Chaos in the East: Weekend Preview

Brendan Fox '17 is the only consistent weapon right now on a Bates team trying to make its third straight playoff appearance. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)
Brendan Fox ’17 is the only consistent weapon right now on a Bates team trying to make its third straight playoff appearance. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

It might sound crass to say it so early in the conference season, but Wesleyan, Amherst and Tufts are all going to make the playoffs. I feel very confident saying that, though I hope that somebody proves me wrong. If that is the case, the most intriguing part of the regular season is seeing who gets that second spot out of the East. Bates has grabbed it the past two seasons, but both years they did it with a less than sterling 7-5 record. So who is it going to be in the second spot in the East this year?

This weekend will go a long way towards sorting that out with the four East Division teams besides Tufts meeting in conference series. Trinity (2-1 in conference) travels to Maine to play Colby who has yet to start their conference slate. Bates (0-2) and Bowdoin (1-2) meet in games that could almost eliminate the series loser from the playoff race. Projecting these two series is difficult, but that is what makes it fun.

As always, keep an eye on the weather too. The fields have taken a beating this week, and while the skies look fairly clear for the weekend, play today could be slightly disrupted.

Three to Watch

1. 1B Chad Martin ’16 (Bowdoin): That Polar Bear offense sputtered against Trinity as Bowdoin lost two of three. Martin has to get on track as the star in the middle of the lineup if Bowdoin is going to do well. He has an OBP. below .300 and a slugging percentage less than .400 so things have not gone for the All-NESCAC Second Teamer. The one silver lining is that he has two home runs, and that is a sign that he is still hitting the ball hard at points. My best guess is that he is trying to do too much righ now because he knows how much Bowdoin relies on him. Soooo, maybe not a good idea to put even more pressure on him, especially since I’m a Bowdoin fan. Ehh, whatever. I believe in Martin, and so should you.

2. IF Connor Reenstierma ’16 (Bates): Another offense that sputtered last weekend: that would the Bates Bobcats. What is killing Bates is not that they don’t have one guy doing great. Brendan Fox ’17 is having a fantastic junior season and is batting well above .400. The problem is that every single other guy is hitting well below their capabilities. Reenstierma is a guy that is great at getting on base. Though his batting average is usually much lower, he excels at working the count. Getting on-base alone might not be enough for Bates to get a good offense this weekend, but it would certainly help a lot. Bates is going to have to grind for everything they get all season, and this is the weekend when the grinding has to happen a lot.

3. P Ethan Rode ’17 (Wesleyan): I’m not paying any attention at all to the West, but there is the potential for one of the underdogs in the West to pull a fast one. Wesleyan is HOT right now winning their past seven games. One of the reasons for that is that Rode has gotten back on track. Things went as bad as they could in his first two appearances. Since then, he has delivered three dynamite starts for the Cardinals. In those three starts he has a 1.28 ERA. That should make other NESCAC teams very worried. Wesleyan’s offense has not fallen off from last season, and the possibility of Rode and Peter Rantz ’16 forming a formidable top of the rotation could spell game over.

Colby vs. Trinity Preview

The Bantams series win last weekend has them thinking playoffs, but Trinity won two of three last year against Bowdoin and still finished well outside the playoff race so don’t put too much stock in that. The Mules have struggled mightily so far this season, and there are real questions about the depth of talent on the roster.

You should know that Soren Hanson ’16 is a two-way stud for Colby, and he has been lights out on the mound with a 0.89 ERA in 20.1 IP. The Mules desperately need somebody else to deliver a quality start . I’m also intrigued with how Colby uses Hanson. Do they start him in the nine inning Friday game or save him for Saturday? I prefer pitching him Game 1 on Saturday since it is much more likely that he is able to go all seven than all nine on Friday. Nothing would be worse for the Mules than for Hanson to throw a gem for most of the game Friday, only for the bullpen to blow it late.

Trinity will probably toss Jed Robinson ’16 on Friday and Anthony Egeln ’18 has solidified that second spot. The third starter last week was Chris Speer ’17, and he is likely to start again. The games could easily hinge on an error by either team, and that favors the Bantams. I want to put my faith in the team from Hartford given the track record of that program, but it still isn’t clear if there is a lot of young talent beyond Brendan Pierce ’18. Even so, Colby is very down this year, and I think the Bantams become the frontrunner to get that second spot.

Prediction: Trinity wins two of three

Bowdoin vs. Bates Preview

I’ve already talked a little bit about how both offenses have struggled this season. That means pitching this weekend entails making no mistakes, ala walking a lot of batters or serving up a meatball in the wrong situation.

In this type of situation I give Bates the advantage because of their more experienced pitchers, but Bowdoin is still capable of throwing two seniors in Harry Ridge ’16 and Michael Staes ’16 that have the stuff to shut down a lineup. The weather in Maine is going to be cold and rainy, and that means pitchers have the advantage. Any fly ball is going to die in the air, not to mention the discomfort hitters will experience at the plate.

Both of these programs are solid, but they have not been able to scratch above that upper-middle class status at any point recently. It doesn’t appear that this year is going to be particularly different, and the first weekends games were downright disturbing. At the same time, a lot of talent remains on both of these squads. Sombody young might step up and make the difference, but my money is on old stalwarts like Rob DiFranco ’16 or Sean Mullaney ’17 to be the biggest stars. Bates has more of those players that have been around the block, and I think they keep themselves in the playoff race with a series win this weekend.

Prediction: Bates wins two of three

The Ephs Believe They Know Howe to Win: Williams Season Preview

Austin Lommen '16 is back as the Ephs try to improve on their 2-6 record. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Austin Lommen ’16 is back as the Ephs try to improve on their 2-6 record from a season ago. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Editors’ Note: While 99 percent of the work done in these previews is credited directly to the author, the projected records are a decision made together by the editors, Adam and Joe. So if you don’t like it, blame us.

Projected Record: 26

Projected Starters (*Seven Returning)

Offense

QB: Austin Lommen ’16 *
RB: Connor Harris ’18
FB: Tom Cifrino ’17
WR: Darrias Sime ’16*
WR: Colin Brown ’16
WR: Adam Regensburg ’18 *
TE: Alex Way ’16 *
LT: Charlie Grossnickle ’16*
LG:  Matthew Jewett ’16*
C: Ben Wertz ’17
RG: Eric Davis ’17
RT: Vincent Molinari ’16*

Defense (*Five Returning)

DE: James Howe ’16*
DT:  Chris Hattar ’18
DT: Ellis Eaton ’18
DE: Jack Ryan ’16
MLB: James O’Grady ’16*
OLB: Johnny Bond ’16*
OLB: Michael Berry ’18
CB: Taysean Scott ’17*
CB: Mike Davis ’17*
SS: Alex Brandeis ’17
FS: Elijah Eaton ’16 / Kevin Walsh ’17

Special Teams

K/P: Bobby Webster ’18
KR/PR: Connor Harris ’18

Offensive MVP: The O-Line

Head Coach Aaron Kelton believes that his team will go as far as their offensive line can take them. Last year, Williams had the worst rushing yards per game average and yet was third in the conference in passing yards per game. Some of that had to do with trailing in a lot of games and being forced to throw, but even in close games the Ephs struggled to run the ball. The offensive line returns many cogs from last year’s team and they appear to be stronger all around. In order for the offense to start putting up points at the pace the Ephs would like, the offensive line will need to open up holes for elusive running back Connor Harris ’18 to gain big yards.

Defensive MVP: DE James Howe

Howe’s sophomore year campaign was one of the best in school history, recording 10 sacks and 55 tackles. Last season, Howe was specifically game planned and targeted heavily, which caused his sack total to drop to zero. The Ephs recorded less sacks overall last season, dropping from 19 sacks in 2013 to six in 2014. Despite the low sack numbers, the Ephs still gave up the second least passing yards per game in 2014. If Howe and Co. can get pressure on the quarterback this season those pass defense stats will become even more impressive. Coach Kelton alluded to the fact that they may try and move Howe around on the line to try and help get him more 1-on-1 match ups where he thrived in 2013. As the sole defensive captain, Howe will go a long way in setting the tone for the Ephs on that side of the ball.

Biggest Game: Williams vs. Amherst Nov. 14

Williams clinched its first 8-0-0 season by defeating Amherst 17-14 in 1989. The reported attendance of 13,671 is the largest ever recorded for a D-III football game in New England. The first Biggest Little Game was played in 1884 and has been played every year since. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Williams clinched its first 8-0-0 season by defeating Amherst 17-14 in 1989. The reported attendance of 13,671 is the largest ever recorded for a D-III football game in New England. The first Biggest Little Game was played in 1884 and has been played every year since. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Doesn’t matter what year it is, the Ephs always have the Lord Jeffs circled on the calendar. Referred to as “The Biggest Little Game in America”, this match up is the longest-running rivalry in Division III, but Amherst has taken control of the series by winning the last four games. The game this year will be a 12:00 PM start televised on NESN unlike last year when they played under the lights in Amherst. The last time Williams pulled out a win in the series was in 2010 when the Ephs finished undefeated and were the NESCAC Champions. Even though the two teams’ records have diverged in recent years, this is always a close, hard-fought game. As long as the Ephs beat Amherst, many up in the Purple Valley will feel it was a successful year.

Biggest Surprise in Camp: WR Darrias Sime

Last season Sime only averaged 1.6 catches per game and totaled 169 yards and one TD. The Ephs seemed to share the bulk of the workload between six different receivers so it was hard for any one guy to get a ton of touches. Sime is a big, physical receiver coming in at 6’4″ 225 pounds and a two-sport athlete as a member of the basketball team. Coach Kelton is raving about the way he’s looked in camp and said Sime could be a go-to target for QBs Austin Lommen and Mark Pomella ’16. Sime has been a promising talent for a little while now, and if he can deliver on that promise as a senior it would give the offense an entirely different look. From reports so far, Sime looks poised for a big senior season.

Best Tweet: Williams Quarterbacks Coach Kijuan Ware was at Broncos camp in August as part of the Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship.

Summary

Last season was a year to forget for the Ephs who went 2-6 with four of those losses coming by eight points or less. On the offensive side of the ball, the Ephs lost their leading rusher, Alex Scyocurka ’14, and leading receiver, Steven Kiesel ’14, to graduation. On the ground, look for Harris and Greg Plumb ’18 to get the majority of the work there. Harris only measures in at 5’8″ 170 pounds, but has looked like he put on more muscle this offseason so that number might be a little low. Plumb, on the other hand, is a much larger tailback at 6’0″ that is a more physical, downhill runner and is expected to make an impact in short yardage situations. Sime and Brown will strive to replace the production provided by Kiesel. Like Sime, Brown is tall at 6’5″ and will tower over smaller defensive backs in the league. Regensburg is dealing with a leg injury currently but he should be ready for the opener and looks like he will line up in the slot. Backup quarterback Pomella will be used at wide receiver, as well. Lommen will once again be under center for Williams. Coach Kelton stressed how he wants to get as many athletic playmakers on the field at once and he acknowledges how useful Pomella could be even if he is not running the offense. Lommen, meanwhile had a solid first season under center, but needs to correct his poor 7:9 TD:INT ratio. He will have to find a new security blanket without Kiesel, but he should be able to make a lot of plays.

On the defensive side of the ball, graduation hit the defensive line hard. Howe, our defensive MVP, anchors this group. Jack Ryan ’16 moves down from outside linebacker into the other defensive end spot and two sophomores, Chris Hattar ’18 and Ellis Eaton ’18, figure to be the interior lineman. The Ephs hope to get some strong play from its linebacking corps. Michael Berry ’18 will replace Ryan ’16 at the outside linebacker position alongside James O’Grady ’16 and John Bond ’16. Both cornerbacks are back from last season but the real question for the Ephs will be is how strong is the safety play. Looking to replace Tom Cabarle ’14, second on the team in tackles and first in interceptions, is Alex Brandeis ’17. Kelton seems extremely confident in Brandeis’ ability to not only replace but possibly even exceed the numbers Cabarle put up last season. Justin Harris ’17 was expected to be a force at safety this season, but a broken wrist in camp has sidelined him for the season, thrusting Eaton and Walsh into a larger role.

This team has a tough schedule yet again starting off with three of four games on the road against two heavyweights (Trinity Week 2 and Middlebury Week 4) and two teams that appear to be improved (Bowdoin Week 1 and Bates Week 3). Ultimately this season comes down to winning the close game. Last year, as we mentioned above, the Ephs came up just short but had opportunities to win games. Week 2 at Trinity is where we’ll start to figure out at what level this Ephs team will play at this year.

Top 10 Games of 2015

Bates vs. Bowdoin is always a battle to the end. (Courtesy of CIPhotography.com)
Bates vs. Bowdoin is always a battle to the end. (Courtesy of CIPhotography.com)

Every game matters in the NESCAC, but at the end of the day, some games matter just a little bit more. Here are the games that you have to pay attention to if you are a NESCAC fan.

10. November 11: Bowdoin at Bates

When these teams meet in Week 7, it is likely that NESCAC title hopes for both teams will be out the window, but the CBB title will likely be on the line. Bowdoin could be worn down by the previous two weeks vs. NESCAC heavyweights Trinity and Wesleyan while Bates will be coming off another Maine rivalry match-up vs. Colby. The CBB rivalry games always provide quality football and this game is likely to be the same.

9. October 24: Tufts at Williams

Last year, this game came down to the wire in Medford with the Jumbos stealing a huge win for the program, 27-20, but this year the game flips across the state to western Mass. and Williamstown. This is a pivotal game in the Ephs’ schedule if they want to get back to being an above .500 team. Tufts returns a strong nucleus of players and is likely to make noise yet again in the league.

8. October 17: Trinity at Tufts

Tufts finished last season at 4-4 but got blown out by every team they faced that finished ahead of them (Trinity, Amherst, and Middlebury). This is Tufts’ first shot in 2015 at one of the NESCAC heavyweights and will likely prove if Tufts can join the NESCAC title conversation. Luckily for the ‘Bos they don’t have to travel to the daunting Coop at Trinity this year.

7. September 26: Middlebury at Wesleyan

The 2015 season starts off with a bang as we get two major title contenders squaring off Week 1. Wesleyan appears to be hit hard by graduation losses but they do get RB LaDarius Drew ’15 back who was out with a foot injury all of 2014. Whichever team can come out victorious will have made their path to the NESCAC title significantly easier.

6. November 14: Middlebury at Tufts

It’s hard to say right now how this game will look in Week 8 but clearly this should be a tremendous game provided Tufts can build on the success it had last season. This is one of three huge games the final weekend that will most likely have a big impact on determining the league champion. Tufts looks to avenge an absolute slaughtering in last year’s finale that ended the great season for the Jumbos.

5. October 10: Middlebury at Amherst

This will be Amherst’s first real test of the 2015 season. We will already have seen the Panthers in a big time game Week 1 versus Wesleyan so we should know a lot about the team. A lot of questions about how the 2015 season should unfold will be revealed in this match-up, more so on the Amherst side. Gunslinger Matt Milano ’16 was completely shut down last year by the Lord Jeffs defense, but a torrential downpour didn’t help the Panthers’ aerial attack. Look for Midd to flip the script this year.

4. November 7: Trinity at Amherst

The difference in last year’s game was a missed PAT by the Bantams which allowed the Lord Jeffs to escape the Coop with a 7-6 win. This win last year clinched the NESCAC title for the Jeffs, and it could possibly again this year. But with the Bants reloading from what was a down year for them this game should be even better this year. Both teams have a very realistic shot at being 6-0 coming into this game so this could end up being a pseudo-NESCAC title game. Homefield advantage should play a crucial role for the Jeffs in this one.

3. November 14: Amherst at Williams

Doesn’t matter what the records of both these teams are, The Biggest Little in America game is always circled on the calendars. Per usual, the game will be televised on NESN, but this year it is scheduled for a 1 PM start unlike last year’s game under the lights. Anything can happen in a rivalry game like this, and no matter how good or bad either team has been all season up until this game, it will usually be a toss up. Amherst has won the last four games in the series and if this game wasn’t already big enough, it will be one of the Week 8 games that has a big impact on crowning a league champ. Both run games will be heavily relied on in this one with temps dropping fast at this point in the year in the Berkshires.

2. November 14: Wesleyan at Trinity

The Connecticut rivalry game has been very strong the past few years with both teams in the upper echelon of the NESCAC. Last year’s game came down to the wire with a failed two-point conversion by Trinity being the difference in the game allowing the Cards to hold onto the win, 20-19. Look for this year’s Week 8 match-up to provide the same excitement added by the possibility of this game being for the NESCAC title with Trinity looking to be stronger than last year. This game might not have the same hype as Williams-Amherst, but it looks to be just as good.

1. October 24: Wesleyan at Amherst

Last year this was the deciding game of the NESCAC Championship, and the Wesleyan Cardinals were 23 seconds away from being the champs had it not been for a game-tying 41-yd field goal by the Lord Jeffs. As we’ve said above, the Cards are going to be hit hard by graduation losses, but they still appear on paper to be one of the top teams in the league. In addition, Amherst loses their kicker, Phillip Nwosu ’14, which will be a tremendous loss as their special teams game will likely be weaker than in years past. If the game is close, the Amherst offense is going to have to drive deeper into Wesleyan territory to put points on the board. Whoever wins this game will likely be in the driver seat to win the championship.

Kevin App Has Williams Prepared for NESCAC Play

Dan Wohl '15 has emerged as a star as Williams tries to keep the standard represented by the banners behind him. (Courtesy of WritingScots.Wordpress.Com
Dan Wohl ’15 has emerged as a star as Williams tries to keep the standard represented by the banners behind him. (Courtesy of WritingScots.Wordpress.Com)

Editors Note: Adam Lamont contributed to the Williams-Amherst preview

After starting the year with back-to-back losses in the first year of the Kevin App regime, the Ephs have gone 9-1 in their last 10 games. That one loss was to #7 WPI by only two points. Now that it has come time for conference play to begin we wanted to highlight what has gone well and what has not so far for Williams.

Successes

1. The senior leadership of Dan Wohl ’15, Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15, and Ryan Kilcullen ’15: All three players have been averaging double digits which is huge for what is a very young team that got hit hard from graduation losses and Duncan Robinson transferring to Michigan. Wohl has increased his points per game by about seven and his rebounds per game by two. He has been the go to guy all year for the Ephs. Rooke-Ley’s success at getting to the charity stripe and converting there has been well documented all season as he is shooting a remarkable 94.2 percent there on 81-86 attempts. Kilcullen has seen dramatic increases in all of his stats due to increased floor time by increasing his points per game and rebounds per game by five.

2. Defense: Despite losing a lot of big defenders, the Ephs have managed to keep their points per game allowed at basically the same level as last season. Yes, they are allowing 72.0 PPG, the highest mark in the NESCAC, and at a nearly 42 percent clip, but that is actually lower than last year when the Ephs allowed 72.8 PPG and still made the National Championship. Because of their personnel Williams is at a disadvantage rebounding the ball, but their defense has been good enough for them to win. If they can maintain this level, they should be fine because the offense is so good.

Failures

1. Depth: Coach App has heavily relied on six players to eat up most of the minutes and sparingly used his bench in non-conference play to date except to give guys very brief rests. Williams under Coach Maker last year had a similar rotation set up and it worked. It will be interesting to see how Coach App decides to go forward with his use of players in conference play.

2. Turnovers: The Ephs as a team are averaging about three more turnovers per game than last year. In their three losses this year, they are averaging close to 17 turnovers per game compared to around 12 in their victories. Even though most of the rotation handles the ball well, the Ephs can force the issue too much at times.

3. Field Goal Percentage: While the three point shooting percentage has increased this year, overall the field goal percentage is about six points lower than last year. The loss of Michael Mayer ’14 in the post has robbed Williams of high percentage shots inside. If the Ephs are going to be as successful as last year, they need to manufacture a way to get higher percentage shots in NESCAC play.

Weekend Outlook

The Ephs did not get any favors in the opening weekend of NESCAC play drawing the Trinity Bantams at home on Friday and the 18th-ranked Amherst Lord Jeffs at home on Saturday. Both teams should be competing for home games in the NESCAC playoffs.

Trinity presents an interesting challenge for the Ephs as they have a very tight defense that packs the paint and also forces a lot of steals. Williams has been turning the ball over heavily in their losses and if Trinity’s defense can knock it away from the Ephs, I think the Ephs need to watch out. This game is a battle of styles as Trinity wants to slow the game and make it a grind while Williams prefers a more wide open flowing game. Interesting to see if the Ephs are caught looking ahead to the marquee matchup vs. Amherst and possibly have a slip up against Trinity.

Now to the game the whole league is looking at, Amherst vs. Williams. These two teams had great battles last year both in the NESCAC and NCAA tournament and all NESCAC fans are lucky that we get to see these two heavyweights go at it in the first conference weekend. Both teams came into the year with lofty expectations (perhaps too lofty) after making it to the Final Four but have underperformed relative to them. The massive losses of talent on both teams has hit them hard.

For the Ephs it starts with the captain Wohl. He is the go to guy for them and he’s still improving. He has scored more than 20 points in each of the last four games. If the Ephs are going to win, it rests on his shoulders along with fellow sharpshooter Rooke-Ley. They have relied on both these guys all season so expect the same to happen against Amherst. Although the Ephs defense has been performing at the same level as last year, it’s still currently the worst ranked defense by points per game. Their defense could be a huge issue as Amherst has numerous threats on the court led by stud newcomer Johnny McCarthy ’15.

Williams will be playing with a huge disadvantage in size against Amherst. The Lord Jeffs have so many talented big men like 6’8″ David George ’17 and 6’8″ Jacob Nabatoff ’17 that Coach Dave Hixon has changed his rotation and kept two big men on the court at most times. The Ephs already struggle on the boards, and the Jeffs are formidable all across their lineup in terms of height. Kilcullen needs to be able to at least slow down Amherst in the paint. App might have to resort to a zone in order to alleviate the height difference and force the Amherst guards to make shots from the outside.

Dan Aronowitz ’17 is the other crucial piece for Williams inside. He is an undersized power forward, yet he could present a major matchup problem for Amherst because of his ability to shoot from the outside and slash to the basket.

On the Amherst side, life after Aaron Toomey ’14 has not been completely smooth. The Jeffs have had to pull out a lot of close games in order to get to 8-2, but their win on Tuesday at #21 Eastern Connecticut gives the team a lot of confidence coming into the weekend. The point guard position is unsettled as neither transfer Jayde Dawson ’18 nor Reid Berman ’17 have really claimed the position. Though Dawson has started every game, he does not look comfortable running the offense and does not do a great job of getting others involved with only 2.4 assists per game. Berman is more reliable but defenses know he does not like to shoot and lay off of him. Toomey is back with the team as an assistant coach starting this weekend after an injury ended his season in Spain. Maybe his presence will help the point guard play.

The one upperclassman on Amherst, Connor Green ’16, has been a major disappointment to many. After he averaged 17.9 points in 2013-2014, we expected him to take another step and compete for the league lead in scoring. Instead, he has dropped down to 13.2 PPG and seen his shooting percentages take a dive. Green is taking harder shots and is only making 29.3 percent of his threes. Those feeling better about Williams than Amherst can point to the divergence in play between Green and Wohl as a major reason. The freshman McCarthy and Jeff Racy ’17 supply most of the outside shooting.

Though Hixon has started the same starting five every game, the Jeffs do not seem like a finished product. They certainly look physically like the best team in the NESCAC, but there has yet to be a game where they play like they are capable of. This Williams-Amherst game does not have the stars of last season, but the talent level on both rosters is still very high. It is still too early to know whether this is a crucial conference clash or merely one of the many steps in shuffling out the conference hierarchy. What we can be sure of is that as always, the two teams will bring us plenty of fun.

Amherst Team Preview: Jeffs Reload, Not Rebuild

Coach Dave Hixon cuts down the nets.
Coach Dave Hixon cuts down the nets.

Amherst Lord Jeffs

2013-2014 Season: 27-4 (9-1 NESCAC), first in NESCAC, won NESCAC tournament, reached NCAA Final Four

Head Coach: David Hixon, 37th year

Starters Returning: 2

G Connor Green ’16

F David George ‘17

Breakout Player: Eric Conklin ’17

Conklin is a 6’6″ 235 pound forward who transferred from the University of Arizona this year. He is yet another big body who will punish NESCAC teams in the post. Playing time might be hard to come by because of all the other front court players on the Amherst roster, though. If he can show that he has a developed mid-range or three-point shooting game, then he will carve out an important role for the Jeffs.

Projected Starting Five:

Jayde Dawson-Gordon (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Jayde Dawson-Gordon (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

G Jayde Dawson-Gordon ’17

Dawson-Gordon arrives in Amherst as a transfer from Division-I Fairleigh-Dickinson. He had a fairly (I crack myself up sometimes with this stuff) disappointing freshman year, and transferring down is not an automatic indicator of success. Still, with no established point guard on the roster, the opportunity is there for Dawson to take the job and run with it, but returners Jeff Racy ’17 and Reid Berman ’17 will also push for minutes in the backcourt, and both had strong season openers.

 

Connor Green (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Connor Green (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

G Connor Green 

Green is the seasoned vet that returns this year for the Lord Jeffs. With the losses of Tom Killian ’14, David Kalema ’14,  and Aaron Toomey ’14, Green has huge shoes to fill as the experienced leader on a young team that has only one senior. After averaging 17.9 points per game and 5.8 rebounds, Green could be in the running for Player of the Year honors in 2014-15. He is a bull of a player who is a somewhat streaky shooter from the outside. He will have a lot more responsibilities in creating offense for the Jeffs later in the shot clock.

Johnny McCarthy (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Johnny McCarthy (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

G Johnny McCarthy ’18

It seems like Amherst tends to have a high impact freshman more often than not, and McCarthy is that player this season. His jump shot bears a passing resemblance to that of departed guard/forward Killian. He should bring a similar skill set as an athletic slasher and defender who is the college equivalent of the NBA’s 3 and D player. His ability to play from day one is vital given the dearth of experienced guards on the Amherst roster.

 

David George (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
David George (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

F David George

George is a freak of a Division-III athlete. He became a major factor when Pollack (see below) succumbed to injury last year, and only got better as the year progressed. He is a difference maker on defense, where he swatted 80 shots last season, and despite only averaging 23.7 minute per game, he hauled down 5.9 rebounds per contest. He will likely be asked to do a bit more on the offensive side this season, and he should be up for the challenge. George only netted 6.6 points per game but was very efficient, shooting at a 53 percent clip. Get ready for a monster season from the sophomore.

Ben Pollack (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Ben Pollack (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

F Ben Pollack ’16

Pollack is no slouch on the defensive end himself, as he swatted 23 shots in his injury-shortened sophomore campaign, and was even better than George from the floor, shooting 57 percent with 8.1 points per game. With George and Pollack together with all the other big men coming off the bench, teams will have a hard time in the lane on both sides of the court when they match up with Amherst. The 6’8″ Jacob Nabatoff ’17 got the start over Pollack in the season opener, but the two played similar minutes. Expect this division of playing time to continue unless one player separates himself.

 

Everything Else:

The Lord Jeffs are coming off their third straight NESCAC Championship and a Final Four, but were shocked by the Ephs in the NCAAs after topping Williams thrice during the season and NESCAC tournament. They have a lot of talent to replace since Toomey, Kalema and Killian, all double digit scorers last season, graduated, yet Amherst still comes in at number two in the D3Hoops.com preseason poll. The coaching staff expects that they will rely heavily on George and Green to carry the load. It will be interesting to see if the two D-I transfers, Dawson and Conklin, can make an impact from day one. They have flown relatively under the radar but it shouldn’t be long until word spreads about them both.

Junior captain Pollack, recovering from an ACL injury, was cleared not long ago to return to practice, so he may have to work his way back into the rotation slowly, but once he is healthy he will be a force for Amherst. In the meantime, Nabatoff, a face up shooter who can stretch the floor, will get a good chunk of minutes in the front court along with George and Pollack. Despite all the question marks resulting from the graduation of the spectacular 2014 class, Hixon has proven that he is able to reload, not rebuild, and Amherst should be just as much of a player in the NESCAC and NCAA title races as ever.

The Biggest Little Game in America Goes Primetime (Sort of)

http://i2.wp.com/alumni.williams.edu/files/ncf_ftwill25_600.jpg?w=840

Williams travels to Amherst for the annual matchup between the two arch-rivals. For those not familiar with the history behind the rivalry, Wikipedia has a good short summary. The big news this year is that the game will be played at 4 PM, the latest start time ever in the series history. NESN will broadcast the game as well for those not able to make it to Amherst. The NESCAC and Little Three Championships are Amherst’s to lose this season, so there is a lot riding on this weekend.

Williams (2-5)

What’s on the line? A share of the Little Three Championship

Last week: Lost to Wesleyan 22-0

Offense: The Ephs offense has gained most of their yardage through the air over the course of the season, especially over the last three weeks. Last week, the offense struggled tremendously only gaining 123 total yards while possessing the ball for only 18:20 minutes. QB Austin Lommen ’16 is third among NESCAC signal callers with a completion percentage of 62.1 percent but struggled last week throwing two interceptions and 101 yards. It’s going to be tough for Lommen to exploit the Lord Jeffs’ defense, but as long as he can keep the ball in the Ephs’ possession that should give Williams a shot.

Defense: The Ephs front four this year have not been getting the pressure on opposing QB’s that they were expecting coming into the year. To date, they only have five sacks, which is second-worst in the league. This has also led to teams running all over the Ephs, who are giving up the most yards per game on the ground (192.4). Last weekend the Ephs certainly appeared to be gassed as it was hard for them to get off the field with the Cardinals holding the ball for over two thirds of the game. The Lord Jeffs’ run-first offense is likely to give the Ephs problems if they can’t make an adjustment.

Ephs X-factor: The Running Backs Running back Alex Scyocurka’s ’14 workload has decreased tremendously over the past two weeks, which has resulted in some very poor rushing efforts collectively as a team. Whether it’s him or Jean Luc Etienne ’15 getting the bulk of the carries, they need to have a big game not only so they can score more points, but also to give the defense a much needed rest. If the defense is on the field as much as they were last week again, the score won’t be looking too favorable for the Ephs.

Amherst (7-0)

What’s on the line? The third perfect season in school history and the outright NESCAC and Little Three Championships

Last week: Defeated Trinity 7-6

Offense: The Lord Jeffs average the fourth most points per game in the conference with 22.3 ppg. The Jeffs rely heavily on the running attack led by Nick Kelly ’17. He has been the catalyst for the offense all year with six total TDs and 754 all-purpose yards on the season. QB Max Lippe ’15 has made smart decisions since reclaiming the starting position. He has thrown only one interception despite not amassing huge stats like other signal callers in the league. Overall, this offense is not one of the elite ones in the league, but they have done just enough to get them to this point. With the strength of this team being the ground game, look for Kelly to be fed the ball early and often.

Defense: The Jeff’s give up only 8.9 points per game, which marks the fewest in the league. The front seven is a constant threat in opposing pockets with already 20 sacks on the season. Not only is the front seven playing at an elite level, the secondary is as well. They currently have a league leading 15 interceptions. In six of seven games the Jeffs have played, they have held opponents to under 10 points and the one game they didn’t was against Wesleyan. The Ephs are not even close to as potent of an offense as compared to the Cardinals so look for this trend to continue.

X-factor: Nick Kelly. As has been said above, he has carried this team offensively all year and needs to continue that for one more game to preserve the perfect season. The Jeffs should be more than fine on the defensive side of the ball so they won’t even need Kelly’s best game to get the win. As long as Kelly can give them at least one TD and 70 yards, the Jeff’s should be in good shape.

Prediction: Amherst 23 – Williams 3

Power Rankings: 10/30

A new number one highlights the Power Rankings this week as Amherst deservedly moves into the top spot. For the first time this year, the two top teams in our Power Rankings will go head-to-head as Trinity looks to start a new home winning streak against Amherst.

1. Amherst (6-0) – The Lord Jeffs dominated the Jumbos at home to remain undefeated. The game was virtually put out of reach by halftime when they were up 24-3. Although the Lord Jeffs actually had less total offense than Tufts, they had 3 drives result in TDs that were less than 43 yards as well as one interception returned for a TD. The Jeffs’ secondary was dominant recording 4 interceptions to boost their overall NESCAC leading total to 13 on the year. The NESCAC title may be on the line in Hartford this weekend for the Jeffs.

2. Trinity (5-1) – Finally some team broke the “No poop in the Coop” mantra and snapped the 53 home game win streak for the Bantams. The Bantams were outplayed on both sides of the ball which came as a real shocker to most people who follow the league. This team has the talent to win the league but in order for that to happen they must beat Amherst at home this weekend.

3. Wesleyan (5-1) – The Cardinals had an excellent day on both sides of the ball this weekend. They executed on 10 of 17  3rd down conversions and held the Polar Bears to only 170 yards of total offense which was crucial to their domination. Right now the Cardinals are on the outside looking in on the NESCAC title chase, but they have a Little Three game against Williams this weekend that could be a trap game before the finale vs. Trinity.

4. Middlebury (4-2) – Impressive win for the Panthers who needed a signature victory. They completely shut down the Bantams league leading rushing attack to a mere 85 yards with Chudi Iregbulem ’15 active. Matt Milano ’16 now has back-to-back weeks with 4 TD passes. His success was critical for the Panthers to pull the upset. Should be a relatively easy week for the Panthers as they take on Hamilton.

5. Tufts (3-3) – The Jumbos play on the road was yet again not great, dropping them to 0-3 away from Medford. The big problem for Tufts was their lack of 3rd down conversions (3-19) and throwing 4 INTs which set up Amherst with great field position. Luckily for them, they return to Zimman field for this weeks matchup versus Colby.

Williams notched their second win of the season last week.
Williams notched their second win of the season last week. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

6. Williams (2-4) – Finally the Ephs were able to snap their four game losing streak with a win at Hamilton. After going the first four games without a TD grab, Steven Kiesel ’15 now has 3 TDs in two games. Even though they won, a bit of concern for the Ephs is the lack of a rushing attack, which has gained less than 50 yards in 3 of 4 games. Regardless, they have a Little Three rivalry game this weekend so the Ephs should be ready to go in the final game at the new Weston field for the season.

7. Bates (2-4) – In a back and forth affair, the Bobcats pulled out a victory in OT vs. rival Colby. Bates’ offense exploded for over double their season average in points (16.5) this weekend. This was due in part to the play of Matt Cannone ’15 who had a big day in the air throwing for 203 yards on 18-32 passes and connecting for 4 TDs. The Bobcats look to win the CBB this weekend at Bowdoin.

8. Bowdoin (2-4) – The Polar Bears were completely dominated by the Cardinals this weekend. Nothing went well for them on both sides of the ball, which was disappointing after playing so well against Trinity the week before and almost pulling off the upset. After picking up 52 yards on the ground, Tyler Grant ’17 is now the leading rusher in the NESCAC, which is the one bright spot for Bowdoin after this week. They begin their quest for the CBB title this weekend with a home game vs. Bates.

9. Colby (1-5) – Disappointing OT loss for the Mules who looked like they were going to win the game until Bates tied up the game with 33 seconds left. Even though they lost, we’ve seen very good development from the offense, which was averaging 7.8 PPG two weeks ago and now is averaging 17.7 PPG. The problem for the Mules doesn’t appear to be offense anymore; rather it is the defense which is allowing 28.3 PPG, the second worst in the NESCAC.

10. Hamilton (0-6) – The Continentals surprisingly made a game out of it last week against the Ephs in the 4th quarter after being down 21-0. Although they couldn’t complete the comeback, the defense played well allowing a season low of 45 yards on the ground and holding the Ephs to 1-10 on 3rd down conversions. Unfortunately for them, they are playing the red-hot Panthers Saturday.

Power Rankings: 10/23

The rankings shuffle around a little this week with Amherst moving up a spot by virtue of their win Saturday, but the Bantams retain the top spot. Meanwhile the biggest movers were Colby and Bowdoin up two spots each.

1. Trinity (5-0) – The Bantams got into a dogfight last week at Bowdoin with Chudi Iregbulem ’15 sidelined due to an injury. They were able to squeak out a victory despite his absence, and the Bantams stayed true to form and pounded the ball on the ground with 54 rushing attempts. This team is still the most talented team in the league but it will be interesting to see if Iregbulem suits up this week versus Middlebury. If he’s out, the streak could be in trouble.

2. Amherst (5-0) – The Lord Jeffs pulled out the most impressive victory of the season so far in a battle of unbeaten teams. Thankfully for them, Phillip Nwosu ’15 stepped up kicking the football, accounting for 15 of their 33 points including hitting the tying field goal in regulation and the winning field goal in overtime. Nick Kelly ’17 had his third straight 100-yd rushing effort in the OT win. Bottom line: impressive win for the Jeffs.

3. Wesleyan (4-1) – Extremely tough loss at home for the Cardinals that puts them virtually out of the NESCAC title race. A strong effort by veteran signal caller Jesse Warren ’15 who went 19-26 for 305 yards and two touchdowns was not enough. Interesting to see the team morale next week versus Bowdoin after last week.

4. Middlebury (3-2) – The defense showed up big time last week limiting the struggling Bates offense to 185 total yards, and 74 of those came on just one play in the first quarter. Matt Milano ’16 threw for a career high four touchdowns with 29-43 pass attempts going for 287 yards. As mentioned above, if Trinity is without Iregbulem again, the Panthers have a real good shot at pulling the monumental upset and shaking up the NESCAC standings.

5. Tufts (3-2) – What’s going on in Medford is very special. Coming into the year, the Jumbos were riding a 31-game losing streak and now have already put together three wins after defeating Williams this past weekend. They are a different team at home where they are 3-0. This team can put up a fight with almost every team in the NESCAC now and shouldn’t be taken lightly by anyone.

Phillip Nwosu '15 helped Amherst move into the number two position in the power rankings.
Phillip Nwosu ’15 helped Amherst move into the number two position in the power rankings.

6. Bowdoin (2-3) – Despite losing last weekend, the Polar Bears jump two spots this week due to everyone else’s results. The Polar Bears did play surprisingly well versus Trinity but Iregbulem was inactive so not sure how indicative that was of their play overall. Nonetheless, they can prove how far they have come as a team with a strong performance against Wesleyan Saturday.

7. Williams (1-4) – Another tough loss for the Ephs for what has been a disappointing season so far after the big opening week blowout versus Bowdoin. One of the few bright spots this week was Austin Lommen ’16 going 24-38 on passing attempts for three TD’s: two of them going to his high school teammate Steven Kiesel ’15. The Ephs look to break the four game losing streak at a winless Hamilton this weekend.

8. Colby (1-4) – The Mules put up an impressive performance versus Hamilton this weekend by putting up 40 points by halftime. Very surprising offensive performance considering they had only been averaging 7.8 ppg coming into the weekend. Look for them to ride the momentum into this weekend’s rivalry game with Bates.

9. Bates (1-4) – The Bobcats’ offense struggled mightily again this weekend putting up only six points and only gaining 185 yards of total offense. By most offensive metrics, this team ranks last in the NESCAC. This has been the big problem for them all year and don’t look for it to change anytime soon.

10. Hamilton (0-5) – In what we thought was going to be a good matchup of 0-4 teams coming into the weekend turned into a lopsided affair in which the Continentals got blown out. The game was shockingly over by halftime when it was 40-0 in favor of the Mules. Hamilton still has two good chances to get their first win of the season.

Week Four Power Rankings

Editors Note- Excited to introduce another new writer, Adam Dulsky ’18 who is a freshman at Williams. If you are a NESCAC student or know of one who might be interested in writing for us, we would love to hear from you. Email us at nothingbutnescac@gmail.com.

1. Trinity (4-0)- Last week the Bantams started out slow versus Tufts but quickly poured it on against the Jumbos in the 2nd quarter, scoring 21 unanswered points. As we’ve said previously, this team has the most talent in the NESCAC and by far the best offensive line in the league. It’s going to take a complete team effort to knock of Trinity as they appear to be in a class of their own.

2. Wesleyan (4-0)- The Cardinals offense started out slow this week with LaDarius Drew ‘15 out of the lineup again due to injury. Despite this, they were still able to put up 418 yards of total offense. The Cardinals host the biggest game of the NESCAC season so far Saturday against Amherst, and they are hoping their home field advantage makes a difference.

3. Amherst (4-0)- The theme of slow starts this weekend continues with the Lord Jeffs as they were shutout in the first half, only to score 35 points in the second. Nick Kelly ’17 posted his first back-to-back 100-yard rushing games of the season. He will be a huge key to moving the ball for the Jeffs this week.

4. Middlebury (2-2)- The Panthers appeared destined for a loss this past weekend versus Williams until Matt Milano ’16 led the two minute drill to tie the game and send it to OT. The Panthers went 5-19 on third down conversions and need to improve that dramatically going forward. Next week they play Bates at home and look to build their first winning streak of the season.

5. Tufts (2-2)- After starting the year with a two game winning streak, the Jumbos have dropped two straight games which continues to leave us questioning how legit this team really is. They did rack up some good yardage this week versus the Bantams but struggled to punch it in. A win next week versus Williams could help the Jumbo’s to start garnering even more respect in the league.

6. Bates (1-3)- The Bobcats offensive struggles continued this week as they were held to 164 yards of offense, placing them last for offense in the entire NESCAC. Time to see if Coach Harriman can turn around the triple option attack before a tough matchup versus Middlebury next week.

7. Williams (1-3)- Heartbreak for the Ephs this week as they could not close out their game versus Middlebury and ended up losing in OT. Alex Scyocurka ’15 had a big week for the Ephs on the ground with 117 yards and a TD. They need another big game from him in order to end their 3-game skid in Medford next week.

8. Bowdoin (2-2)- A team that looked abysmal the first two weeks has finally brought some of the pieces together with back-to-back wins. Mac Caputi ’15 seems to have got the Polar Bear offense back on track and is looking to keep it rolling when the talented Bantams visit Brunswick on Saturday.

9. Hamilton (0-4)- The Continentals played another close matchup, and they had a chance to get the win on their last drive until they threw an interception on the Polar Bears 27-yard line. Head Coach Dave Murray has this team playing better than their record indicates.

10. Colby (0-4)- As we’ve mentioned before, the Mules are having major defensive struggles and are ranked last in the league as they have been letting up 30.5 points per game. The offensive side of the ball isn’t much better as they rank last in offensive points per game with 7.8.