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.
DT: Grant Williams ‘19 DT: Bobby Nevin ‘19 DE: TBD
Projected Starters: Special Teams (*Returning)
KR: Eric Meyreles ‘18*
PR: Eric Meyreles ‘18*
Wesleyan finished last season at 6-2, very much in the mix as one of the top teams in the league. They did it with a dynamic, powerful defense that was complemented by a run based offense that very rarely turned the ball over. This is usually a pretty solid and sustainable formula for success. However, the Cardinals lost a lot of the pieces that made that formula work in the offseason. They are that rare team that could go either way this season. They could rely on their depth and have young players step up to help them make the leap to the true top tier, or they could fall to the middle of the pack.
On offense, most of their losses affect that crucial running game. Lead back Lou Stevens is gone, as is, of course, versatile threat Devin Carrillo. Carrillo’s loss particularly stings,as he was a factor in every part of Wesleyan’s offense. He had 12 rushing touchdowns, and was also their leading receiver. To replace that kind of production, senior QB Mark Piccarillo will have to become elite. He is close to that level already, accounting for 15 total touchdowns last season, but without Stevens and Carillo to fall back on he will be asked to make more difficult throws and to run the ball with more authority. Luckily for the Cardinals, they are still very deep at receiver, with Eric Meyreles ‘18 and Mike Breuler ‘18 forming one of the better duos in the league.
Defensively, they lost two of their standouts in DT Jordan Stone and DB Justin Sanchez. They were both all-league level players, but more than that they, along with Coach DiCenzo and his staff, were responsible for forming the tough as nails defensive identity for which Wesleyan has become known. Luckily, that identity has seeped into the pores of the other players. LB Shayne Kaminski ‘18 is more than ready to take over that leadership mantle, and Wesleyan boasts a trio of junior DT’s that stop opposing rushing attacks where they stand. Defense has never been a worry for the Cardinals, and it won’t be this year.
Depth is what the Cardinals hope will keep them afloat despite all these losses, and that leads to position battles. There are two major ones that we’re keeping an eye on. On offense, tight end is up in the air. Senior Jake Cronin ‘18 would appear to have an inside track due to his experience, but freshman Patterson ‘21 adds a receiving dimension to their offense. And on defense, that final LB spot is still open, although sophomore Will Kearney ‘20 has made an impressive push in camp and might be set as the starter. Wesleyan lost a great deal, but they also keep a great deal and look poised to make a leap.
Offensive MVP: WR Eric Meyreles ‘18
One of the strengths of Wesleyan’s offense is their versatility. Last season they used Devin Carrillo ‘17 as a weapon from pretty much everywhere on the field. Carrillo had 12 rushing touchdowns, as well as 29 receptions as a receiver. His departure leaves them with a hole in that receiver hybrid spot that is so popular in today’s game. Meyreles is the logical choice to fill that void. He was their third-leading receiver last year with 21 receptions, and also uses his speed to be one of the most dangerous return men in the league. Wesleyan could well give some of Carillo’s rushing sets to Meyreles, making him an even more versatile threat.
Defensive MVP: LB Shayne Kaminski ‘18
This choice is pretty straightforward. Kaminski was one of the best linebackers in the league last year as a junior, putting up 61 tackles and four sacks. Wesleyan as a team was one of the best defenses in the country, ranking towards the top in yards allowed for most of the season.Clearly, defense is Wesleyan’s identity. Unfortunately for them, they lost elite defensive back Justin Sanchez. This leaves a void at a leadership position for that elite defense, a void that Kaminski is more than ready to fill. Look for him at the end of the season as First Team and DPOY candidate.
Player to Watch: RB Dario Highsmith ‘20
Wesleyan has long relied on a strong rushing attack to complement their stellar defense. Last season they averaged nearly 180 yards per game on the ground, and scored 21 rushing touchdowns. However, between Carillo and fellow graduated senior back Lou Stevens, the Cardinals have lost a large chunk of those yards and touchdowns. Enter Dario. Highsmith put up an impressive first year last season, fitting in seamlessly to Wesleyan’s vaunted rushing attack, averaging 4.4 yards per carry and, most importantly, not fumbling once all season. Highsmith is poised to combine with Piccarillo, an excellent threat to run from the QB spot, to form a dynamic duo out of the backfield.
Biggest Game: @Trinity, November 11th
Wesleyan has their sights set on the top this season, and on paper they certainly have the talent to get their. Of course, the games aren’t played on paper, but say for the sake of this section of the preview that they and the Bantams run the table leading up to this match-up. Imagine iow exciting that game would be. Even if that hypothetical doesn’t come true, this game could very well serve as a de facto NESCAC championship. And aside from that, it’s a classic offense versus defense matchup, and those are always fun.
Editor’s Note: We recognize that the season is well underway, so for those who haven’t been paying attention here are the current standings, updated for 9/11/17.
While I may have played varsity soccer in high school before my days on the Middlebury Baseball team, I only played for one season and was a keeper, so I’m just being honest when I say that I don’t have a great feel for the game. If I use the wrong jargon, terminology, vocabulary, or grammar don’t take it too seriously. I, however, do take improvement seriously, and will be in London, studying the EPL (English Premier League; See I’m not a complete idiot) and why Arsenal is doomed for a terrible season all of my fall semester just to prove my haters wrong. So look for these pieces to get increasingly accurate as the year goes on. Here goes:
Amherst (8-1-1, 17-3-1)
Senior forward Hannah Guzzi ‘18 leads Amherst following a NESCAC Championship and her Third Team NSCAA All-American honors. Last season the formerly Purple and White ended up losing in the NCAA round of 16, and star player Guzzi led the team and the conference in points (43) and goals (19). She found the back of the net in 14 of Amherst’s 21 contests and scored seven game-winning goals with five assists. She tallied goals in all three of Amherst’s NCAA Tournament games to finish 2016 as the program record holder for points and goals in a season. Also returning for the Mammoths are All-NESCAC honorees, attacking midfielder Delancey King ‘18 (First Team) and defensive midfielder Caleigh Plaut defense ’19 (Second Team).
Bates (1-8-1, 5-9-1)
The Bobcats were only able to muster two results in league play last year, missing the postseason despite ending the season on a 3-1-0 run. It was a lost season in terms of their points, however, they had bright spots with their younger stars developing on the pitch. They return center-mid Hannah Behringer ‘18 who was second on the team with four goals, tied with forwards Olivia Amdur ’19 and Riley Turcotte ‘20. Despite flaws in their attack, resulting in shutouts in nine of 16 matches, they have several pieces who can do damage to put Bates in a position to get points. Their most glaring need is a stronger back line and keeper as they allowed the most scores in the league (30). Keeper Sarah McCarthy ‘18 had a significantly down year, allowing nearly one goal more per game than in 2015, pushing me to think the defense was the main source of the problem. Five incoming first year players are slated to see time at either right, left, or center back and in the midfield, putting more depth in front of McCarthy than a season ago.
Bowdoin (5-4-1, 9-6-1)
Bowdoin finished in a tie for fifth with Conn College and Tufts and played Middlebury in the first round of the playoffs, resulting in a quick exit. Despite beating Middlebury 1-0 earlier in the season, stud goalie Rachel Stout ’18 was unable to match her earlier shut out in the playoffs. Behind a stellar defense the Stout, the Polar Bears allowed the fewest goals in the league, although they did play less games than the NCAA tournament teams. For a more comparable stat, they allowed seven goals in league play, good for second place behind Williams’ three goals allowed. Morgen Gallagher ’20 was named to the Second-Team All-NESCAC as a forward and led the team in her first year with four goals. Nikki Wilson ‘18 was also named to the Second-Team All-NESCAC as a defender and is joined by seven other full time returning players. Only two consistent senior starters graduated, leaving few holes, and if Bowdoin can develop their offensive game, their defense should put them in great positions to end many games in a 1-0 advantage.
Colby (1-9-0, 6-9-0)
Despite a tied for last place finish in NESCAC play with a 1-9-0 record, the Mules lost four games by a score of 1-0 in league matches and were a perfect 5-0 out of conference. While everybody knows the only real games are in conference as their out of conference games were against worse teams, their overall record was still not indicative of the way their season went. Forward Laura Arnold ’18 leads the returning players with three goals and 11 points from last season and Hannah Brozdowski ‘19 will likely be right behind her after starting at center-midfielder and tallying seven points. Samantha Rizzo ‘19 is one of the stronger keepers in the league after saving 98 shots on her own, good for second in the conference despite still allowing the fourth most goals. Their defense is an issue and Rizzo can’t stop every shot, and five or six defensive minded first year players should aid Colby in a resurgent 2017. They will have a good shot at making the playoffs, and while they won’t knock off any of the top teams, they might be able to muster some results and eventually compete in the postseason.
Connecticut College (5-4-1, 10-6-1)
The Camels who were ranked 22nd nationally in 2016 at one time, will rely on the foot of midfielder Caroline Kelleher ’18 for depth during the season while wingers Alex Baltazar ’19 (Second Team All-NESCAC) and Michelle Medina ’18 provided 12 of the team’s 22 assists and scored the most goals on the team to boot. Baltazar led the team with 10 goals while Kelleher and Medina each added three. Kelleher will look to transition into a more consistent role this year after scoring a hat trick against Hamilton, but not finding the back of the net in any other games. Conn College started off the NESCAC regular season with a 3-0 record last season but ultimately fell down the rankings to seventh place, despite making a nice run at the end of the year. They received an at large bid to the NCAA tournament and made it to the second round after a PK win against Scranton. The Camels have a solid attack and if others can join Baltazar as leaders on offense, they will be hard to stop.
Hamilton (2-7-1, 5-8-1)
The Continentals snuck into the NESCAC playoffs last year despite scoring the fewest goals (13) and points (35) in the league. They do return eight starters on the pitch, including several seniors and four year starters in Emily Dumont ‘18, Katie Kreider ‘18, Amanda Becker ‘18, and Katja Dunlap ‘18. Kate Whiston ‘18 is the returner with the most goals from a season ago at three, and will need to increase that for Hamilton to get more results in league play. They lack weapons offensively and will need to be more successful in their combinations to get better looks and more shots on target. They were not overly strong on defense either, but the glaring hole was in total goals, and as everybody knows, the best defense is a good offense.
Middlebury (7-3-0, 15-5-0)
Despite losing All-American Katherine Hobbs ‘17, the Panthers should still have a great shot at going deep into the NESCAC playoffs and get an NCAA tournament berth. Despite a loss in the conference semis to Amherst, they made it to the third round of the NCAA tournament, losing to Messiah who went on to beat Williams in the quarterfinals and lose in the finals. They return just six starters though, including their top two scorers the players with the three highest total point totals. Senior midfielder Emma Shumway ‘18 and attacking midfielder Amanda Dafonte ‘19 will need to bear the brunt of the scoring load as they had found the back of the net nine times between them. Keeper Ursula Alwang ‘20 came on strongly at the end of 2016, eventually taking over as the starter and tallying back to back clean sheets in the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament. Looking to step up as breakout players for Midd will be Virginia (Jinx) Charman ‘20 bringing depth to the midfield, shifting up front on the attack as well and Clare Robinson ‘19, a transfer from D1 Wofford who made her D3 debut in 2016. Robinson and her younger sister Eliza ‘21 have NESCAC glory in their family as their sister Hannah ‘16 won the NESCAC POY in 2015.
Trinity (7-3-0, 11-5-4)
The Bantams return a solid corp from the team that shocked Williams in PK’s in the semi-finals last season. 2016 NESCAC First-Team honoree midfielder Taylor Kirchgessner ‘19 is a contender for POY as a junior. Sarah Connors ’18 provides stout senior leadership, but Trinity’s real strength lies in their keeper. Julia Pitino ‘18 was by all measure the best keeper in the league last year leading the league in total saves with 105 and save percentage at 87%. Between Conners and her, teams should have trouble scoring against Trinity. However, scoring goals themselves might be an issue. Kirchgessner is one of the biggest scoring threats in the league, but their second and fourth leading scorers (Laura Nee and Andi Nicholson,) both graduated, leaving a void in the Trinity offense. One potential solution is Tricia Pollack ‘20. With four goals as a first year, she could be poised for a breakout season.
Tufts (5-4-1, 7-6-3)
Tufts is looking to rise out of the middle of the pack this season. However, the loss of Robin Estus will not make that easy. A Second Team All League midfielder, Estus was adept at facilitating the Jumbo’s offense. WIthout her, Tufts will need some new faces to step up as offensive threats. One of those faces is Taylor Koscho ‘19. With one goal and four assists last year, she is a natural replacement for Estus’ production. Mariah Harvey-Brown ‘18 had four goals last season, and will likely be a major player in the offense this season as well. Defensively, Tufts could really use a star turn from keeper Emily Bowers ‘19. She was impressive as a sophomore last year with .98 goals against on average. However, with the losses on offense, Bowers could have far more save chances this year.
Wesleyan (0-7-3, 3-9-3)
I think it’s safe to say that last year didn’t go quite as the Cardinals hoped. They finished the year at 3-9-3 overall and 0-7-3 in the league, which was obviously the worst record in the league. Their problems were most apparent on offense. They only had three goals in league play. This put a lot of pressure on their defense, as opposing teams were constantly on the attack. And to make matters worse, they graduated their best goal scorer in Sarah Sylla ’17. It’s reasonable to expect Wesleyan’s offense to struggle again this year, therefore the defense will have to step up. The Cardinals alternated between two first year keepers in keeper Zoe Cassels-Brown ’20 and Claire Coyle ‘20, but it looks like Cassels-Brown will be the starter.
Williams (9-0-1, 18-1-1)
From the basement of the league we go to the ceiling. Williams dominated NESCAC in the regular season last year, finishing at 18-1. However, they have to be a little disappointed in how the playoffs turned out. They rolled to the semifinals as expected, and then lost in penalty kicks to fourth-seeded Trinity. Of course, they then advanced to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament, so perhaps they weren’t so disappointed. Anyways, Williams certainly lost some of the talent that made them such a dominant force. The two biggest losses from the offseason were undoubtedly Kristi Kirshe and Audrey Thomas. The two of them made up possibly the best forward duo in the country, as both were named All-Americans. However, the Ephs are more than able to weather those losses. Alison Lu ‘20 was the second leading goal scorer in the league as a first year, and enters this year as the rare sophomore POY candidate. Alongside her is Second Team forward Kristina Alvarado ‘18, and fellow first year phenom Kristi Kirshe, who had eight goals last season. They return Second Team goalkeeper Olivia Barnhill ‘19, and standout defenders Danielle Sim ‘18 and Evan Gancedo ’18. The Ephs are certainly the favorite to win the league this season, but as they saw last year, a lot can happen in the postseason.
Editor’s Note: Connor is a new writer joining us from Bowdoin College. He is a rising senior, and just wishes that everyone in the world could just get along and have fun.
2016 Record: 0-8
2017 Projected Record: 2-7
Projected Offensive Starters: *Seven Returning
QB: Noah Nelson (‘19)*
RB: Nate Richam (‘20)*
WR: Nick Vailas (‘18)*
WR: Ejaaz Jiu (’19)*
WR: Chandler Gee (‘20)*
TE: Bryan Porter (‘18)*
OL: Elliot Borden (‘18)
C: AJ Mansolillo (‘19)*
Projected Defensive Starters: *Eight returning
LB: Tyler MacNeil (‘18)*
LB: Latif Armiyaw (*18)*
LB:Joe Gowetski (‘20)*
DL: Robert Caputo (‘19)*
DL: Jay Mobley (‘20)*
DB: Ryan Sanborn (‘18)*
DB: Nye Deskus (‘20)*
DB: Cameron Rondeau (‘19)*
DB: Henry Little (‘18)*
Projected Specialists: *Two returning
K: Andrew Sisti (‘18)*
P: Michael Chen (‘20)*
Offensive MVP:QB Noah Nelson ‘19
If the Polar Bears are going to compete for more than a few wins this season, it will largely depend on the play of Nelson. Entering preseason as the undisputed starting quarterback, Nelson will to prove that he is capable of leading this offense in high-scoring affairs. Bowdoin ranked towards the bottom of the NESCAC last year in passing effectiveness and statistical output, but Nelson showed signs of an ability to create offense and move the chains down the field. Equally as important, the Bowdoin offensive line will need to show significant improvement from last year, to allow Nelson to survey the field on offensive drives. A major staple of the receiving corps graduated last Spring (Ford ‘17), but senior Nick Vailas ‘18 figures to handle a hefty portion of the receiving workload. In addition, Chandler Gee ‘20 had some success in the slot last year. The buzz coming from preseason practice has also indicated that some first-year wideouts will figure to contribute significantly this season. The pieces are in place for Nelson to make a major step forward as the Polar Bears’ play caller.
Defensive MVP:Joe Gowetski ‘20
Gowetski came in and made an immediate impact for the Bowdoin defense last season. He was a beast from the linebacker position, racking up 52 tackles, as well as 1 sack. Those numbers led the league last year, and Gowetski has showed no signs of the proverbial ‘sophomore slump’ so far in practice. Gowetski figures to be a major stopper in the run defense, and his quickness and instincts make him effective in coverage as well. He has emerged as a team leader, and has put in the necessary work to be a major difference maker this season. Look for Gowetski’s name atop the NESCAC leaderboards again this season.
Biggest Game: @ Williams, September 16th
For the second year in a row, we’ve picked the first game on Bowdoin’s schedule as the most critical. After going winless last year, it is absolutely necessary that the Polar Bears show up for their first game this year. Although Bowdoin Coach JB Wells has an eye toward the future and has moved on from last year, fans of the program may not be so quick to do so. Wells has focused on improving his team day in and day out, and it must show on September 16th if Bowdoin is to rebound from a winless season. Whether or not you believe in sports momentum, the Polar Bears will certainly breathe a sigh of relief if they top Williams in week one.
This offseason and build-up to the first game has an air of ‘new beginnings’ for the Polar Bears. Bowdoin’s historic Whittier field is undergoing the final stages of a major renovation; it is set to open for their home opener (9/23 vs. Middlebury). Coach Wells and the rest of the football program is hopeful that this renovation will spur the team to hit the ground running this year (with the added security of the artificial turf, of course). More broadly, the team has let bygones be bygones, and has emphasized continual improvement and investment in the team’s goals. An 0-8 record last year definitely stings, but the Polar Bears are maintaining a positive outlook on their chances this year.
Bowdoin will benefit from its youth during this year’s elongated season: with a nine game schedule, durability and longevity will be key. Those are areas in which the Polar Bears are well equipped. A nice balance of experience and youth sets Bowdoin up to capitalize on the additional game, whereas some other teams might have trouble adjusting to the change.
Aside from the departure of Liam Ford ‘17 at wide receiver, the entire Bowdoin offense is returning and appear ready to capitalize on some bright spots from last year. Nate Richam ‘20 and CJ Markisz ‘20 figure to once again form a two-headed running attack, and the Bowdoin playcallers will rely on them to carry the workload. Chandler Gee ‘20 impressed with his speed and catching ability in the slot last year, and with the addition of some highly skilled freshman wideouts, the receiving corps looks ready to make a big impact. These new additions will complement consistent offensive presences WR Nick Vailas ‘18 and TE Bryan Porter ‘18. As previously mentioned, Noah Nelson ‘19 will need to step up in big fashion if Bowdoin is to outscore opponents on a weekly basis.
On the defensive side of the ball, Bowdoin will be anchored by linebackers Latif Armiyaw ‘18 and Joe Gowetski ‘20, who, between them, have some serious athleticism and high football IQ. Similar to previous seasons, one of Bowdoin’s keys to victory will be stopping the run (Bowdoin allowed a league-worst 200.1 rushing yards per game last year). To make matters worse, Bowdoin also allowed the most passing yards per game last year with 242.9. Clearly, the returning defenders (and the incoming players) will need to show improvements if Bowdoin is to even be competitive this season.
All in all, Bowdoin has a long way to go before they are NESCAC title contenders. There were flashes of potential last year, but none of them persisted long enough for the Polar Bears to grab a win. With a brand new facility and positive outlook on the season, it would seem as though Bowdoin is poised to make some noise in the league this year. The team will need to be far more effective on defense, and capitalize on their offensive capabilities, if they are to turn their fortune around. Despite the positivity and experienced roster, Bowdoin is still in rebuilding mode. While I don’t think they go winless for the second straight year, it may be another season of woes for the Polar Bears.
Admittedly this is kind of a Chris Broussard take, but there may be no player in the league more important to their team than Lebowitz is to the Panthers. The entire Middlebury offense is designed around his ability to throw darts all over the field. The rest of the league has caught to them, but Middlebury is still the leader in no-huddle throughout the league. That can’t happen without Lebowitz. However, he “only” competed 57% of his passes last year, and threw 12 interceptions in eight games. Of course, he also threw 29 touchdowns, so these complaints are nitpicking to a certain extent. But for Middlebury to really compete with Trinity (and most likely Amherst this year,) Lebowitz will have to bring his game up still another notch. And the graduation of receivers James Burke and Ryan Rizzo, as well as several key offensive linemen, will make his job harder than ever.
Defensive MVP: LB John Jackson ‘18
Middlebury has lost a lot of talent in a lot of places this off-season, and linebacker is certainly one of them. This is almost entirely due to Addison Pierce ‘17. Pierce was a terrific linebacker, leading the team in tackles with 62, but his influence on the team was wider than that. He was a leader, and many players on the team, offensive and defensive alike, have mentioned that he will be missed. However, luckily for the Panthers and their fans, John Jackson is still around to pick up the slack. Jackson uses tremendous speed and agility to be a menace in the backfield, picking up 7.5 sacks last season. He’s also effective in coverage, picking up one interception and several deflections. He picked up 41 tackles as well, despite Pierce’s presence. He will certainly get more chances to eat up opposing running backs this season.
Player to Watch: WR Tanner Contois ‘18
The Panther receiving corps was among the best in the league last season, and that was with Contois missing pretty much the entire season with a knee injury. Now that James Burke and Ryan Rizzo graduated, the Panthers are in need of another threat at receiver. Conrado Banky ‘19 might well be the best in the league, but teams are going to double and even triple team him every chance they get. Contois has been very impressive in camp thus far, and looks fully recovered in terms of speed and quickness. If he and lanky deep threat Jimmy Martinez ‘19 can be weapons, teams won’t be able to key in on Banky, and the Panther offense will keep right on rolling.
Key Game: October 28 vs. Trinity
Middlebury lucks out this year and gets to play Trinity at home. As Colby pointed out in his preview, Trinity was the league champion last year and brings back nearly every key contributor, especially on offense. Therefore, they are the odds on favorite to win this season. If Middlebury has any hope of taking the crown, they will need to take care of the Bantams.
As Division Three college football team twitter pages go, this is actually not that bad a joke. Trust me, I’ve looked few a bunch of them.
The Panthers spent much of last season in a three way tie with Tufts and Trinity for the top spot in the league. However, they lost handily to both those teams, and Wesleyan climbed into the mix. By the end of the year it was clear that they were a step away from contending with those powerhouses, and Middlebury ended with a slightly disappointing fourth place finish. Now star quarterback Reece Foy ‘18 has returned to Amherst after missing all of last season with a knee injury, so the Mammoths seem poised to take their spot back in the upper tier. Additionally, the Panthers had one of the largest departing classes in the league, both in numbers and in talent. Middlebury has their work cut out for them if they want to improve on their 6-2 mark from 2016. But they certainly have the talent returning to it.
The Panthers’ biggest losses are definitely on offense. For most of the last decade, Middlebury’s philosophy has been to air it out, and with good reason. Coach Ritter certainly has earned the right to call himself a quarterback guru, with Don Mckillop, McCallum Foote and Matt Milano all earning All-NESCAC nods under him. Jared Lebowitz ‘18 has the talent to be the best one yet, and put up a mostly-stellar season last year. This was due in large part, however, to most talented receiving class in the league. Phenom Conrado Banky ‘19 earned an All-NESCAC First Team nod, James Burke ‘17 landed on the Second Team, and Ryan Rizzo ‘17 offered a dynamic third option and also excelled as a return man. Only Banky remains from that group. Unless young receivers like Jimmy Martinez ‘19 can step up, Middlebury might need to balance their offense more than in years past. Running back Diego Meritus ‘20 showed flashes of excellence last year, and should be ready to explode in his junior year with a heavier workload.
Lebowitz’s job will also be made more difficult by a young offensive line. Senior leaders like Andy Klarman provided needed stability to a unit that struggled at times last season, and there is still uncertainty about who will fill those spots. Lebowitz showed himself to be prone to rushed decisions at times last year, and a shaky offensive line could only exacerbate that problem.
The defense mostly returns, with a few notable exceptions. DB Nate Leedy and LB Addison Pierce provided stability and toughness to a unit that was otherwise very young, and they both graduated. Leadership responsibilities now fall largely on the shoulders of LB John Jackson ‘18, and anyone else who steps up throughout the year. However, for all that leadership Middlebury still gave up 48 points to Tufts and 49 to Trinity. The defense will have to improve a great deal for the Panthers to remain one of the elite NESCAC programs. Middlebury lost a lot in the off-season, but that could give several youngsters a chance to step up. Hopefully they continue their high level of play and Amherst returns to glory, giving us a real five way race at the top of the league.
Editor’s Note: Cameron Carlson is another new writer joining the force this year. He is a rising sophomore on the Bates baseball team. Fun Fact: Before enrolling at Bates, he spent 25 years as a high-ranking government official in a department that he would not reveal to me.
2016 Record: 3-5
Projected Record: 3-6
Projected Offensive Starters (*8 returning)
QB – Sandy Plashkes ‘19*
RB – Mickoy Nichol ‘18*
RB – Frank Williams ‘18*
FB – Peter Boyer ‘19*
WR – Noah Stebbins ‘18*
WR – Marcus Ross ‘19*
C – Jack O’Brien ‘20
LG – Dylan Rasch ‘18*
LT – Sean Lovett ‘18*
RG – Dan Marino ‘19
RT – Mike Cronin ‘18
Projected Defensive Starters (*3 returning)
CB – Coy Candelario ‘19
CB – Kevin Claflin ‘19
DB – Joe Frake ‘19*
DB – Andrew Jenkelunis ‘19
DB – Jon Lindgren ‘20
LB – Bobby Dee ‘19
LB – Max Breschi ‘18*
LB – Chase Fulton ‘19
DL – Jack Maritz ‘18*
DL – Walter Washington ‘18
DL – Connor DeSantis ‘19
Projected specialists (*4 returning)
PK – Grant DeWald ‘18*
P – Justin Foley ‘19*
KR/PR – Frank Williams ‘18*/Mickoy Nichol ‘18*
Offensive MVP: Quarterback Sandy Plashkes ‘19
In his first year as a starter, Plashkes led the Bobcats to a decent 3-5 record, but this year he is looking for more. Finishing with a 40% completion percentage and throwing for a mere 87 yards per game in his sophomore campaign, Plashkes should improve on those modest numbers with Bates returning 8 of their offensive starters. He will also rely on freshmen such as wide receiver Isaiah Saunders ’21 as well as running backs Jaason Lopez ’21 and Milan Lemon ’21 to make an impact in their first seasons. Now that Plashkes has a year as a starter under his belt, along with a much more experienced supporting cast, look for him to have a breakout year for a Bates team that needs all the offensive support it can get.
Defensive MVP: Safety Joe Frake ‘19
The immature Bates defense will be led by junior Joe Frake. After getting good minutes as a freshman, Frake excelled as a sophomore, recording 27 tackles and 16 assists. This year he will have to explode as a leader of a defense that is looking to show that although they lost a large portion of their starters from 2016, they are just as prepared this season. Frake is one of the best defensive backs in coverage in all of the NESCAC. His explosiveness and ability to break on the ball place him as not only Bates’ best defensive player, but undoubtedly one of the best defensive players in the conference. They key to Bates’ defensive unit will be how effectively they run without Frake on the field, because he surely makes the entire defense run more efficiently.
Biggest Game: October 28th @ Colby
It is no secret that for the Maine schools, the CBB reigns supreme. This is magnified more by the fact that the Bates-Colby game comes down to the wire every single season, with this year promising to be no exception. This season it is Bates’ turn to make the short trip up I-95 to take on the Mules in Waterville. Like most years, this will likely be a defensive battle, with Bates’ defense being the X-factor in this one. Coach Harriman is forced to rely on a less-experienced defense to come up with a big stop in crunch time. Colby will come out very hungry for this one, having fallen to Bates in very close games each of the past 3 seasons, so circle this game on your calendar because it will definitely prove to be another chapter in the Bates-Colby rivalry.
Can’t wait for our guys to be on campus Saturday. I can feel the energy already. Cats are ready to ROAR
This tweet marked the first in a series of tweets where Coach Capone would tweet something vague, positive, and always enthusiastic. It sounds like good things are happening up in Lewiston, so hopefully all this positivity from Coach Capone’s active Twitter persona is translating well to the field.
While 2016 was a season centered on defense for the Bobcats, offense will be the focus in 2017. Returning all of their skill position players, Bates will try to get on par with the other high-octane offenses at the top of the conference. If the offensive line can provide enough time for Plashkes to find his receivers, Coach Harriman’s squad will be scoring a lot more than last season. Although they boast the best punter in the league in Justin Foley ’19, the offense will try to keep him off the field as much as possible during the 2017 campaign.
The inexperience on defense is definitely something to highlight for this Bates team. With only 3 returning starters, there are a lot of missing pieces. While they are not all youthful, much of the defense has not played meaningful snaps, so they will have adjust to the workload and getting through all 60 minutes of the game. Players like Max Breschi ’18 and Joe Frake ’19 return the most tackles from last year, with 32 and 27 respectively, and will both be asked to step into leadership roles. Last season’s team allowed 339 yards per game, good for 6th in the NESCAC, so if they can minimize that number, while adding their much improved offensive attack, Bates is poised to make some noise right from the start.
Over the past few years, Bates showed its ability to stand atop the bottom half of the NESCAC, and this year the guys from Lewiston will try to prove that they can compete with the top half of the league. They open their season with a visit to Amherst, followed by home contests with Trinity and Tufts, so they will certainly have chances to do so. If they can pull off a win against a team of that caliber, they will prove that they can hang with the traditional powers of the ‘CAC
Editor’s Note: I’m VERY excited to have two welcomes to make in this note. First, we have to welcome Peter Delalio to the NbN. Peter is a rising junior on the Wesleyan baseball team, and enjoys moonlit strolls and peanut butter. Secondly, we get to welcome men’s soccer to the list of sports to which we give that special NbN shine. We’re very excited to be a step closer to our ultimate goal of covering every sport in the CAC, but the main obstacle to that is writers. So if you want to start covering soccer (or any other sport,) email email@example.com. Alright let’s get to the article.
Fall is back, and it’s time for the World’s most popular sport to return to NESCAC play, and make its debut on NbN. NESCAC has become one of the better soccer leagues in the country, consistently sending multiple teams to the NCAA tournament, so we should be geared up for an entertaining 2017 in the soccer world.
A nationally ranked team and defending champion of the league. Amherst has certainly proven its moxie with its impactful play over the past few years. In conference games last year, the Mammoths led the league in goals in what developed into a display of offensive prowess and sheer dominance, averaging 2.3 goals per game in conference. Leading the attack this year will be Weller Hlinomaz ’18 and midfielder Dane Lind ’20; both will be in charge of filling in for some key losses due to graduation. On the defensive side of the ball, Amherst will be returning senior goalkeeper Lee Owen ’18. The Mammoths will have an early test of their defensive ability seeing as they return only two of their defenders from last year. The defending champs will seek to prove that their young guns can get the job done as they open up play against Bowdoin at home.
The Bobcats squad will need to strengthen their play against NESCAC opponents for a successful campaign this season. First things first, they will look to bolster their less than adequate defense from last season to combat the offensive powerhouses throughout the conference. Bates ranked last in conference play last year in goals against, coming in at an average of 1.72 goals per game. This makes their attack that much less effective knowing that other teams will be pressuring their defense constantly. Luckily for Bates, they return experienced defenders in Antonio Heredia Soto ’20, Max Watson ’18, Julien Williamson ’20, and goalkeeper Robbie Montanaro ’19. Hopefully these four will be able to provide the backbone that this Bobcats team needs. Offensively, Bates will rely on Nate Merchant ‘18 and Eric Opuku ’20. We will see if these two can get the Bobcats off on the right foot when they take on Hamilton in the opening weekend.
One of Bowdoin’s biggest strengths in the 2016 season was their ability to score. Fortunately for the Polar Bears, and unfortunately for their opponents, they are returning their top goal scorer Moctar Niang ’19. He tallied a total of 13 points, scoring 6 goals to go along with 1 assist. Speaking of assists, the Bowdoin squad also brings back leadership in Ethan Ellsworth ‘18, who tallied a team high 6 assists; when coupled with his 4 goals for the season, he also led the team in points. Leadership will be a crucial ingredient for a successful team this year. Along with Ellsworth, the Polar Bears return midfielders Wilson MacMillan ’19, Sam Ward ’19, and goalie Stevie Van Siclen ’19. Hopefully this senior group has what it takes to get their team to that next level, as they will look to improve on their NESCAC semifinal finish last season.
The Colby team definitely had their struggles last year, finishing second to last in conference. The Mules are hoping for a bounce back year, and hopefully their resurgence can be fueled by offense. Out of the 11 conference teams, Colby finished tied for last in goals scored versus its NESCAC opponents. Kyle Douglas ’19 led the Mules last year in goals scored with 3, so he and the rest of the team need to find a way to break through their low ceiling and exceed their competitions’ expectations. Colby has the majority of their roster returning this year, losing only two players to graduation. This experience will serve only to benefit the Mules, and they perhaps might even surprise a few teams.
The Camels had a solid season last year, finishing tied for 4th in conference play. However, they will be losing their top goal threat and points leader, so the younger forwards will have to carry the burden of filling some gaps. Juniors Chris Lockwood ’19 and Ben Manoogian ‘19 will seek to lead the Camel offense. Scoring a combined 13 goals a season ago, these two need to remain productive on the attack. Leading assist man Ousmane Dieng ’18 will add a much-needed balance to the offense, and might even add a couple more goals himself. Defensively, the Camels will look to replace a graduated goalie, but will return defensive stalwarts Nate Summers ’18 and Tyler Hoadley ’19 to help make that transition all that much more smooth for the new keeper.
The big story for the Panthers this season is the announcement of long-time coach David Saward’s retirement at the conclusion of this season (assistant Alex Elias ’08 will take over). He will have spent 33 years at the helm of the men’s soccer program, but hopefully this will not distract the players from the goal at hand (Editor’s second Note: nice one Pete.) Middlebury seeks to return to their former glory days as national champions just under a decade ago, but seeing how they finished 6th in the conference last season, they certainly have their work cut out for them. A key for the Panthers this year will be maintaining their high level of play against conference opponents. They averaged 1.8 goals per game outside of NESCAC games, and just .9 in them. Middlebury has shown that they can create chances with returners like Daniel O’Grady ’19 and Drew Goulart ’20, so they are definitely capable of finding the back of the net. Peter Davis ’19 will lead their defense, and will attempt to stymie Conn in the opening weekend.
(Editor’s Final Note: Look at this sweet goal from Middlebury sophomore Shams Mohajerani. #3 on the Sportscenter Top Ten!)
The defending national champs have a huge target on their back coming into this season. They received the #1 overall ranking in the country, so they definitely have a lot to live up to. In conference play last season, the Jumbos managed to score 16 goals while giving up only 6. Tufts returns playmakers Dexter Eichhorst ’18 and Kevin Halliday ’18, who will aim to facilitate scorer Gavin Tasker ’20. It is worth noting that the Jumbos will be losing their top point scorer and their reliable barrier of a keeper, but they certainly have the means to fill in those gaps. The Jumbos are expected to have another strong campaign, and will aim to give their home fans plenty to cheer about in their first conference matchup against Colby.
The Cardinals’ 2016 season was certainly not up to their usual standards. They finished last in conference, and let too many games get away from them. Wesleyan has shown they are capable of beating the best, however, as they defeated Amherst in 2015 and Tufts last season, both of whom went on to win the national championship. Their defense will surely need to improve, which becomes much easier when you have lockdown players like Teddy Lyons ’19, Nick Jackson ’18, and Camden McCusker ’19 to help out. These guys will be the key to starting the offense. Up front for the Cardinals, seniors Adam Cowie-Haskell ’18 and Garrett Hardesty ’18 will lead the attack, while junior Komar Martinez-Paiz ’19 will return from injury and prove why he was so sorely missed a season ago. The Cardinals get their season started at Bowdoin a week from this Saturday.
The Ephs had a pleasant 2016 season. They finished 3rd in the conference, scoring 17 goals and letting up only 11 against NESCAC opponents. Williams now wants to jump to the next level, and to do so, they must strengthen their defense. The Ephs are losing 6 of their starting 11 from last year, meaning that the younger guys must step up. Tobias Muellers ‘18 and Sean Dory ’19 must remain reliable on the back end of the squad. These two will be responsible for setting the tone against opponents, and will give confidence to their offense. One man on the offensive side of the ball, who will be huge for the success of this team, is senior striker Mark Sisco-Tolomeo ’18. He was tied for the lead in goals scored from last season, and will hope to progress even more.
After a deep run into the playoffs a season ago, the Continentals will look to build on their success as they start conference play against Bates in the opening weekend. Hamilton will depend on senior Matt Cerveny ’18 to carry the load, who will be thrust into a leadership position after having lost key players to graduation. As a team that has lost goal threats, the Continentals will need to be strong defensively; this burden will be taken on by senior Eli Lichtman ’18, a seasoned vet who will provide much needed experience to this young squad. Hamilton has a great foundation to build upon, allowing only 10 goals while scoring 13. If they wish to repeat another far run into the playoffs, the Continentals must keep up their gritty play this season.
This season, the Bantams are going to need to find a way to generate offense. Having scored the 3rdleast goals in conference play a year ago, and also losing their top 3 points scorers to graduation, Trinity will have to rely on sophomore Henry Farr ’20 to create the chances. Having started in only 7 of the Bantams’ 17 games, Farr was still able to grab 7 points coming off the bench. On defense, Trinity will look to Alex Steel ’19 and Michael Burns ’20 to turn the tide and be the reliable backs this Bantams team so desperately need. Trinity opens up NESCAC play against Williams in the opening weekend.
Editor’s Note: We’re very excited to welcome Matt Karpowicz to the writing team! You might recognize Matt as the rising star center on the Williams basketball team; he’s very tall and therefore hard to miss. He’s a rising sophomore and his favorite musical is Legally Blonde.
2017 Record: 0-8
Projected Record: 3-6
Projected Starters: Offense (Six Returning *)
RB: Noah Sorrento ’19*/Connor Harris ’18*
WR: Adam Regensburg ’18*
WR: Kellen Hatheway ’19*
TE: Tyler Patterson ’19*
LT: Kent Blaeser ’19*
RT: Patrick Loughran ’19*
Projected Starters: Defense (6 Returners*)
DL: Sam Gowen ’18*
DL: Chris Hattar ’18*
DL: Austin Thomas ’19*
DL: Jameson DeMarco ‘19
OLB: Michael Berry ’18*
CB: Ben Anthony ’20*
Projected Starters: Special Teams (2 Returners)
K/P: Adam Regensburg ’18*
KR/PR: Jaelon Moaney ’19*
Offensive MVP: Skill Positions
Yeah, picking the QB, RB, and WRs to be the Ephs’ offensive MVP might seem like a cop out, but when you average 12.4 points a game for an entire season, it’s hard to target one specific area of importance. This group didn’t make enough plays last year for Williams to have much offensive success, but have returned several playmakers that have shown they have the ability to be serious threats to the rest of the defenses in the NESCAC. TE Tyler Patterson in particular will be a player to watch. While not technically a skill position, he is Williams’ biggest offensive threat. He missed some time last year, and is poised to be a breakout star this season if the Ephs’ offense can be more consistent.
Defensive MVP: DL Sam Gowen ’18/Chris Hattar ’18/Jameson DiMarco ‘19
Gowen and Hattar will return for their last year at the helm of the Williams defensive unit, their third straight as starters, and DiMarco showed in his sophomore season that there will not be much of a drop off after the duo graduate. Although the defense got toasted to the tune of almost 33 points a game (no thanks in part to a cruel homecoming visit from Wesleyan and 56 first half points), they return their top 4 defensive lineman and that sense of continuity should be key to improving this side of the ball. Gowen, Hattar, and DiMarco combined for 7 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. Being able to create havoc in opposing teams’ backfields will be key for this team, especially early in the year as they look to find some consistency in what will be mainly a new secondary.
(For those of you keeping track at home, that’s 9 total MVPs, but that’s what happens when you go 0-8)
Biggest Game: Bowdoin @ Williams 9/16
For all the question marks in this season preview, this will not be one of them. The Polar Bears come to Farley-Lamb for a Week One opener that will immediately see one of the NESCACs two winless teams in 2016 move into a 5 way tie at the top of the league. This is an absolutely must win game for the Ephs, as they look to put last year’s 0-8 campaign in the rear view. Starting out the season by losing what would be their 14th game in a row to equally lowly Bowdoin could seriously derail this purple and gold train before it ever got to leave the station. Opening the season with a win, however, would be exactly the start this young team and second year HC Mark Raymond wants as they hope to begin to turn things around.
This is a retweet, but I still love seeing a team get inspired by a coach who’s got one ring total despite having T-Mac, KG, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Chris Paul and Blake all in their primes.
1. Positive Attitude
2. Great Work Ethic
3. Compete In Everything U Do
4. U Must Be Willing To Sacrifice pic.twitter.com/WPdwDSeuAR
Last year’s season preview stated that the biggest question in Williamstown would be who would be under center at quarterback, and I am excited to tell you that that question remains unanswered a year later. Whatever options Coach Raymond hoped to have last year were quickly slimmed when John Gannon ’18 tore his ACL in the preseason, and he was forced to pick from a variety of guys who had never taken a collegiate snap at QB. While Jaelon Moaney ’19 and Pete Cahill ’20 got a couple looks, it was Jansen Durham ’20 who spent the majority of the year as QB1. Durham showed flashes of promise, going 24-37 for 200 yards and 2 TDs against eventual champ Trinity, but struggled to take care of the football, and ultimately did not do enough to truly solidify himself as the starter this year. Gannon is now back and healthy for his senior year and 2016-17 Gatorade Massachusetts Football Player of the Year freshman Bobby Maimaron will bring his MA state record 122 career touchdown passes to the Purple Valley in hopes of earning the job as well.
Defensively, this unit will definitely improve. Yes, they did allow 33 points
a game last year, but that number really doesn’t tell the whole story, as the offense’s 22 turnovers often times forced the defense back onto the field after a short rest and a short field to defend. They should be good enough to give the offense chances to win football games, which is really where the vast majority of the question marks lie. I already touched on the quarterback battle, but there are few other certainties on offense, other than Adam Regensburg ’18 and his 37 catches playing an important role in the air attack. Noah Sorrento ’19 and Connor Harris ’18 have spent the greater part of the last two seasons splitting carries, with Sorrento logging 194 rushes over the last two seasons to Harris’ 181. Steve Bohling ’20 was in the rotation at the end of the season as well, rushing for 85 carries on 18 rushes against Wesleyan and 56 yards on 11 carries against Amherst.
There is a lot of talent on this Williams offense, but it is up to Coach Raymond to find the best way to maximize it. In his final year at St. Lawrence, his offense scored nearly 30 points a game, and the Ephs should trend closer to that 30 than the 12 they hovered around last year. The ninth game will be huge as gives this young team one more game to mesh, and there are some pieces that could really shine in 2017. There will continue to be growing pains in Williamstown this year, but the sun should begin to come out in the Berkshires.
Since hiring coach Dave Murray who is now in his fourth season at Hamilton, the Continentals have steadily improved, going from 0-8 in 2014 to 2-6 in 2015 and 3-5 in 2016. The goal this year will be to get at least one more win in the nine game schedule. Hamilton returns eight starters from last year including a trio of star skill players on offense. After a strong freshman season in which he passed for 903 yards, sophomore quarterback Kenny Gray ’20 will attempt to link up with last year’s second place receiver and fellow sophomore Joe Schmidt ’20, who caught 28 passes for 301 yards. They will miss graduating senior Charles Ensley at the wideout position, but Alec Waugh ’18 is ready to fill that role. Hamilton’s offensive line is young and untested, with all of last year’s starters graduating. They will be thrown into the fire against Tufts’ defense on Saturday. Despite his small 5’5” stature, senior tailback Marcus Gutierrez ’18 racked up 419 yards on the ground last year, averaging 3.5 yards per attempt. If he can up that total to 4 yards or more per carry, Hamilton will easily be able to move the ball down the field and into the end zone. On a team that only scored 95 points last season, offensive improvement is by far the most important thing. The Continentals totaled 66 points in their three wins, but only 29 points in their five losses.
The defense returns four starters including second lead tackle Cole Burchill ’19 at linebacker. However only four returning starters means seven former backups will move into starting roles this season. This means a defense that already ranked third to last in the NESCAC could certainly face some early growing pains. It doesn’t help that they face last year’s runner up Tufts in the first game of the season. Tyler Hudson ’19 is the biggest blitzing threat with four sacks last season and was not far behind Burchill with 47 tackles. Despite the strength upfront in the base 4-3, Hamilton’s secondary is lacking, only returning one starter from a defense that ranked second to last in passing yards last season. The goal of course will be to limit the big passing plays and get the opposing points’ total under 20 to keep the offense in each game. The Continentals allowed a total of 177 points or 35.4 in losses last season compared to just 38 or 12.7 per game in wins. Of course, the two units must work together over the course of the season. If the offense continues to go 3 and out, it will be tough for the defense to keep their stamina and limit the points against.
Hamilton’s 2017 schedule starts off tough with a trip to last season’s runner up Tufts, but they could get their first win as early as week 2 when middle of the pack Amherst travel to Steuben Field. Home games against Colby and Bates are also winnable games and you have to give the Continentals a chance in their road trips to last year’s winless teams Williams and Bowdoin. The team has not won the Rocking Chair Classic against their closest geographic rival, Middlebury, in 21 years and can’t really expect a win in Vermont this year either. The home game against Wesleyan and the trip to Trinity also do not seem possible. Given the above constraints, a 4-5 or 5-4 record is a reasonable prediction for this year’s Continentals and would be a continuation of steady improvement under Coach Murray.
Offensive MVP:QB Kenny Gray ’20
It is cliche to pick the quarterback as the offense’s most important player, but Hamilton’s strength is its passing game. That will depend on improvement from the sophomore who threw more interceptions (7) than touchdowns (3) last season. He has experienced wide receivers around him to make plays; he just has to get the ball to the right place. If Gray can play like he did in the end of season against Bates, completing 15 of 25 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown, Hamilton will score points and could even be hard to stop on offense. Joe Schmidt, Alec Waugh, and Eli Saucier should continue to support him in the passing game while Marcus Gutierrez gets it done on the ground. Despite his small stature, Gutierrez will be an important every down back because of his speed.
Defensive MVP:OLB Cole Burchill ’19
As the leading tackler among returners, Burchill will anchor the defense along with converted defensive end Tyler Hudson at middle linebacker. Many NESCAC teams focus on the ground game so linebacker play is crucial to minimizing the other teams’ yards and points. This becomes even more important with a young defensive front and an unpredictable secondary. Look for Burchill to make the bulk of the tackles and be in on a lot of defensive plays this season. After finishing 16th last season, he could certainly challenge for the top five tacklers in the NESCAC.
Biggest Game:September 23 vs. Amherst
As Coach Dave Murray mentioned, Hamilton must play perfect football to steal an away win at Tufts this Saturday. The same is true of their games home against Wesleyan and at Trinity on September 30th and October 7th. Therefore an early home win against middle of the road team Amherst is crucial for a strong start to the season. Hamilton lost 34-0 at Amherst last season, but the Mammoths’ 4-4 record last team means they are a team the Continentals ought to beat if they want a winning season.
In their first year as the Mammoths, Amherst fell out of the top of the NESCAC, where they are usually dominant, due to a preseason ACL injury to QB Reece Foy. With Foy, RB Jack Hickey, and Bo Berluti returning for Amherst in 2017, these three dynamic playmakers could lead this team to a perfect season. The key word there is “could.” I do not expect this to come true. Jack Hickey enters his junior season after rushing for a pedestrian 368 yards but still found the end zone seven times. Hasani Figueroa should offer depth at the position and also will be the return man. Their offensive line should be deep and experienced with mainstays from 2016, and even though I picked Dan Papa as a projected starter, Billy Rotella, Brendan Coleman, and John Griffiths are also in discussion and competition for the final spot.
On defense, John Callahan and Andrew Sommer both return at inside linebacker after starting in their sophomore seasons. OLB Andrew Yamin will be threatening opposing QBs again after leading the Mammoths in sacks with five, and joining him will be Justin Berry who should also see significant time. In the secondary, Nate Tyrell and Avery Saffold should see most of the time at corner while Zach Allen will be the primary safety. As far as the specialists go, Amherst is deep and will have an edge on the rest of the conference. Both punter Andrew Ferrero and kicker John Rak have huge legs and could easily win close games for the Purple and White. Rak made a 52 yard field goal with the wind look easy against Middlebury last season that would have easily been good from over 65 yards away. He has a Matt Prater-esque leg and has accuracy to boot.
I obviously am not a fan of Amherst as a member of the Middlebury faithful. However, I can’t help but be excited to see what Mike Odenwaelder can do on the football field. Odenwaelder, as reported long ago by NbN, was planning to play college basketball before taking a prep year in high school, eventually choosing baseball. Therefore, football was his third ranked sport. So now he is focusing on it as his last chance at playing competitive athletics. The 6’5’’ beast should give Foy a great option assuming that he can learn the ropes quickly in the shortened preseason. This is going to be a prime example of how this ninth game can shorten the playbook early on, as Odenwaelder, unfamiliar with a college football offense, will likely start off with more simple responsibilities and routes before transitioning into a bigger role. Amherst is loaded with potential, and now that their signal-caller Foy is back, they have a real shot at a title.
Offensive MVP: Reece Foy ‘18
Amherst’s sudden drop off can be attributed to the loss of Player of the Year Foy, who tore his ACL in a workout before preseason last year. While Bates and Amherst nearly finished with the same record, the Mammoths didn’t quite drop down into the second tier of the NESCAC. Foy returns with a strong O-Line and receiving core, led by Bo Berluti. He threw for over 1,500 yards in his sophomore season, ran for 286, and accounted for 13 touchdowns. He should bounce back for the Purple and White and return them to on field dominance.
Defensive MVP: Bolaji Ekhator ‘18
While this may come as a surprise pick to many as Andrew Yamin is an easy choice to lead the defense, captain Ekhator has a big role to play. Ekhator leads a group of relatively inexperienced linemen who need their captain to make plays and control the first tier of the defense. Ekhator played in six games and recorded two sacks a season ago and none of the other projected starters on the line started in 2016. In fact, one of them, Robert Needham, hasn’t played since 2015 due to a torn ACL. OLB Yamin will be the statistical MVP, but for Amherst to return to the mountaintop, Ekhator will need to have an equally important off the field role to push the Mammoths towards a championship.
Most NCAA Ineligible: Mike Odenwaelder
Although he can no longer play college baseball, Mike Odenwaelder, once the bane of Middlebury baseball’s existence and former Baltimore Oriole, will be a contender to start at Tight End with one year of college sport eligibility remaining. In his junior baseball season he went 11-17 with seven extra base hits in a series against Middlebury in aggressive snowfall, and while I wasn’t yet on the Panther team, I know the story well as it is the stuff of legend. Although he hasn’t played football since his senior year of high school, this uber-athletic soon to be 25 year old could be the breakout player of the year. The real question is, will he be more of a Tim Tebow/Michael Jordan or more of a Bo Jackson/Steph Curry two sport athlete.
*** Note: Odenwaelder is not a returning starter, although he did start once-upon-a-time for Amherst’s baseball team. Also, although he was due to graduate in 2016 were it not for his two year stint in the minors, his new graduation year is up in the air.
Biggest Game: September 16 vs. Bates
While there are plenty of more notable games in the 2017 season for Amherst, they will need to show early on that they are far better than the second tier of NESCAC football, led by the Bates Bobcats. If they can prove that they are back to compete for the championship with Foy at the helm, then they should be able to easily put away a Bates team that made great strides in 2016 but should not be in the discussion for a NESCAC title at this point.
This one is just too classic from a NESCAC team. This is actually a retweet, but I’m going to allow it, simply because of its academic nature on an athletic team’s twitter account. They retweeted the ACT testing dates, just so all of the new recruits know that while nobody on the team really goes there to play school, it has to look that way to the admissions department.
The ACT will be offered 7 times throughout the 2017-18 school year. Here are the test dates and registration deadlines. pic.twitter.com/gmKoBKueMZ