchant ’18 to continue his goal scoring ways, and with box-to-box playmaker Morgan Dewdney ’19 securing the midfield, the Bobcats could give the Jumbos some fits.
Prediction: Tufts 3 – Bates 1
Hamilton @ Bowdoin
The Continentals have pieced together a fair season overall, but 4 NESCAC losses is just simply too many. If they’re looking to throw a wrench into Bowdoin’s title hopes, forwards Jefri Schmidt ’20 and Aidan Wood ’20 will need to continue their goal scoring ways; the sophomore duo has accounted for 7 goals (Wood-4, Schmidt-3). If Hamilton can get on the board early, perhaps they’ll stand a chance to shock the Polar Bears, but that’s easier said than done. Bowdoin’s well-rounded team features leading goal-getter Ethan Ellsworth ’18, along with Moctar Niang ’19, who has continued to be the backbone of this strong Polar Bear squad. Wonderboy C.J. Masterson ‘19 has been in sensational form for the Polar Bears, having buried 3 goals in his last 4 games, enough to tie him for the team-lead with Ellsworth. Matty McColl ’19 has proven he’s a bona-fide star in this league after receiving all-conference honors as a sophomore last year, and with Sam Ward ’18 shoring up things up all over the pitch for Bowdoin, it’s hard to imagine Hamilton finding its way into the Polar Bears’ net.
Prediction: Hamilton 1 – Bowdoin 2
Amherst @ Colby
Amherst is who we thought they were. They reminded us all why they are the defending champions with a statement 1-0 result versus Tufts two weekends ago, and they still have a lot of soccer to play. Jimmy McMillian ‘20 has burst onto the scene for the Mammoths, with decisive goals against both Williams and Tufts to his name. Just another face in Amherst’s potent offense, McMillian is joined by Fikayo Ajayi ’19, Weller Hlinomaz ‘18, and even defender Cutler Coleman ’20, who have all slotted a pair of goals for the Mammoth’s this season, and figure to be a handful for Colby. Colby’s offense has shown a lot of life lately, in large part because of the dynamic wing play from pace-machine Kyle Douglas ‘19 and Jeff Rosenberg ’19. Pairing their explosiveness with a solid defense anchored by top guy Grady Jendzejec ’19, leading goal scorer Cam Clouse ’19, and goalkeeper Avery Gibson ’20, makes Colby a formidable opponent for the Mammoths. Gibson has been a brick wall for the Mules, surrendering just four goals this season. It’s easy to sleep on the Mules against a team like Amherst, but may not be wise
Prediction: Amherst 2 – Colby 1 (2OT)
Williams @ Wesleyan
Williams has lost just one game this season, but their knack for tying has
them firmly marooned in the middle of the table. Saturday’s result in Middletown needs to bring Williams all three points, and should, as Tobias Muellers ’18 and his cronies stick to their game plan and keep the Cardinals out of Bobby Schneiderman’s ’18 net. It’s no secret that the Eph’s defense is their strength, having conceded just 4 goals this year. It’s also safe to bank on Wesleyan’s defense showing up, lead by Teddy Lyons ’19, but if the Cardinals are going to pull this one out, Komar Martinez-Paiz ’19 will need to be in top form. Wesleyan’s gotten a lot of contributions from a lot of guys, but Martinez-Paiz has the talent to bring this team out of the trenches.
The NESCAC schedule this season seems to share a structure with the Alfred Hitchcock classic Vertigo. There is a first half that is somewhat formulaic and drags on forever, and then a second half that blows it all out of the water with incredible drama, despite some dull plot holes . The first half of the season featured good teams playing bad teams, and now the good teams play the good teams and the bad teams play the bad teams. This is obviously the time in which the championship will be decided, so let’s see where the teams stand heading into the “Judy” half of the season (watch the movie folks!)
Until Trinity loses, they have earned the top spot in the rankings. They have the best running back in the league in Max Chipouras ‘18, the third best quarterback in the league in Sonny Puzzo ‘18 (dm us on Twitter, I can defend my claims,) and a defense that seems to have a new MVP every week. Recently, it has been the linebacking corps that has stepped up. The secondary has been impenetrable all year, giving up only 126 passing yards per game, a very impressive stat in the pass-heavy NESCAC. But the rush defense is rounding into shape. Linebackers Shane Libby ‘19 and Dago Picon-Roura ‘19 have stuffed rushing attacks to the tune of 98 rushing yards per game. And it’s a good thing they did, because Williams has a tremendously underrated rushing attack. Stopping Connor Harris ‘18 and freshman weapon Rashad Morrison ‘21 was the key to Trinity surviving a strong upset bid. The season is about to get interesting for the Bantams. They haven’t played any of the upper tier yet, which has contributed to their aura of invincibility. But with Tufts this weekend, that will change. That rush defense will again be tested by Ryan McDonald ‘20. And, through no fault of their own, they have a legitimate challenger in Middlebury, and their matchup with the Panthers in two weeks looms.
Speaking of the Panthers, they are starting to look as dominant on offense as Trinity does on defense (and pretty formidable on defense as well.) To continue my quest to compliment Jared Lebowitz ‘18 in every article, he has raised his level of play past even where it was last year. We wrote at the beginning of the season that the key to Middlebury’s title hopes would be taking care of the ball, and Lebowitz only has two interceptions this year after having five at this point last season. Additionally, in Wesleyan and Amherst, Middlebury has played two of the best defenses in the league. Lebowitz has not dominated those games. Against Amherst he only had 205 yards, and against Wesleyan he only completed 50% of his passes. But in those two games he has 6 touchdowns and no interceptions, and, lo and behold, Middlebury has won both games.
Lebowitz not turning the ball over has allowed Middlebury to win games in other ways. Jimmy Martinez ‘19 is a combination of Tyreek Hill and a Power Ranger in the return game. He’s so terrifying that teams would rather squib kicks than give him the chance to run them back. This gives Lebowitz the Panthers excellent starting field position. And the defense, after struggling against Wesleyan in the fourth quarter in Week One, has become one of the most explosive units in the league. They scored two touchdowns against Amherst, including one from LB Wesley Becton ‘18, who is quickly becoming a First Team candidate. The unit leads the league in interceptions, and have done it against elite competition, unlike Trinity.
The Amherst Football redemption tour bus hit a pothole last weekend when they dropped a key home game to Middlebury. A win against the Panthers would have put them in a great position to at least split the league title; now they’ll need some help from the teams remaining. Defense was not the problem for the Mammoths against Middlebury. They held the vaunted Middlebury offense to just 287 yards, by far their lowest output of the season. And the three passing touchdowns that the Panthers produced were heavily aided by 3 Amherst interceptions. One of those came from starter Ollie Eberth ‘21, but two came from Reece Foy ‘18. Herein lies Amherst’s problem. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Foy is not ready to be the player he was before his injury last off-season. Eberth is a great talent, but the prospect of beating Trinity with a first year QB is not a promising one. Amherst has the best rushing attack in the league, with Jack Hickey ‘19 and Hasani Figueroa ‘18 (189 yards combined against Middlebury.)Amherst should up both of their carries to make up for the inconsistencies at QB, but you can’t beat teams like Middlebury or Trinity without a well-rounded offense.
I really wanted to put the Cardinals ahead of Amherst here, but after the outcry against the Stock Report I thought better of it. The Cardinals offense continued to fly high last weekend against Colby, as did the remarkable season of QB Mark Piccirillo ‘18. He is tied with Lebowitz for the league lead in touchdowns and passing yards per game, and has one of the highest completion percentages in the country at over 70%. He does have a propensity for interceptions (6 already on the year,) and that hurt them in their opening loss to Middlebury. Their rushing attack is coming together nicely as Dario Highsmith ‘20 continues to flash huge potential, and they might even be able to give him more carries and keep some pressure off of First Team Candidates Piccirillo and WR Mike Breuler ’18.
For Wesleyan, the fault is not in their stars, dear Brutus, but in their defense. The stats are solid (between third and fourth in the league in yards and points per game,) but they are not as dangerous as they were last season. The unit has only forced four turnovers on the season, the lowest of the top teams, and that includes none against Middlebury. That may seem like a bit of a nit-picky complaint against a unit that has only given up 15 points per game despite playing Middlebury and Tufts already, but it matters. They simply haven’t been as dangerous on defense as Middlebury and Trinity have, and that is why they’re just outside of the upper echelon.
I know that Bates’ defense make every team they play look like me in online Madden (that is, unbeatable,) but Williams’ performance last week.was still impressive. They put up 590 yards of total offense, including 289 rushing yards, and 47 points, the second most in the league this year. Bobby Maimeron ‘21 continued his star turn in his freshman year, and Frank Stola ‘21 netted 172 and two touchdowns. The defense tallied four interceptions against the overmatched Bates offense. It was an all around domination that showed just how far Williams has come from being one of the worst teams in the league just last season. Something to watch for out of this game was the emergence of versatile weapon Rashad Morrison ‘21. After not playing in the first three games, the speedy receiver exploded for 85 yards and a touchdown on just five carries. Between him and Connor Harris ‘18, Williams has two explosive backfield options who can break games with their speed. The Ephs are very much here to stay, and have another chance to notch a huge upset this weekend in Middlebury. The Panthers should be very wary.
Tufts has done nothing to deserve being dropped in the rankings. I’m just getting that out the way now before Rory and Sid text me and call me names. They suffered a tough loss to Wesleyan in Week Two, and since then have beaten up on lower tier teams, just like the teams above them on this list. Ryan McDonald ‘18 is the best dual-threat QB in the league, averaging over 90 rushing yards per game in addition to 220 passing yards. However, he is their entire offense. RB Dom Borelli ‘19 has struggled with injuries and inconsistency all year, and they lack an explosive playmaker outside of swiss army knife WR Jack Dolan ‘18. This is what separates them from the likes of Trinity, Middlebury and Wesleyan. They don’t have enough other weapons to win when they face a team that has the athleticism on defense to stop McDonald. Trinity, Middlebury, Wesleyan, Williams and Amherst all have that.
The Continentals have got to be a little frustrated, both in the schedulers and in themselves. For a couple years they’ve been amassing young talent, and it looked as if they, not Williams, would be the team to rise up out of the bottom tier and take on the big dogs. And after a close loss to Tufts in Week One, the “Hamilton is good now” train (on which I was the conductor) took off a little prematurely. Hamilton still hasn’t won a game yet this season, despite exciting young players such as QB Kenny Gray ’20 and WR Joe Schmidt ’20. However, they have also had to play all of those “big dogs” pretty immediately, and right in a row. Hamilton has played, in this order, Tufts, Amherst, Wesleyan and Trinity. So their record and anemic defensive and rushing statistics can be partially attributed to a young team playing very good teams early in the season. In the second half, they still have Middlebury, but they also finally play teams like Bates and Colby, whom they should beat. Look for Hamilton to grab some wins in the next couple weeks.
Here we are, the bottom tier. Bowdoin gets the “moral victory” trophy for being at the top of this group on the strength of their surprisingly solid rushing attack, led by Nate Richam ’20, who in his sophomore year is averaging 71 yards per game on five yards per carry. He doesn’t get a lot of red zone chances, as Bowdoin’s quarterback play has been less functional than the Trump White House and just as hard to watch. But in Richam, Bowdoin has the semblance of an identity, a power running team that works hard for every possession. They also have played a very difficult schedule thus far, and should use the second half to work on this identity.
These bottom two teams are both here for opposite, and historically bad reasons. For Colby, it is their offense. They don’t seem to have one. Colby has only scored 20 points all season, for an average of five per game. They only have 786 total yards, or to phrase it differently, nearly five hundred fewer than Jared Lebowitz has on his own. These numbers are bad no matter who they’ve played, and doesn’t bode well for even the easier games in the second half.
Three out of the five highest scoring games this season have come against the Bobcats. The Bobcats just gave up 590 yards to Williams, which is the equivalent of giving up 985 yards to Trinity. Bates recently gave up 75 yards on the ground and a touchdown to the dog from Air Bud, who died several years ago (sorry.) Bates’ defense hasn’t gotten much help from the offense, which has ten turnovers. I do like the direction Bates is trending in, as they have entirely given their season over to building up young QBs Matt Golden ’20 and Brendan Costa ’21. This second half should be about auditioning those two for the QB of the future role. Bates has no hope of winning any games this year if their defense doesn’t approach mediocrity real soon.
The marquee game of the season thus far is in Amherst, as Middlebury travels to the Mammoths in a game that starts the process of deciding the league champion. Amherst and Middlebury are the two teams with the best chance of supplanting Trinity, but staying undefeated will be crucial in that noble quest. Check out Colby’s breakdown of that game here. Other than that game this week is pretty pedestrian, with mostly lower tier teams taking on better opponents. It will be interesting to see if Williams can build off their performance against Trinity last weekend, or if they are let down after a tough loss. And Trinity is worth watching as well, to see if their offense can rebound against a Hamilton team that can be sneaky-dangerous (ask Tufts.)
As their Twitter page is very fond of pointing out, Wesleyan has one of the most potent passing offenses in the country thus far. However, they are not built to be a high volume aerial attack like, say, Middlebury is. Mark Piccirillo ‘18 doesn’t have the bevy of receiving weapons that Lebowitz does, nor is he as deadly accurate, as shown by his two picks against Hamilton. This is why it was so encouraging to see the Cardinal rushing attack get going in a big way against the Continentals. Sophomore Dario Highsmith ‘20 had the breakout game we’ve been waiting for, rushing for 95 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries. Wesleyan is at their best when their offense is multi-faceted, and after a one-dimensional first three weeks, they’re finally figuring it out. Look for them to continue to establish the run in a mismatch against Colby.
Speaking of the Mules, their offense has continued to be anemic, putting too much pressure on an actually fairly good defense. QB Jack O’ Brian ‘21 has not thrown a pick since becoming the starter, but he also has completed just around 50% of his passes and really struggles throwing it downfield. The passing game can’t keep the ball on the field well enough to run it with Jake Schwern ’19, an underrated back who is averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Colby will try to run the ball on the Cardinals, but they really need to get some sort of threatening passing attack going. Unfortunately, Wesleyan is not a team offenses get “well” against.
Predicted Score: Wesleyan 31, Colby 9
Bates (0-3) @ Williams (2-1), 1:00 PM, Williamstown, MA
At the beginning of the season, we would have thought this game would be close, as these two teams would be battling it out for the “Best of the Rest” spot that we’ve written about in the past. But with Williams’ shocking improvement and Bates’ equally shocking struggles, it now looks like it could be a blowout. But, it also might not be. This is a very important game for both teams. Williams has impressed the league with their terrific defensive performance against Trinity. They had two sacks, a category in which they sit a second in the league, and nine tackles for loss in a pressure-filled performance that helped hold Max Chipouras ’19 to his worst performance on the season (just 2.8 yards per carry.) Unfortunately for them, Trinity’s defense was just as good, forcing the young Williams offense into four turnovers. Williams brought a lot of passion in that game, and they can’t afford to take a break against the Bobcats if they want to keep a legit chance at finishing in the top four (which I think they have.) The offense should rebound against a porous Bates defense, but the youth factor might make it harder to come back from a frustrating loss last weekend
Luckily for the Williams offense, Bates has made pretty much every team they play look like the ‘07 Patriots. To be fair, they have played three of the best offenses in the league (Trinity, Amherst and Tufts.) And also to be fair, their own offense has struggled so much that their defense can’t get a break. The Bobcats are on their their third QB of the year in Brendan Costa ‘21, and he looked impressive on the ground against Tufts (91 yards and a TD.) But he still completed only 42% of his passes. Even if Williams’ offense isn’t as dominant as the others Bates has faced, their defense should be enough to get them the win.
Predicted Score: Williams 24, Bates 10
Hamilton (0-3) @ Trinity (3-0), 1:00 PM, Hartford, CT
Trinity had some weaknesses exposed last weekend against Williams, namely on the offensive line and in the receiving game. Sonny Puzzo ‘18 and Max Chipouras ‘19 might be the best at their positions in the league, but Trinity doesn’t have a stud receiver. Koby Schafer ’20 is a great player, but he’d be better suited as a second option behind a Mike Breuler ’18 or a Conrado Banky ’19. This puts more pressure on Puzzo to make perfect throws, and on Chipouras to set up the offense in good spots. Therefore, if either of them are struggling, Trinity’s offense can sputter. And the way to make them struggle is to pack the box and stop Chipouras. Williams did that very effectively until a fourth quarter turnover gave the Bantams excellent field position. That’s when Puzzo ended the game with a TD strike to Schafer, keeping Trinity from suffering a huge upset. Also, it should be noted that Trinity’s defense still looked impenetrable despite finally giving up points. They dominated the Ephs inexperienced attack, with LB and Player of the Week Carty Campbell ’18 returning an interception 34 yards. They should to the same to Hamilton.
Hamilton has definitely seen the game plan that Williams used to limit Trinity. However, they probably do not have the personnel to repeat it. They have two solid linebackers in Cole Burchill ’19 and Tyler Hudson ’19, but neither of them are intimidating backfield presence, preferring to work in the secondary. And their D-Line has been roasted all season to the tune of 204 rushing yards per game (!!) Add in another inexperienced offense (despite a bevy of weapons that might make Puzzo fairly jealous) and Trinity should get back on their blowout grind this week.
Predicted Score: Trinity 42, Hamilton 6
Bowdoin (0-3) @ Tufts (2-1), 1:30 PM, Medford, MA
One of the most versatile offenses in the league takes on the worst defense in the league. Not exactly a recipe for a tight game. Tufts can beat you in a lot of different ways on the offensive end, but they all start with QB Ryan McDonald ‘19. McDonald has had a couple huge passing games (and one very bad one against Wesleyan,) and has six touchdowns and two interceptions on the year. But his greatest weapons is his legs. He has 295 yards and two touchdowns on 5.1 yards per carry. He does have an unfortunate fumbling habit (3 on the year) but he is undoubtedly one of the deadliest offensive forces in the league, and has been chiefly responsible for Tufts’s offense thriving even without Chance Brady.
Bowdoin’s defense is allowing an incomprehensible 477 yards per game this season. They seem to have found some modicum of consistency at QB in Griff Stalcup ‘21, but they simply cannot stay in games long enough for him to really get into a rhythm. If they could find some way to disrupt McDonald’s throwing, Tufts RB Dom Borelli ‘19 is battling an injury and may not play, limiting their rushing attack. They could play contain on McDonald and force him to make downfield throws. However, I don’t see their secondary being good enough to stop those throws even if they do that.
This week features a slate of games that can be charitably described as “uneven.” That’s a nice way of saying that it features games where the better teams in the league play the worse teams in the league. And having learned our lesson last week picking Hamilton over Amherst, we’re not seeing any magic happening here. But there is good news. With these lopsided games happening earlier in the season, the end of the year should feature more games between strong teams. But we can’t get there without going here first.
Tufts (1-1) @ Bates (0-2), Lewiston, ME, 1:00 PM
The Jumbos have been the team to watch if you’re looking for close games this season. This has been mostly due to their strong schedule (an improved Hamilton team in Week One and then Wesleyan last week) but has also been due to their inability to close out games. Their defense allowed Hamilton to continuously tie up the game before the offense won it in OT, and then QB Ryan McDonald turned the ball over twice to help along Wesleyan’s comeback. Indeed, without multi-purpose weapon Jack Dolan ‘19, who had an 85 yard punt return touchdown to keep Tufts in it, the game wouldn’t even have been close. Tufts is in need of a blowout after two hard fought games, but that won’t happen if they don’t execute. This is a golden chance for the Jumbos to get things fully in order for a championship run.
Bates, on the other hand, isn’t in a position to have a preferred kind of win. They have had a very difficult start to the season, highlighted by a 51-0 drubbing at the hands of Trinity that wasn’t even that close. Obviously not much has gone right for Bates this season, but offense has been the biggest issue. QB Sandy Plashkes ‘18 has been benched for Matt Golden, signifying that Bates is ready to go in a new direction. Left to their own devices, Bates would want to be a run-based offense, and when they’ve gotten to that style it has been successful. Peter Boyer and Kyle Flaherty have run the ball with authority, combining for 73 yards a game. But with no consistent QB play, the offense can’t stay on the field long enough to give them a chance to score. Tufts’ defense is still coming together, so Bates has the potential to improve a bit this game. At this point, that should be their goal.
Projected Score: Tufts 31, Bates 10
Wesleyan (1-1) @ Hamilton (0-2), Clinton, NY, 1:00 PM
After an inspired performance in Week One, Hamilton fell back to Earth in a big way last weekend, making several trigger happy “experts” (namely Colby and I) look pretty foolish in the process. Amherst smoked Hamilton 36-6, and while the dynamic Kenny Gray-Joe Schmidt duo ended up with respectable totals (245 yards, one TD for Gray, 54 yards for Schmidt,) most of that was in garbage time. Even so, it was Hamilton’s run defense that looked worst against the Mammoths. Amherst tallied over 250 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Of course, Amherst has arguably the best ground game in the league, but if Hamilton wants to play with the big boys they have to be ready for that.
Wesleyan had a run-heavy identity last season, but haven’t been able to get to it this year. This is partially due to the graduation of Gerald Hawkins and Devin Carillo, but it is also because they have gotten down big early in both of their games. This has called QB Mark Piccirillo ‘18 into action, as he has thrown the Cardinals back into both of their games. The Cardinals have a strong and experienced offensive line, as evidenced by Piccirillo’s success in finding Mike Breuler ‘18 deep. They could run behind that line as well, if sophomore Dario Highsmith ‘20 gets more carries. He should in this game, as Hamilton doesn’t have an answer for Breuler (no one does.) Expect the Cardinals to get up early this time, but it may just tighten up at the end if Gray can get going.
The almighty Schedulers have rewarded Middlebury’s difficult Week One matchup with Wesleyan with back to back games against Bowdoin and Colby. The Panthers absolutely smacked Bowdoin in Week Two, with Jared Lebowitz ‘18 putting up one of the most efficient games of his storied career. Lebowitz wen 20-26 for over 300 yards and four touchdowns, with no turnovers. That last stat is the most important one for him, as the only blemish on his sterling resume is a tendency to give up the football when under pressure. But the Panther O-Line, led by junior stud Andrew Rogan ‘19, gets better every week, and Lebowitz has reaped the rewards. He has also seamlessly worked in a large group of new receivers, who have filled in admirably as we wait for Conrado Banky’s explosion. All four of his touchdown throws were to different receivers last week, including new names like Maxim Bochman ‘20 and Jimmy Connell ‘21. Add in the emergence of Matt Cardew ‘20 as a solid running back option, and the Panthers look like the best offense in the league, maybe even including Trinity.
Colby, like Bates, has had a potentially dangerous running game squelched by inconsistency at quarterback. Jake Schwern ‘19 has run very well at times for the Mules, averaging 73 yards per game on 4.6 yards per carry. But he hasn’t gotten into the end zone yet, as Colby simply can’t sustain long drives. Pre-season starting QB Christian Sparacio ‘18 has been replaced by sophomore Jack O’Brian ‘20, who looked okay last week against Williams. Colby scored their first points of the year in that game. Unfortunately, Middlebury’s offense is firing right now, so any improvement on Colby’s end will probably fall flat, as Middlebury should dominate time of possession (as well as every other stat.)
Another probable blowout this week features the Polar Bears traveling to Amherst to take on the Mammoths. As you’ve gathered from the earlier games, these two teams enter the game on vastly different trajectories. Amherst comes off a terrific 36-6 drubbing of Hamilton in which their running game and defense looked unbeatable. However, there is a question hanging over the game for the Mammoths; who is the quarterback. They got Reece Foy ‘18 back in Week Two after he missed the entire 2016 season with an injury. And Foy made an impact, rushing for a seven yard score. This is a good sign, as the thing that made him a POY candidate before the injury was his dual threat ability. But his backup Ollie Eberth ‘20 has filled in admirably in his absence, completing 64% of his passes with four touchdowns. Eberth is the QB of the future, and it makes sense to give him work in mismatches like this, but when Amherst meets the other title contenders, they will lick their chops at facing such an inexperienced QB (particularly one named “Ollie.”) I would think as soon as Foy is ready, he gets the ball back. But we’ll have to wait till Saturday to see.
Bowdoin also has quarterback issues, but their defense and running game aren’t good enough to make up for them. After only completing 42.9% of his passes, Noah Nelson ‘18 was replaced by Griff Stalcup ‘21, who has fared slightly better (54%.) They have also shown a strong offensive line and running attack, averaging 152.5 yards per game, good for fourth in the league. They have also scored all four times they’ve been in the red zone. These are stats that point towards an offense that has potential to control the game through posession if the defense could get a stop. Which so far, they haven’t. The Polar Bears allow 480 yards per game and 35 points, which doesn’t give a rush heavy offense much of a chance. Amherst has QB questions, but they simply beat Bowdoin at their own game.
Predicted Score: Amherst 27, Bowdoin 10
GAME OF THE WEEK: Williams (2-0) @ Trinity (2-0), Hartford, CT, 1:30 PM
At the beginning of the season, Williams versus Trinity did not have the ring of a Game of the Week. And frankly, to me it still somewhat doesn’t. To spoil my prediction, I don’t see a fairy tale ending for this game, but the very fact that we can discuss Williams in the same breath as Trinity like this is a tremendous achievement of which the whole Williams organization should be proud. And furthermore, Williams might not be the shark bait that other teams have been for Trinity so far this year.
Most NESCAC fans know where Trinity is heading into this game.They have outscored their opponents (Colby and Bates) 86-0 this season, outgained them 901-374 and also, oh yeah, haven’t allowed a point all season. Sonny Puzzo ‘18 and Max Chipouras ‘19 have been as good as expected, but receiver Koby Schofer ‘20 has been a revelation thus far. He’s averaged 85 yards per game, and has stepped in very well for a team that lost several receiving weapons in the offseason. Defensively, Trinity doesn’t have any standouts statistically, but honestly this is mostly because they haven’t had to play in the fourth quarter yet this season. The whole unit has destroyed offensive lines so far this season, and has given the offense ample scoring chances with great field position. Long story short, Trinity is good.
But, potentially, so is Williams? Earlier this week we leveled the crticism at the Ephs that they have played two lower caliber teams (Bowdoin and Colby) in the first two weeks, and so therfore their fast start is slightly exaggerated. But as several enterprising readers pointed out, that is unfair for two reasons. Firstly, Williams was supposed to BE one of those teams, so beating them handily is still impressive. And secondly, Trinity has also played weak teams thus far. This is not to say that Trinity isn’t as good as they look, but rather that Williams is as good as they appear. They have legitimate weapons in the passing game, thanks largely to a fantastic first year class. QB Bobby Maimeron ‘21 and WR’s Frank Stola ‘21 and Justin Nelson ‘21 have given the Ephs the all important vertical threat in the run-n’-gun NESCAC. But their offense is multidimensional. Senior back Connor Harris ‘18 has been one of the most underrated players so far this season. Harris has 162 yards in two games on 5.6 yards per carry, as well as two touchdowns. Harris is crucial to the WIlliams offense, as he provides a dynamic threat on the ground and opens up play action routes for Maimeron.
And furthermore, despite all of these offensive weapons, Williamsgreatest asset this year has been defensive; their dominant pass rush. Williams has the most sacks in the league, 10, thanks largely to Jameson DeMarco ‘19, who leads the league with 3.5. So to recap, Williams has a good offense and dominant defense that has been untested against upper level teams. Just like Trinity. Hmmm….
Of course, I jest. Trinity will win this game handily. But there will be nothing better for all of thse young Ephs than a test against one of the best teams NESCAC has seen this decade. Williams is playing for next year, and it’s serving them very well this year. Watch out for the Ephs, not in this game, but down the line.
This was not the greatest week for NESCAC parity. There was only one game that was ever in doubt, the Wesleyan-Tufts classic, and all the other games featured elite teams beating up on the lower tier like Godzilla on Tokyo. But what there were this week were several incredible performances. Jared Lebowtiz ‘18 (20-26, 316 yards, 4 touchdowns) continued his incredible start, Jack Hickey ‘19 of Amherst (113 yards, 2 touchdowns) had a very effective game out of the backfield, and the entire Trinity team looked like the Monstars in Space Jam against Bates, winning 51-0. So there wasn’t a lot of excitement, but there were still several compelling threads to trace through Week Two. Here are some of them.
Wesleyan QB Mark Piccirillo ‘18
At the beginning of the season, the First Team QB spot (and probably Offensive Player of the Year as well) looked to be a two man race between Jared Lebowitz ‘18 of Middlebury and Sonny Puzzo ‘18 of Trinity. And those two have certainly done nothing to take themselves out of that discussion; indeed, they both threw four touchdown passes. But by leading comebacks against high level opponents in the first two weeks, Piccirillo has catapulted himself right into that conversation. After throwing for 432 yards (4 touchdowns) and nearly leading a miraculous comeback against Middlebury, he followed it up with 279 yards and 3 touchdowns against Tufts in the biggest game of the year thus far. And furthermore, he did his best Tom Brady impression against the Jumbos, leading a game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter, and a game winning drive in overtime. He accounted for 345 of their 385 total yards in one of the most impressive performances of the young season. Quarterback play this season is at its highest level in years, and Piccirillo is a large part of that.
As we all know, the Bantams are currently on a 13 game winning streak spanning over the last two years. But this season has spawned another streak for Trinity, one that is even more impressive. Trinity is currently on an eight quarter scoreless streak. Put more simply, they have not allowed a point yet this year. For all you non-football fans, that’s pretty good. And although Trinity hasn’t played the elite in the league yet, they didn’t have a shutout for all of last season despite being 8-0, signifying an improvement in their already-excellent defense. It has been a true team effort for the Bantams. They don’t have a player in the top 20 in tackles or sacks, but the whole unit has just been incredible. We’ll be keeping an eye on this streak as the season goes on.
The experts here at NbN were perhaps a little premature in predicting Hamilton’s rise to the top. Of course, Amherst is a very good team, but many were expecting a better performance from the Continentals than we saw on Saturday. Amherst focused in on WR Joe Schmidt ‘20, holding him to 54 yards and no touchdowns after he destroyed Tufts in Week One. And without his greatest weapon, QB Kenny Gray ‘20 struggled, throwing a pick and struggling before garbage time. The defense was perhaps more concerning, however. The Mammoths had 257 rushing yards and four touchdowns, and simply dominated the game all the way through. Hamilton may not be as ready as we thought.
Tufts has been involved in easily the two best games of the season thus far, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. In both games, the Tufts offense has played fairly well (although QB Ryan McDonald struggled throwing the ball this week,) only to have the defense rendered unable to get a key stop. The secondary has been the main culprit. They gave up a legendary performance to Joe Schmidt in Week One, and Mike Breuler ‘18 roasted them in a similar way on Saturday. Breuler was Piccirillo’s main target, hauling in 13 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown. Incidentally, this gives Breuler 28 catches over the first two games. This is a ridiculous statistic that I would think has to be some kind of record. Tufts paid the price this week for their shaky defense, and one more loss would sink them in the league. The secondary will have to improve immensely if they want to stay afloat.
Editor’s Note: Ben Suski is a rising junior at Bowdoin, and will be coming aboard the S.S NbN as another soccer writer. Fun fact about Ben: he is 12 feet tall and weighs 576 pounds.
Amherst (1-1, 1-1) @ Williams (3-1, 2-1)
In a weekend jam-packed with NESCAC soccer, we draw our attention to a classic Little Three matchup in Williamstown this Saturday, as the Williams Ephs (3-1, 2-1) host the Amherst Mammoths (1-1, 1-1). Williams looks to bounce back after dropping their first points of the season last weekend, while Amherst aims to remind everyone why they’re the defending NESCAC Champions, after a gradual start to this year’s campaign.
The game figures to be a chess match, as both teams tout strong defenses, anchored by senior goalkeepers ready to leave it all on the field. Lee Owen ‘18 returns to net as the Mammoths’ starting keeper, and after a strong junior campaign where he allowed well under a goal per game, he’ll look to keep the Ephs off the scoreboard. His counterpart between the pipes is Bobby Schneiderman ‘18, who has been a wall in net for the Williams, allowing just one goal in the four opening games of the season. Schneiderman, playing in his first season as the team’s top choice keeper, has not let his inexperience show, and another strong performance from him against a hungry Amherst attack could cement him as a First Team Candidate.
With all of that said, defensively, the edge goes to Williams. Aside from the fact that Williams has conceded just one goal this season, they also boast a far more experienced defensive core than Amherst. The Ephs defense is lead by captain (and Burlington High School product) Tobias Muellers ’18 who has been a staple in the lineup his entire career at Williams. Aside from holding down the back line, it’s worth noting that Muellers is also a dangerous aerial threat on set pieces, and notched a pair of goals last season, so he could be a factor on both ends of the pitch Saturday.
It’s a slightly different narrative for Amherst, a squad that trots out three freshmen in the first team to help with the defensive efforts. With just two games under their belts, the lads have played considerably well, but a balanced Williams attack will be a good test this week for them. Luckily, they do have some veteran leadership in Captain Cameron Hardington ’18, who serves as a suitable opposite to Muellers, having also tallied two goals last season, along with a pair of assists.
But enough about defense. Williams has gotten firepower from seemingly all over the field this season. A team with four goals in as many games, the Ephs have had eight different players find their way onto the score sheet in some fashion. Mark Sisco-Tolomeo ’18 paced the Ephs with five goals last year, and will likely be the Mammoths’ biggest problem to cope with up front.
While Williams has spread the love on offense this year, Amherst will likely look for Fikayo Ajayi ’18 to bang in the goals this weekend. Ajayi had the match-winner against Bowdoin, the only common opponent between Amherst and Williams, and seems poised to have a breakout season. This would be massive for a team that graduated the three-headed monster of Bryce Ciambella ’17, Weller Hlinomaz ‘17, and Chris Martin ’17, who accounted for 24 goals and added another 10 assists last year.
If you are a big common opponent guy, Amherst did defeat Bowdoin two weeks ago 1-0, in the Mammoths’ home opener, and Williams fell 1-0 to that same Polar Bear team one week later on the road. It might be tempting to assume this means Amherst has the edge, but a pair of 1-0 results against another top team in the conference tells us is that this game figures to be a good one. It’s a battle of Williams’ experience vs. Amherst’s championship pedigree, and while the season is young, we may find ourselves looking back at the end of October and realizing just how pivotal this Saturday in Williamstown was.
Week Two features several games that could go either way, making for an exciting week of football. The schedulers continue their support of the Williams resurgence, giving the Ephs another game against the lower tier of the league. Hamilton gets another chance for a signature win, taking on the Mammoths in the close runner up for GAME OF THE WEEK. And the winner of that race, Tufts @ Wesleyan, promises to be a terrific matchup featuring two rivals who played in hard fought matchups in Week One.
Middlebury (1-0) @ Bowdoin (0-1)
The Panthers looked like the Patriots for the first three quarters of their opener against Wesleyan, and then the Browns for the fourth quarter. They led the Cardinals 30-13 with 7 minutes left, then surrendered two touchdowns in a four minute span before a game saving pick by Bobby Ritter ’20 ended the comeback. For Middlebury, the first three quarters should be the biggest takeaway. They made an elite defense look tired, as Jared Lebowitz ’18 spread the wealth between several receivers before Conrado Banky ’19 got involved at the end. And defensively, they held Wesleyan in check before running out of gas. They were particularly effective in stopping the run, as Defensive Player of the Week Wesley Becton ’18 put up 11 tackles and forced two fumbles. Middlebury has weapons on both sides of the ball, and should get better at playing all four quarters as the season goes along.
Bowdoin fell victim to Williams’ youthful energy, losing 28-14 in a game that wasn’t even that close. The Polar Bears struggled on offense, only gaining 220 yards total for the entire game. They did show signs of life on defense, with LB Latif Armiyaw ’20 spending most of the day in the Williams backfield, but the offense simply couldn’t do enough to keep them off the field. This won’t get better against the Panthers.
Predicted Score: Middlebury 38, Bowdoin 6
Williams (1-0) @ Colby (0-1)
Colby had the misfortune of running into Trinity in Week One, so it’s hard to get a read on how the Mules look this season. However, they scored 0 points against the Bantams, so it’s safe to say that the offense could stand to improve. Luckily, Williams’ defense is certainly not on par with Trinity’s. Look for Colby to try to establish RB Nate Richam ’18 and the running game early and often against the Ephs, who, being a young team, might struggle with a long road trip.
Williams put on a terrific offensive display against Bowdoin, thanks almost entirely to a pair of first years. QB Bobby Maimeron ’21 threw for 283 yards and two touchdowns, and 168 of those yards, as well as both touchdowns, were to receiver Frank Stola ’21. Of course, this is a blessing and a curse for the Ephs. They have a bonafide weapon now, but Colby knows exactly who to focus on. They will focus their solid secondary, and particularly DB Don Vivian ’18, on Stola. This will be a test for these two phenoms, and I think they pass it.
Predicted Score: Williams 21, Colby 9
Amherst (1-0) @ Hamilton (0-1)
Both teams looked great in their season openers, with Amherst slaughtering Bates 41-17 while Hamilton narrowly lost to Trinity, 35-28 in overtime. Hamilton receiver Joe Schmidt won offensive player of the week honors after recording eight receptions for 214 yards and four touchdowns. Linebacker Tyler Hudson shared the defensive player of the week honors with Middlebury’s Wesley Becton. Hamilton sported the top three tacklers in week one with Cole Burchill and Colby Jones recording 13 and 11 tackles respectively. The Amherst Mammoths may not have any league leaders, but Ollie Eberth’s 210 passing yards and Andrew Sommer’s 10 tackles are still impressive.
Hamilton lost 34-0 at Amherst last year in the teams’ season opener. Hamilton has a long way to come to beat Amherst, but the Continentals looked much improved at Trinity and will need this home win to break into the top half of the conference. With the offensive performances last week, this game could turn into a shootout and might even come down to the last play.
Predicted Score: Hamilton 35, Amherst 31
Trinity (1-0) @ Bates (0-1)
Not a lot to say about this one. Trinity is far and away the best team in the league, having won 12 in a row at this point. They pasted Colby 35-0, and didn’t even play that well. The offense turned the ball over three times, something uncharacteristic of both QB Sonny Puzzo ’18 and RB Max Chipouras ’19. That was to be expected with the shortened preseason; they will probably tighten it up going forward.
Bates has to be a little disappointed in their Week One performance. Senior QB Sandy Plashkes struggled mightily, going 7-19 with an interception against an Amherst defense that, while solid, is not quite on the level of, say, Trinity or Wesleyan. Bates was forced to run the ball a great deal, which they did fairly effectively, but not nearly well enough to give the defense a chance to breath. And that tired defense looked very tired, giving up four touchdowns to unknown first year QB Ollie Eberth ’21. Trinity should do everything Amherst did to the Bobcats, just far worse.
Predicted Score: Trinity 49, Bates 3
GAME OF THE WEEK: Tufts (1-0) @ Wesleyan (0-1)
The biggest match-up of the week is basically a must win for Wesleyan if they want any hope of competing for a title. There’s a chance that Trinity or one of the other contenders will lose one game, but they certainly won’t lose two. And Wesleyan already has their loss, falling to Middlebury on the road in Week One. In that game, they discovered that QB Mark Piccirillo ’18 (432 yards) is ready for prime time, but their offense was one dimensional. Middlebury shut down their rushing attack very effectively, forcing them to throw their way back into the game. Of course, the Panthers were surprised to find that they could.
This bodes well for their matchup with Tufts. The Jumbos squeaked out an overtime win in a classic against Hamilton. But over the course of that game their pass defense was certainly exposed. They gave up 365 passing yards to Hamilton QB Kenny Gray ’20, and 214 yards and four touchdowns to receiver Joe Schmidt ’20. Piccirillo and Mike Breuler ’18 are more experienced versions of those two, so Tufts may be susceptible to the same fate as last week.
Key for Tufts: Establishing the Run
Tufts QB Ryan McDonald ’19 was one of the stars of Week One, throwing for 267 yards and rushing for 92 more. He accounted for three touchdowns on his own, including this #SCtop10 candidate. But with all due respect to Hamilton (whom I think it’s clear that we’re high on this season,) Wesleyan’s defense is a bit of a different story. McDonald will not be able to throw all over the Cardinals, and they’re certainly experienced enough to not let him break free for long runs. Tufts should work early on running the ball to set up play actions and bootlegs for McDonald.
Key for Wesleyan: Controlling the Pace
The way that Middlebury was able to attack Wesleyan’s vaunted defense was by tiring them out. The Panthers are one of the best teams in the league at running no huddle, and Wesleyan’s defense looked gassed an confused several times during Week One. This was supported by several very short drives by the offense in the first three quarters, keeping the defense on the field. To prevent Tufts from following Middlebury’s game plan, Wesleyan needs take some time on their offensive drives.
A lot of experts predicted that the Ninth Games would be defensive affairs, filled with turnovers and sloppiness. Well, a lot of experts were wrong. Week One was more offensive than Steve Bannon’s existence, and there were several tremendous performances, more than can be included in this Stock Report. Here are a few of the things that we noticed from Week One, both positive and negative.
A loss doesn’t usually land you on the coveted Stock Up list, but this was Hamilton’s most important performance in years. They hung tough with Tufts, on of the elite teams in the league, and even could have won had they tried to go for two instead of settling for the tie (more on that later.) They had the Offensive Player of the Week in WR Joe Schmidt ‘20, who tore the Jumbos apart to the tune of 214 yards and four touchdowns. And as if that wasn’t enough, they also had the Co-Defensive Player of the Week in LB Tyler Hudson ‘19, who had 19 tackles. Hamilton has weapons galore right now, and don’t be surprised if they break out this year.
Middlebury WR Jimmy Martinez ‘19-
Middlebury’s WR situation right now is a disaster on paper. They graduated two of their biggest threats in James Burke and Ryan Rizzo, and junior stud Conrado Banky ‘19 hasn’t looked himself all preseason. But Jared Lebowitz ‘18 had plenty of guys to throw to against Wesleyan, and Martinez was one of the biggest targets. He had 5 catches for 66 yards and a touchdown, but his biggest impact was on special teams, where he a returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. Assuming Banky finds his way, Middlebury is still loaded with weapons thanks to Martinez, as well as sophomores TE Frankie Cosolito ‘20 and WR Maxim Bochman ‘20.
It’s been a while since the Ephs had legitimate weapons on offense, but they certainly do now. WR Frank Stola ’21 had 7 receptions for 168 yards and two touchdowns, but the real revelation was first year quarterback Bobby Maimaron ‘21. Quarterback play has been arguably the biggest reason for Williams’ struggles, as they turned the ball over constantly last season. Maimaron threw for 257 yards and two touchdowns, and most importantly threw all his passes to Williams players. These two first years have Williams football rapidly back on the up and up.
Damn you, Hamilton! If the Continentals had pulled off the upset, I would have been a perfect five for five. In any case, look at the actual scores versus my predictions.
Middlebury 31, Wesleyan 28
Middlebury 30, Wesleyan 27
Williams 27, Bowdoin 10
Williams 28, Bowdoin 14
Amherst 28, Bates 17
Amherst 41, Bates 17
Trinity 40, Colby 10
Trinity 35, Colby 0
Hamilton 17, Tufts 14
Tufts 35, Hamilton 28 (we can’t win em’ all)
Not a bad start! This is how you get to be editor, folks.
The group that terrorized NESCAC last year lost two key members in Jordan Stone and Justin Sanchez, but they still return a great deal of talent. However, against Middlebury the Cardinals looked like they were feeling those losses. They gave up 20 points in the first quarter, and although they made a furious fourth quarter comeback to pull within three points, the defense didn’t look nearly as threatening as the 2016 iteration. Although QB Mark Piccirrillo ‘18 had a huge game while he tried to throw them back into the game, Wesleyan is not really equipped to win shootouts. The defense will have to improve fast, as they play Tufts next week and the suddenly-threatening Hamilton offense the week after.
Middlebury’s Fourth Quarters-
With all that said about Wesleyan’s defense, they still had a shot at pulling off a miraculous comeback in the fourth quarter. However, it is just as valid to blame Middlebury for letting them back into it as it is to credit Wesleyan for coming back. The Panthers defense, which had been stringent for the rest of the game, allowed two touchdowns in a five minute span, and the offensive line began letting Wesleyan’s linebackers into the backfield, forcing Lebowitz into rushed throws. Given the early start to the season, this can be partially attributed to conditioning, and Middlebury has Bowdoin and Colby over the next two weeks to get in shape for Amherst. And based on this game, it looks like they’ll need to.
Hamilton’s Dillon Panthers Impression-
I’ve already given a great deal of credit to Hamilton in this article, but there’s one thing that is stuck in my mind about their game. They scored their final touchdown with four minutes left, and instead of going for two and taking the lead, they opted to kick the extra point and tie the game. This is, of course, the smart and correct thing to do. As I’m reminded pretty much daily by email or Twitter DM by readers, I don’t know anything about football. But Coach Eric Taylor does, and in a similar situation during season three of Friday Night Lights, he went for two. This was during the state playoffs, no less! Hamilton was closing in on the most important win in the program’s recent history, so all I’m saying is that I, and Coach Taylor, would have thrown caution to the wind.
Here we are, NESCAC football fans. Not only is this opening weekend (always exciting) but it is also the first opening weekend of the Ninth Game era, something that fans and players have wanted for a while. I would caution you to take your excitement with a grain of salt, however. This season starts a week earlier than usual. That means a week less practice time for teams to get ready for game play. I would expect these games to be somewhat sloppy, and potentially fairly low scoring. Some grizzled, older fans like my father would like that “smash-mouth football style,” but I like offense. We will see how well teams have adjusted to this new schedule. However, if it means we get to watch football earlier, I’ll gladly accept some sloppiness.
Bowdoin @ Williams, 12:00 PM, Williamstown, MA
The first kickoff of the season features two teams that are looking to put 2016 in their rearview mirror. This can only happen with a good start in 2017, so both sides should be very motivated. All eyes will be on who starts at quarterback for Williams, although sources are telling us that it will most likely be John Gannon ‘18, who is returning from missing last year with a torn ACL. A fair amount of rust is to be expected (from everyone, not just Gannon,) but if he can get into a rhythm then he has the weapons to really explode. TE Tyler Patterson ‘19 is a beast when healthy, and experienced receivers Adam Regensberg ‘’18 and Kellen Hatheway ‘19 give him a lot of options to throw to. Bowdoin’s defense wasn’t exactly world-beating last year, allowing the most rushing yards AND passing yards per game last year, but they return two stellar linebackers Latif Armiyaw ‘18 and Joe Gowetski ‘18 and will be looking to make a statement. However, I think Williams is ready to start trending upwards, and this game is the start of that.
Final Score Prediction: Williams 27, Bowdoin 10
GAME OF THE WEEK: Wesleyan @ Middlebury, 1:00 PM, Middlebury, VT
It’s not every year that a Week One game could have championship implications, but this game might. Wesleyan and Middlebury both have the returning talent to make a run at the championship, but one of them is also starting off the season 0-1. With Trinity’s level of talent and easier opening matchup, one loss might be too many to win the league outright. Therefore, we can expect both teams to be extra-fired up entering this one. Middlebury has been excellent at home over the last few years, but Wesleyan is well equipped to attack the dynamic Panther offense. The only way to beat Middlebury is to get pressure on QB Jared Lebowitz ‘18. If he has enough time, he will pick your defense apart. But when under pressure, he is prone to rushed throws and turnovers. Wesleyan’s defense is certainly athletic enough to get through the young Middlebury offensive line.
However, the Cardinals offense can be inconsistent. They lost two of the major weapons from their running attack last year in WR/RB Devin Carillo and RB Lou Stevens. Therefore, they either have to use Dario Highsmith ‘19, the new starting RB, in a much larger role or reinvent themselves as a more pass-heavy offense. If their offense struggles, Middlebury’s no-huddle offense will wear down the defense, and eventually Lebowitz will get the time he needs. And at that point, it’s game over.
Score Prediction: Middlebury 31, Wesleyan 28
Hamilton @ Tufts, 1:00 PM, Medford, MA
This game has by far the highest upset potential of any this weekend, and I’m jumping on it. Hamilton returns a great deal of their much-improved offense from last year, including quarterback Kenny Gray ‘20, who impressed many with his poise as a first year last season. The defense is far newer, but they benefit this week from facing a Tufts team that graduated most of their offense from last year. Of course, that offense came in the form of one man, RB Chance Brady, who dominated the league like Tecmo Bo Jackson last year. It will take a great deal of work for Tufts to adjust to life without Brady. I think they’re up to the task, but the shortened preseason will cost them here in Week One.
Final Score Prediction: Hamilton 17, Tufts 14
Bates @ Amherst, 1:00 PM, Amherst, MA
This game features the return of Amherst QB and POY candidate Reece Foy ‘18, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. And not only do the Mammoths get Foy back, they return red zone weapon Jack Hickey ‘19 at running back. Hickey scored seven touchdowns last year, and seems poised to break out as a star this year in a wide open race for First Team RB. Amherst also returns star WR Bo Berluti ‘20. The Mammoth’s offense is ready to break out after struggling at times last season, and a strong defense puts Amherst back towards the top of the preseason rankings. Bates returns a great deal of talent as well. QB Sandy Plaschkes ‘18 has been solid for years, but has to raise his game in this game, and this season, if Bates wants to compete with teams like Amherst. Bates has the talent to make it a game, but Amherst is back and there’s nothing the Bobcats can do about it.
Final Score Prediction: Amherst 28, Bates 17
Colby @ Trinity, 1:00 PM, Hartford, CT
There are teams that have a chance to take Trinity down this season, and games in which they could struggle. Colby is not that team, and this is not that game. Trinity brings back QB Sonny Puzzo 18, RB Max Chipouras ‘19 and WR Bryan Viera ‘18. In other words, they bring back arguably the best in the league at three skill positions. This bodes well for Trinity’s offense. Colby, on the other hand, lost their biggest weapon in Sebastian Ferrall ‘19. They do return a great deal of talent on defense, especially in the secondary and at linebacker. If everything goes perfectly for the Mules, they put up a great performance on defense and only lose by one touchdown. Unfortunately, the team that beats Trinity this season will have to beat them in a shootout, not a defensive battle.
Colby’s offense was nothing to write home about last season, and they lost arguably their two biggest threats; RB Jabari Hurdle-Price and WR Sebastian Ferrall, who did not graduate and simply isn’t returning to school. This puts incredible pressure on Sparacio to step up, even with those security blankets out of the picture. He is the presumptive starter and got the brunt of the action, but was challenged last year by first year Jack O’Brian ‘20, and there is a Dartmouth transfer, Harry Kraft ‘19, who will also press him. Sparacio has the ability to hold onto his job, but the Mules need more than that if they want any hope of matching last year’s win total.
Defensive MVP: DB Don Vivian ‘19
Colby retains much of their solid defensive core from last season, and Vivian is the biggest prize of that returning crop. He picked off two passes and broke up five, but his greatest contributions are as a run stopper and tackler. He tallied 63 tackles, a number usually reserved for linebackers, and made an impact in the backfield with three tackles for loss. Vivian heads up a defense that is as experienced as any in the NESCAC, and should be the Mules calling card this season.
Biggest Game: vs. Bates, October 28
NESCAC football is exciting, yes, but it is also stratified. For the most part, you know at the beginning of the year which five teams will be competing for the title. This puts the teams that are outside of that upper tier in a competition for an award I like to call “The Best of the Rest.” Fans of those upper teams often dismiss games between those teams, but they are often the most enjoyable to watch. This game could very well decide the “Best of the Rest,” assuming neither team makes a miraculous leap to the upper tier. Additionally, the game could decide the CBB winner, which is a fierce regional rivalry. Mark this one down as one to check out.
Colby surprised many last year by tallying three wins, and they return a good deal of that team this season, with the notable exception of star WR Sebastian Ferrall ‘19, who is not returning to the school. Without him, the Mules will have to rely heavily on their experienced defense and try to manufacture offense as best they can.
Defensive back Don Vivian ‘18 is a First Team candidate, and he leads an experience secondary that is Colby’s greatest strength. They also return a talented duo of linebackers in Bryan McAdams ‘18 and Sebastian Philemon ‘19. Defensive line could be an issue, as they are still waiting on several position battles to work themselves out. Stopping the run is critical to NESCAC success, and it’s very tough to do that with an inexperienced offensive line.
On offense, the Mules greatest returning weapon is kicker (yes kicker) John Baron ‘18. Many NESCAC teams struggle to find consistent placekickers, and many teams aren’t particularly bothered by that. But having one is a real weapon, particularly for a team like COlby that lacks a truly dominant red zone weapon. Baron is a key to Colby’s chances this year, especially if they get into games that come down to the wire. Aside from that, offense is going to be a real problem for Colby. They will need to see vast improvement from QB Christian Sparacio, which will not be helped by the loss of Farrell and starting running back Jabari Hurdle-Price. If they don’t get it, junior transfer Matthew Kraft ‘18 (of the New England Patriots Krafts) will be waiting in the wings.