The Bermuda Triangle Takes up Residence in Amherst

Jaymie Spears '16 was named a USA College Preseason all-American before this season. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Jaymie Spears ’16 was named a USA College Preseason all-American before this season. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

NESCAC quarterbacks know that they risk disaster every time they drop back against Amherst. Over the past few years, The Jeffs have been far and away the best at creating interceptions. They led the league in both 2013 and 2014, totaling 37 interceptions over that time. The finest moment for the group was against Middlebury in 2013 when they intercepted Mac Foote ’14 five times in a 37-16 beatdown. This year Amherst brings back three longtime starters, seniors Jaymie Spears ’16, Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn ’16, and Chris Gow ’16. Those three represented the backbone of the secondary a year ago, and this year they will be the driving force for a defensive unit that is looking to improve despite losing a few key pieces.

All three of Gow, Spears and Fairfield-Sonn have become integral parts of the defense over the years. Their strengths and skill sets vary widely, allowing the defensive staff to rely on each of them to fill in a specific role that makes the group together so good. For Head Coach EJ Mills, how the pieces fit together is what makes this trio so good.

“As good as they are individually, their greatest strength is how they play together as a unit,” Mills says.

Each of the three remind me of some NFL or college stars. Even though they play slightly different positions, the best comparison I have for Fairfield-Sonn is former LSU and current Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu because of how they attack at the line of scrimmage and have a knack for the ball. Fairfield-Sonn had four total turnovers last year, two on interceptions and two on fumble recoveries. From his strong safety position, Fairfield-Sonn has the freedom to read what is in front of him. Yet Coach Mills was quick to add that Fairfield-Sonn is instinctive enough that he always makes the right read and doesn’t get beaten deep because of his aggression. That aggression is not just on the field, but it carries over to pregame. Fairfield-Sonn describes himself as the “energy and hype guy” who gets his teammates going in the locker room and right before the game. That he is one of the smallest players on the field at 5’10” and 175 pounds (I suspect that height might be an exaggeration too) makes no difference.

Then there is the brain in the back, free safety Chris Gow. He is in charge of making all of the coverage calls on the field. When the offense tries to catch the Jeffs off balance with motion, Gow is the player who makes the adjustment calls. Fairfield-Sonn compared him to Earl Thomas, the safety for the Seattle Seahawks, because of Gow’s defensive quarterback tendencies. I shouldn’t undersell his athletic abilities either. He has the speed to cover a lot of ground in the back end, and he is physical enough that he led the Jeffs in tackles last week against Bates. He had four interceptions a year ago, including one against Trinity where the Bantams tried to take a shot deep but were foiled by Gow.

As for the most decorated member of the secondary, Jaymie Spears … Coach Mills just chuckled when asked about him. What he kept coming back to is best summed up by University of Miami player Santana Moss.

Big time players step up in big games.

Simple as that.

Not really, of course. Spears does a million things well on the football field, and one of them is that he rises the occasion at the best possible moment. Spears has started for Amherst since his sophomore year and over that time has become a star. In 2013 against Middlebury, it was Spears who returned an interception 74 yards for a touchdown to put the nail in the coffin. It was last year when Spears became a force to be fully reckoned with. He had six interceptions and eight pass breakups, and it was his exceptional timing that made the biggest difference.  Not even five minutes into the 2014 season, Spears blocked a Bates field goal to keep the game scoreless. In the third quarter, one play after Bates had intercepted Alex Berluti ’17 at the Amherst 30-yard line, Spears snagged his second interception of the game to keep the Bobcats at bay. Then in the biggest game of the year against Wesleyan, Spears blocked an extra point which ended up giving Amherst the chance to make a field goal to tie the game at the end of regulation.

Spears is one of the most athletic players in the league, but at the corner position that takes you only so far. Mills said that Spears watches as much film as anybody on Amherst, and he picks up on receivers tendencies very well. That combination allows him to always stay balanced and in control. The obvious comparison for him is Darrelle Revis, but Richard Sherman might be a better one because Spears always stays to one side of the field in Amherst’s defensive scheme. Fairfield-Sonn noted that because Spears is the boundary corner, he often lines up next to the opposing sideline and gets trash talked a good amount. “But Jaymie lets his play do all the talking for him,” Fairfield-Sonn says.

The final spot of the field corner is filled by Stefan Soucy ’17, a part-time player last year who replaces Ryan Duzyk ’15. Soucy looks more like a safety than a corner at 6’1″ and 210 pounds, but he still has the athleticism to stay with receivers. And the pipe line of talented defensive backs is strong with Brown transfer Kyle Obana ’18 and Nate Tyrell ’19 both potential starters next year.

As good as this secondary is, they still have their warts. A good counter-argument can be raised that the current Jeffs secondary is overrated and has gotten lucky. Against Middlebury last year, a rainstorm made throwing the ball very difficult, and so we did not get to see what Matt Milano ’16 could do against the Jeffs. Trinity also was without starting QB Henry Foye ’16 last year which meant they were left without a capable thrower on the roster. Then, as further evidence, you could point to the game that Wesleyan’s Jesse Warren ’15 had last season. He was able to gash the Jeffs’ secondary for big gains, finishing with two touchdowns and 306 yards on just 26 attempts (11.8 yards per attempt). Amherst intercepted him just once, though the Fairfield-Sonn interception did lead to a short field and an Amherst touchdown.

They were only third in the NESCAC in pass defense behind Wesleyan and Williams a year ago. However, both of those secondaries have to replace a significant amount of personnel. The Williams secondary also benefited from the fact that they trailed in a lot of games and so teams wanted to run the ball against them.

On Saturday the Amherst defense held Bates to 117 passing yards and had no interceptions: not an exceptional performance against the run-heavy Bobcats. The game tells us little about what the Jeffs are capable of, though the ability of the one true receiver threat for Bates, Mark Riley ’16, to catch seven balls for 87 yards is troubling.

The arguments against the Amherst secondary are fair ones, but the strengths of the Jeffs drown them out. Passing windows against them are narrow to non-existent, and the possibilities for all three seniors are huge. Mills has seen his fair share of elite secondaries at Amherst, and he was excited about the possibilities for this group.

“I don’t want to call them the best unit I’ve had back there, but they have a chance to be very very good this year,” Mills admitted.

In the next couple of weeks the Jeffs will enter the meat of their schedule against Middlebury and Wesleyan, and that secondary will be called on to live up to the high standards they have set over the years in big moments.

The Holy Trinity: Top Three NESCAC Football Teams from 2005-2015

The author, young Peter in uniform. (Courtesy of Peter Lindholm)
The author, young Peter in uniform. (Courtesy of Peter Lindholm)

NESCAC football season has always been a very special time for me. As a kid I spent many wonderful Saturday afternoons sprinting around Alumni Field in Middlebury, playing touch football with older kids on the hill overlooking the end zones, and then hiding in the bushes from those same older kids when they wanted to use my head as the football. My friend Kenton and I would spend the entire game in those bushes sometimes, having layered, intense debates over issues like “Do football players wear pads, or are their shoulders just really big?” My dad, my constant (if not vigilant) guardian at these games, was and is still always encamped at the foot of the press box, entertaining whoever stopped to say hello. And once in a while he would glance around and ask his friend, “Hey, have you seen Pete?”

As I began to grow up, for lack of a better term, the games themselves became interesting.  It was Donnie McKillop’s laser of an arm that first enthralled me, and I was lucky enough to move right from his illustrious career to McCallum Foote’s even more historic (though I will always argue less entertaining) run. I got to witness some great Panther football and, I came to realize, some great football from the other NESCAC teams as well while I grew as a sports fan. So, as I looked everywhere I could for an article to write to kick off my 2015-2016 Nothing but NESCAC season, I thought it would be fun to do a top-three NESCAC Football Teams of my life as a developed sports fan, which I will count as roughly 2005 to 2015.

A wise man once said, “Without rules, society would fall into chaos.” It seems to me that society could get used to some of that, but no one would call me a wise man, so there we go. Anyway, here are the ground rules for the top three:

  • Only one representative for each team. This rule is basically in place to make sure that I don’t pick all of Donnie McKillop’s seasons at Middlebury, but it makes sense to me to have a little diversity here. NESCAC football has not been a diverse place over the last 10 years; the same four teams win all the time. And as a globally-conscious citizen, I consider it my duty to do my part to bring diversity to NESCAC as a whole. One love, y’all.
  • A team doesn’t have to win the league to get picked. Now I’m not a man prone to hyperbole, but the NESCAC football system for deciding a champion is literally the worst thing in the history of America other than Donald Trump and orange juice without pulp. It doesn’t feel right to me to follow such a tragically inept system, and watching crime shows has taught me to follow my gut.
  • No Amherst teams allowed.

And now here’s the list. As always, if you have any complaints with the rankings feel free to send an angry yet eloquent e-mail to Joe or Adam (NothingbutNESCAC@gmail.com). Also, because I’m currently in a class on TV culture and we just talked about Friday Night Lights in class, I will be ranking the teams based on the three best characters on the show. In descending order, the list will go from Matt Saracen, the allegorical representation for Jesus (think about it for a bit) himself, to Coach Eric Taylor to Big Tim Riggins, the hunkiest fullback in TV history.

3. Matt Saracen: Amherst 2011 (8-0, Average Scoring Margin: +17.25)

Did all the Amherst people angrily storm off after rule number three? Did they throw their glasses of aged scotch on the ground and go for a calming walk in their petunia gardens? Good, because this team was filthy. They were a fantastic defensive team, giving up only 12.0 points per game. Defensive end Kevin Ferber ’12 led the league in tackles for loss with 15, and set a program record for sacks with 11. They were also dangerous on the other side of the ball, with running back Eric Bunker ’12 taking home Offensive POY honors. Their closest game was a 35-28 win over Trinity in which the Jeffs held a 35-7 lead at one point. A deadly team on both sides of the ball, the 2011 Lord Jeffs lose out on higher honors only due to the dominance of the first two teams, and because of that part in season two where Matt won’t help Landry get Reyes in trouble for beating up their friend because he’s worried about what the team will think (don’t worry if that made no sense to you). Not a good look for Matt, and not a good look for the Lord Jeffs either.

Eric Bunker '12 led the offense of a great Amherst team. (Courtesy of the Amherst Student)
Eric Bunker ’12 led the offense of a great Amherst team. (Courtesy of the Amherst Student)

2. Coach Taylor: Williams 2006 (8-0, Average Scoring Margin: 25.25)

Williams’ College quarterback Pat Lucey ’08 put on his leather jacket, lit up a Marlboro and left the diner. A pretty redheaded waitress looked longingly at him as he left: he hadn’t paid his check, but she was certainly not going to hassle him. He had watched those conniving SOB’s over at Trinity turn the NESCAC football scene into their goddamn practice field for three years now, and he was damn sick of it. The whole league was, and they looked to him as a savior. Trouble was, he fancied himself a drifter. He didn’t like staying in one place long enough to be held responsible for things, that was why he’d left Beth alone in Bozeman all those years ago. But he sure was in deep now, and in Week 2, the Bantams would be coming to town for a good ol’ fashioned shootout. He would be ready, because he had to be.

**fade to black, voiceover comes in **

“In theaters this summer, Jake Gyllenhaal stars in …“THE GUNSLINGER”.

Williams quickly established themselves as the new top dawgs in the ‘CAC, dispatching the Bantams 41-16 on their way to an undefeated season. Led by Offensive POY Patrick Lucey at quarterback, the Ephs outscored their opponents by an average of 25 points per game, and swept their way through the playoffs to earn a legitimate trophy … oh wait.

Pat Lucey '08 could throw it anytime, anywhere. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Pat Lucey ’08 could throw it anytime, anywhere. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
  1. Tim Riggins: Trinity 2005 (8-0, Average Margin of Victory: 28.25)

The final and most dominant team of Trinity’s three-peat from 2003-2005, the Bantams in 2005 remind of my childhood friend Charlie. Let me explain. Charlie was the only one of my friends who had a Gamecube AND Madden, so naturally I basically camped outside of his house. I, being a naïve young man, failed to notice that whenever we played, Charlie would be playing with a team that had every Pro Bowl player on it. The final score would be something like 86-6, and he would act all apologetic and nice about it. “Oh I got lucky,” “Oh the wind was on my side, good thing I won the coin toss.” The Bantams outscored their opponents in 2005 by and average score of about 35-5, and if you leave out the game against Amherst in which they gave up 20 points, Trinity only gave up 16 points ALL YEAR. They had five defensive players on the First Team, including Defensive POY Michael Blair ’06, and had games with scores like 47-0 (Bates) 58-0 (Hamilton) and 63-7 (Wesleyan). So congratulations to the Bantams, and screw you Charlie, we’re playing again this summer and I’m gonna kick your ass.

 

So there we have it. It’s been a great stretch of football in NESCAC, but again not very diverse, with Middlebury, Amherst, Trinity and Williams either winning or finishing second every year. However, last year Wesleyan was the runner-up in the league, and one has to expect that NESCAC football is soon due for an explosion of talent throughout the league, as we have seen in basketball in the last couple of years. One thing is for sure though. Whether that happens or not, you’ll find me watching the Panthers take on those teams on Saturdays at Alumni field. Maybe not in the bushes though. I’m one of the big kids now.

We Know Nothing: Fantasy Report Week 1

Austin Lommen '16 (#11) helped propel Team Lamont last week.
Austin Lommen ’16 (#11) helped propel Team Lamont last week. (Courtesy of CIPhotograpy.com)

Every time I tell somebody that I play NESCAC fantasy football, I can feel the waves of judgment coming from them. They look at me with narrowed eyes full of skepticism. “NESCAC fantasy football? What drugs are you on?”

And I get it. Playing NESCAC fantasy football is about as weird as fantasy sports can get. Nobody else does it for a reason. But you know what, we don’t care about you and your silly societal norms. We aren’t that invested in our teams; we aren’t going to lose any sleep or spend hours trying to do crazy trades. But it’s fun, easy and we know that some player out there is shaking his head at us in shame while also being pumped that he is on a fantasy football team somewhere, somehow.

Matchup 1: Nick DiBenedetto over Joe MacDonald 94-90

Nick  Player  Points Joe
QB Gabe Harrington -2 QB Matt Milano 40
QB Tim Drakeley 14 QB Alex Snyder 9
RB Diego Meritus 12 RB Lou Stevens 0
RB Connor Harris 12 RB Tyler Grant 10
WR Darrien Myers 21 WR Ryan Rizzo 12
WR Dan Barone 2 WR Mbasa Mayikana 0
TE Trevor MIletich 18 TE Nik Dean 0
FLEX Ben Kurtz 3 FLEX Jabari Hurdle-Price 1
FLEX Raheem Jackson 1 FLEX LaShawn Ware 5
D/ST Trinity 20 D/ST Middlebury 9
K Eric Sachse 3 K Charlie Wall 6
 TOTAL 104  TOTAl 92
BE Matt Hirshman 1 BE Ethan Suraci 1
BE Alex Berluti 0 BE Pat Dugan 6
BE Tanner Contois 0 BE James Burke 0

I have to give it to DiBo, when he took Darrien Myers ’17 with the fifth pick overall, I scoffed at it as a true homer pick. However, the wide receiver was the difference in this matchup with his two touchdown catches being especially important. The other big scorer for Dibo … that would be the Trinity defense which pitched a shutout and had a defensive touchdown to have a big weekend.

How Joe was not able to win despite 40 points from Matt Milano ’16 (the kicker for Milano was the one rushing touchdown he had) is beyond me. But if I was to gander a guess, the combined zero points between Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 and Lou Stevens ’17 was a major factor. Expect MAJOR changes from  Team MacDonald in Week 2.

Matchup 2: Adam Lamont over Carson Kenney 109-78

Carson Kenney Player  Points Adam Lamont  Player  Points
QB Sonny Puzzo 36 QB Austin Lommen 24
QB Jared Lebowitz 0 QB Gernald Hawkins 14
RB LaDarius Drew 3 RB Nick Kelly 10
RB Nick Gaynor 9 RB Chance Brady 23
WR Matt Minno 5 WR Ryder Arsenault 2
WR Mark Riley 8 WR Mike Rando 5
TE Rob Thoma 2 TE Alex Way 5
FLEX Ian Dugger 3 FLEX Shaun Carroll 16
FLEX Frank Williams 3 FLEX Jackson McGonagle 6
D/ST Amherst 5 D/ST Wesleyan 3
K Charlie Gordon 4 K Ike Fuchs 1
TOTAL 78  TOTAL 109
BE Neil O’Connor 0 BE Ben Berey 3
BE Henry Foye 0 BE Pat Donahue 23
BE Jon Hurvitz 0 BE Carl Lipani 1

Am I surprised that I won my Week 1 matchup so easily? No, I’m surprised I didn’t win by more. Everywhere you look on the roster, it’s stud city. Quality days from Chance Brady ’17 (117 rushing yards and 2 TDs) and Austin Lommen ’16 (288 passing yards and 2 TDs) carried the squad. The 174 receiver yards from Pat Donahue ’16 weren’t even especially missed, and once he gets into the starting lineup, nobody is stopping me.

Meanwhile Carson got nearly half of his points from Sonny Puzzo ’17 (278 passing yards and 2 TDs), and had nobody else score in double digits. In all seriousness, this was just an unlucky week for Carson as guys like Matt Minno ’16 and Mark Riley ’16 had decent weeks but just didn’t have any touchdowns. Once he figures out his QB situation, he will be dangerous.

And those are your Week 1 results. As you can tell, many of the players that we expected to be huge contributors ended up doing very little in the first game. Such is the way of the NESCAC. Despite the click-bait title, we do not know nothing (and we know more than one thing too, alright Socrates). We just had to get some of the unknowns of how coaches would react to the first game before our fantasy lineups would become perfect.

Standings:

Team Lamont (1-0)
Team DiBo (1-0)
Team Kenney (0-1)
Team MacDonald (0-1)

Road Teams Rule Week One: Football Stock Report 9/28

After what seemed like an eternity, NESCAC football returned in triumphant glory on Saturday, and a lot of what we anticipated came to fruition, but there were many surprises, as well.

Today we give you the risers and fallers in our estimation, as well as a few game notes from each contest.

Stock Up:

Hamilton Offense

Tufts isn’t the most stout defense in the NESCAC, but you still have to be impressed with how the Continentals moved the ball and the play of QB Chase Rosenberg ’17 and WR Charles Ensley ’17. After starter Brandon Tobin ’18 succumbed to an injury early in the first half, Rosenberg (the starter for the past two seasons) came on and proceeded to go 14-23 (69.9%) for 301 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. Ensley was on the opposite end of 107 of those yards, and displayed some top-notch athleticism with some of his grabs. His teammate, Pat Donahoe ’16, actually tallied even more yards – 174, to lead the NESCAC – so there may yet be some life in this Continental offense. We’ll wait and see whether or not Tobin returns, and how that might shake up the QB situation.

Connecticut Schools

Despite the loss, the Cardinals proved on Saturday that they still belong to the league’s upper echelon. The Cards ran all over Middlebury, and newly-minted QB Gernald Hawkins ’18 flashed potential throwing the ball, though the results were subpar on Saturday. The defense looks like it barely dropped off, and when you can control the clock and move the ball on the ground as effectively as Wesleyan, you always have a chance to win. Panthers players returned from this one bearing rave reviews of the Wesleyan team as a whole.

Meanwhile, the Bantams looked like they were playing a Pop Warner team on Saturday. A 34-0 win on the road, 439 yards of total offense and only 159 yards allowed. Enough said.

Williams QB Austin Lommen ’16

Expectations are great for former D-I players that transfer down to D-III, and that was true for Lommen last year. The BC transfer was about average last year, completing 60.1 percent of his passes and racking up seven touchdowns against nine picks, but it might be time to buy in on the righty. Lommen went 20-30 (66.7%) for 288 yards, two touchdowns and one pick. Lommen managed the offense well, and the Ephs went 6-8 on third downs in the first half, most of them courtesy of throws by Lommen.

Stock Down:

Bates O-line

Yes, the Bobcats were matched up against an elite D-line from Amherst, but still, their performance in the trenches does not bode well for the rest of the season. Bates needs to churn up yards on the ground in order to win (with the occasional shot downfield to Mark Riley ’16). The Bobcats’ backs gathered 199 yards on the ground on Saturday, but 80 of those came on one Shaun Carroll ’16 scamper. Take that out, and the Bobcats rushed for 119 yards on 45 attempts – a 2.6 YPC average.

Colby Backs

Along the same lines as the above, the Mules were unable to consistently move the ball on the ground. QB Christian Sparacio ’18 had the most success of any ball carrier, racking up 30 yards on seven carries. We are still expecting big things from classmates Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 and Carl Lipani ’17, but it looked like Colby just ran headfirst into a brick wall against Trinity.

Bowdoin

Just to complete the Maine college trifecta, Bowdoin has to go in this spot. The offense was stagnant, and Tyler Grant ’16 didn’t get many opportunities with the Polar Bears trailing for much of their game against Williams. The loss of RB Trey Brown ’16 to injury will prove to be costly, as the Bowdoin coaches were hoping to be able to spell Grant far more this year than last – but alas, it was not to be. It was not a good opener for anyone in the black and white.

Game Notes:

Middlebury 28 at Wesleyan 25

Well, it wasn’t easy, but the Panthers hung on to go 1-0. Matt Milano ’16 wasn’t at his best early on, but was still very, very good. It was interesting that Jared Lebowitz ’18 got just one series. His entry into the game was pre-determined, but we don’t know what went into the decision to not use him for the rest of the game. Regardless, the passing game wasn’t the issue for Middlebury. The running game, however, was not effective. Somehow, the Panthers need to figure out a way to become a multi-dimensional team. They like to use screens to substitute for old-fashioned hand offs, but you still have to be able to give it to your back and let him work once in awhile.

On the other side of the field, Wesleyan competed until the very last. Hawkins has loads of potential at QB, despite his struggles throwing. He’s a fantastic athlete, and when he took off for one 17-yard dash up the gut my jaw physically dropped. Obviously, he’ll need to work on throwing the ball – sort of important for a quarterback. As for the running game, I was really shocked that Jaylen Berry ’18 was used as the feature back, carrying the ball 21 times to LaDarius Drew’s ’15 six carries and Lou Stevens’ ’17 two – not because I doubt the youngster’s ability, but because he supplanted two former All-NESCAC First Teamers as the go-to guy on Saturday. That being said, I would not be surprised if next week Drew ran the ball 25 times for 150 yards, and the same can be said about Stevens. Furthermore, Devon Carrillo ’16 continues to be a threat with his legs in many ways – out of the Wildcat, multiple back sets and on sweeps. Defensively, I have to give a shout out to DE Jordan Stone ’16. He’s a physical beast and had a great game and it showed on the stat sheet as Stone gathered 2.5 sacks.

Amherst 37 at Bates 14

Amherst WR Nick Widen '17 and the LJs took care of Bates with ease. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics/Phyllis Graber Jensen)
Amherst WR Nick Widen ’17 and the LJs took care of Bates with ease. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics/Phyllis Graber Jensen)

I didn’t watch any game as closely as I did Middlebury-Wesleyan, but nonetheless there was much to be learned from every contest. Reece Foy ’18 got the start for Amherst, and – this is the surprising part – played every snap at QB. Last season Foy and Alex Berluti ’17 opened the season in a time-share until Max Lippe ’15 came back from an injury. That Foy was able to do enough in camp to completely takeover the gig says something in and of itself. Also of note, Kenny Adinkra ’16 got the lion’s share of the carries and was more productive than Nick Kelly ’17. Will that last, or will Kelly return to 2014 form and takeover the feature role as he was expected to do. OR, will the super-talented Jack Hickey ’19 start stealing away more carries?

For Bates, I know that the triple-option is the staple of their offense, but Mark Riley is just incredible. The Bobcats completed 11 passes for 117 yards, and seven of those catches went to Riley for 87 yards. I don’t think that if you put a prime-age Randy Moss on any team in the NESCAC he would take as large of a proportion of the catches as Riley does.

Williams 27 at Bowdoin 7

For the second straight year the Ephs stomped on the Polar Bears. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics/CIPhotography.com)
For the second straight year the Ephs stomped on the Polar Bears. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics/CIPhotography.com)

Not much went right for the Polar Bears in Week 1. I don’t know whether to credit Lommen or crucify the Bowdoin secondary for the Ephs’ success through the air. Overall, I’m reserving judgement on the Polar Bears.

For Williams, though, you have to feel good about this start. Maybe they’ve put something together in Williamstown right under our noses. Although, I vaguely remember writing something to the same effect one year ago after Williams’ 36-0 beatdown of Bowdoin in Week 1. Maybe Coach Aaron Kelton just has the Polar Bears’ numbers. Maybe he’s taping opposing coaches’ signals with a cell phone camera, and 15 years from now, when Coach is getting fitted for his fourth NESCAC Championship ring, and the twilight is setting on a decorated career, NESCAC officials will bust down the door and point a finger at him and call him a cheater for doing exactly what every other team in the league was doing…

I’m sorry, I wasn’t planning that. (And there’s definitely no illegal filming going on anywhere in the NESCAC.)

Trinity 34 at Colby 0

With Joe Moreno ’19, sadly, out yet again with a torn ACL, Nick Gaynor ’17 has become the team’s top back. From a fantasy perspective though, this is a tricky situation, as Gaynor, Ethan Suraci ’18 or QB Sonny Puzzo ’18 could be the team’s leading rusher any given week. I particularly don’t think Gaynor will see many goal line touches. Gaynor is a converted wideout, and Suraci is a much bigger body. Max Chipouras ’19 – who had just two touches – got a goal line TD on Saturday instead of Gaynor. No matter who’s behind him, the return of Puzzo under center is going to be huge for Trinity. Henry Foye ’16 did a great job when healthy last year, but I think that Puzzo brings elite talent to the QB position.

Tufts 24 at Hamilton 21

The best game of the day came between two perennial doormats that look to be rising from the ashes. Tufts already took the first step a year ago by going 4-4, but with the Jumbos still 0-infinity in their last infinity chances on the road, the Continentals were feeling really good about their chances. And with newly-transferred QB Tobin at the helm, it appeared that Chapter 1 of the fairytale was under way.

Then Tobin left the game with an ankle injury, and everything fell into the hands of Rosenberg, the beleaguered vet. And boy, did he respond.

Rosenberg matched a career-high with his 301 passing yards, the program’s fifth-highest single-game mark. His 21.5 yards per completion and 13.1 yards per attempt were Hamilton records. He threw three TD passes, all in the span of 12 plays in the second half. His receivers, namely Donahoe and Ensley, made some spectacular plays, but let’s give all the credit in the world to Rosenberg for his stellar performance.

Alas, the Hamilton offense could not punch it in with the first possession of overtime. K Zach Altneu ’18 boomed his field goal attempt through the uprights, but Tufts Head Coach Jay Civetti was able to call a timeout just in time, forcing Altneu to kick again, and this time he pushed it wide left.

The Jumbos were conservative on their possession, moving the ball to the six-yard line before Snyder took a five-yard loss to position the football right in the middle of the field. K Willie Holmquist ’17 came up clutch for the Jumbos, who celebrated their first road victory since Oct. 3, 2009.

Aside from Rosenberg, CB Jimmy Giattino ’17 was a beast defensively for Hamilton and DL Tyler Hudson ’19 had an impressive debut. Last year’s tackle-leader John Phelan ’16 saw limited action, rotating with Mickey Keating ’17 at linebacker. We believe Head Coach Dave Murray is trying to protect Phelan who was banged up considerably during camp, but only time will tell if this timeshare continues. And lastly, Tobin’s ankle injury appears to be minor, which keeps the QB conversation in Clinton very intriguing. However, after a performance like that, how Rosenberg could not get the keys to the car for at least one more week is a mystery to me.

And in case you missed it, every road team won! Can you believe it? I don’t know how long it’s been since that happened in the NESCAC. Maybe between the 47 assignments I have this week and the job search I’ll try to procure that information.

It’s good to be back.

Saturday Links 9/26

Good morning, NESCAC fans! The time has finally come for some ‘CAC football. We’ve been waiting approximately 44 weeks for this very moment, ever since the final whistle blew on the Biggest Little Game in America a year ago.

Today, we will have multiple contributors, including Adam himself, on site at the Williams at Bowdoin matchup, a battle that turned into a rout a year ago in favor of the Ephs. We will have a contributor on the sideline at Hamilton as the Continentals try to break their losing streak vs. Tufts. And Joe will be watching from above, particularly focusing our Game of the Week, Middlebury at Wesleyan.

Follow closely on Twitter, and stay tuned for our reactions and analysis.

Here is everything you need for today’s action:

Middlebury at Wesleyan, 12:30 PM

Live Stats     Video

Amherst at Bates, 1:00 PM

Live Stats     Video

Williams at Bowdoin, 1:00 PM

Live Stats     Video (with a special treat – color commentary from Adam)

Trinity at Colby, 1:00 PM

Video

Tufts at Hamilton, 1:00 PM

Live Stats     Video

Week 1 Game of the Week: Middlebury at Wesleyan

The Panthers are prepared for a title run. (Photo by Joe MacDonald)
The Panthers are prepared for a title run. But nothing comes easy in the NESCAC. (Photo by Joe MacDonald)

Game Info: Saturday, Sept. 26, 12:30 PM at historic Andrus Field in Corwin Stadium

Both teams probably feel like title contenders right now, but around this time tomorrow one team will be in the driver’s seat and the other will be facing a steep uphill climb. If we consider the NESCAC crown a four-team race – which, barring a major surprise, it is right now – between Middlebury, Amherst, Wesleyan and Trinity, this matchup will push one team to the front of the pack.

The Wesleyan team presents a great unknown. As we’ve said time and time again, the roster turnover has been great, but we still expect there to be a lot of talent on the field for the Cards. Things have changed since current Athletic Director Mike Whalen came over from Williams, and one has to believe that he was able to accrue some talent in the classes that followed the incredible 2015 group.

As always, the Cards’ strength will be the running game, but the Panthers were very good against the run last season, allowing just under 104 YPG, and most of the talent in the front seven is back and should be better than ever. Granted, a lot of teams were forced to throw in the second half because they faced big deficits against the Panthers, but nonetheless running the ball won’t be easy for the Cards.

For Middlebury, the passing game is as potent as ever. Can Matt Milano ’16 have improved from his Co-Offensive Player of the Year form a year ago? We’ll find out soon enough, but with all of the weapons around him, I’m betting yes. And with two of the league’s best defensive backs having graduated from Wesleyan in Jake Bussani ’14 and Donnie Cimino ’15, Milano might just be able to find some openings deep down the field.

Last Meeting:

Wesleyan rolled into the Panthers’ home pad and stole a 22-14 victory in the 2014 season opener. The difference was a third quarter 41-yard INT return for a TD by Wesleyan’s dynamic safety Justin Sanchez ’17. Milano threw two interceptions in this one, and questions were swirling about whether the days of the great Middlebury QBs were over. After this game, Milano went 22-1 TD-INT over the rest of the season, so expect a more confident passing attack from Middlebury in this one.

On the flip side, Wesleyan struggled to run the ball, something that they rarely do. Kyle Gibson ’15 racked up 60 yards but on 25 carries (2.4 YPC). Lou Stevens ’17 wasn’t much better (2.8 YPC). However, the frightening LaDarius Drew ’15 is back this time around, and I think the entire league is excited to see what this powerhouse back can do. With Drew, Stevens and Jaylen Berry ’18 coming at the Panthers, stopping the run has to be priority No. 1. Middlebury’s Tim Patricia ’16 spoke to that effect, saying:

“We know that the run game is the staple of the Wesleyan offense. … With that in mind, this [week] we’ve been really focused on gap responsibility and swarming to the ball in the run game. It’s important that we stay conscious of our individual assignments so we can eliminate any threat of giving up a big play. Their backs do have big play ability, but we feel we can mitigate that ability.”

Middlebury X-factors: D-linemen Gil Araujo ’16 and Kyle Ashley ’16

We know about Jake Clapp ’16, Middlebury’s strong, furious pass-rusher, but Ashley and Araujo, who made the 2014 All-NESCAC Second Team, haven’t gotten much press this season (our bad). While the Panthers will cycle d-linemen in and out all game, these two are expected to get the lion’s share of snaps, and it will be on them to eat up blockers and create opportunities for the linebackers and safeties to make tackles. It’s an inglorious job, the d-line. But this pair is up to the task.

Wesleyan X-factor: QB Gernald Hawkins ’18

Gernald Hawkins '18 (Photo Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)
Gernald Hawkins ’18 (Photo Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

I’d like to go a little under-the-radar with my x-factor pick, but the potential of Hawkins is just so intriguing. We don’t know for sure that Hawkins will see every snap in this one under center, but for now he is the team’s QB1 and has the chance to solidify that position this weekend.

Hawkins presents the rare (in the NESCAC) dual-threat option. The moves he shows off on film are nifty, and having a cadre of backs to hand the ball off to takes much of the pressure off of his shoulders.

Patricia wouldn’t give away any secrets in reference to Hawkins, saying only, “We’re aware of Hawkins’s ability to run the ball, and we’re well prepared for it.”

Prediction: Middlebury 35 – Wesleyan 17

Wesleyan fans and players are going to be offended by this prediction, but let me make my case. The Cardinals are, to some extent, are where Middlebury was last year in Week 1 – breaking in a lot of new players, particularly at the QB position, and while there is talent there, it will take time.

I still think Wesleyan will run the ball effectively, but as Milano and the Panthers roll up and down the field in the second and third quarters, the Cards will have to start abandoning the run game, which will spell disaster for Coach DiCenzo’s squad. No team can be successful when it becomes one-dimensional.

Is 35 points too high of a projection against the Wesleyan D, even with all the new faces? Maybe. And if I were a gambling man, I’d take the under if the line were set at 35 for Middlebury, but let’s face it, I’m a Panther myself, I’m excited for tomorrow, and sure, maybe I’m drinking the Kool-Aid a little bit. I’m seeing three TDs through the air for Milano, a goal line plunge from rookie RB Diego Meritus ’19, and a late-game scamper off a rollout from QB Jared Lebowitz ’18, just like I watched him do last week in Middlebury’s Blue-White scrimmage.

Patricia didn’t necessarily predict that the Panthers will go 8-0. But he came pretty close (0:57):

Bring on some football!

First Impressions Matter: The Weekend Preview

The best time of year is back. Football returns to the NESCAC tomorrow. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

The first week of the season is a special time. After 10 long months of waiting, NESCAC football is back to fill up our early Saturday afternoons for eight weeks. Yet, one can’t help but feel like right now is almost a better time to be a NESCAC football fan. After all, by Saturday night half of the teams will be 0-1. The expectations that every team and fanbase has can’t possibly all be met, and so for some, times are better before those expectations come crashing down.

This is the point where my friends tell me that I’m way too cynical. That football games are one of the best events ever created, and we should welcome them like a crying baby does the embrace of a parent. They are right of course. Enjoy tomorrow, and if at all possible get yourself to a game in person. Thanks to the Northeast Sports Network and improvements in technology, watching a NESCAC football game at home is now a great alternative, but nothing beats the ability to watch a game in person. Alright, enough of me rambling: on to the analysis.

Five to Watch

  1. Quarterback Reece Foy ’18 (Amherst): Coach EJ Mills has been loathe to disclose who his starting QB is, but the game preview on the Amherst website and one source have tipped us off to the fact that Foy is getting the nod for the start. Foy has talent, as he actually played at the University of San Diego (DI-AA) for a year before transferring to Amherst before last season. Foy battled for the starting position early in the year before Max Lippe ’15 retook control of the position down the stretch. At only 5’9″, Foye can have trouble seeing all of his reads. He is a good athlete though we didn’t see him run much last year. Even though Foy might start, I still think we see Alex Berluti ’17 play quarterback at some point, also.
  2. Safety Justin Sanchez ’17 (Wesleyan): As one of the two returners on defense for the Cardinals, Sanchez has to be spectacular against Matt Milano ’16 and Middlebury. Stars Donnie Cimino ’15 and Jake Bussani ’14 helped allow Sanchez to roam free and make plays in the run game (he led the Cardinals in tackles last season with 58), but Coach Dan DiCenzo will ask him to do more in pass defense this game. The Wesleyan defense might struggle to stop Middlebury, but if they get a couple of turnovers, that would also be huge. A noted ball-hawk, Sanchez is their best bet to make that happen.
  3. Defensive End James Howe ’16 (Williams): Does dominant 2013 James Howe return or are teams still able to scheme and stop him like in 2014? That question is one Ephs fans are hoping to see answered on Saturday. Top level talent like what Howe displayed in 2013 is rare in the NESCAC, and it can swing games. The defensive line besides Howe is young, but that is no excuse for him as a senior now. I will be watching Howe in person at Bowdoin while (shameless personal plug alert) I am doing the color commentary for NSN, so rest assured that I will keep a close eye on him.
  4. Outside Linebacker Patrick Williams ’16 (Tufts): This is a name you might not know right now, but I have a feeling that Williams is going to have a big senior year. He had 43 tackles and an interception a year ago; solid numbers but nothing special for sure. However, at 6’2″ and 220 he has exceptional size for his position and he moves pretty well. He was only moved to linebacker last season, and he has a better understanding of the position this year. Also, his dream job is to see the world while making money. Me too, Patrick, me too.
  5. Wide Receiver Darrien Myers ’17 (Trinity): Myers has a lot of hype around him after being selected fifth in our Fantasy Draft. Not actually, but Myers is important to watch because he could help create big plays in the passing game for Trinity. That was something the Bantams struggled with last year after relying on AJ Jones ’14 to be a game breaker for them for a long time. In 2014, Myers was targeted on a lot of short passes near the line of scrimmage in order to get him the ball in space and make plays, but it really makes more sense to allow him to use his speed and get behind the defense for big plays.

Game Previews

Editors Note: We are going to cover Wesleyan vs. Middlebury in depth this afternoon. Just sit tight on that one.

Amherst at Bates: Lewiston, Maine, 1:00 PM.

So Foy is the QB, but that doesn’t change much about the Jeffs. Nick Kelly ’17 is going to get the ball a lot, and Kenny Adinkra ’16 and Raheem Jackson ’17 should also get nearly 10 carries apiece. That offensive line had trouble creating holes in 2014 as the Jeffs ran for only 126 yards on 37 carries (42 yards came on one run too). Look out for any tweaks to the Amherst scheme like them rolling Foy out of the pocket or using the read option more because they knew whomever won the starting job would be better suited for that type of offense. A major concern for Foy is just limiting mistakes and taking care of the ball.

#2 Jackson McGonagle '16 is hoping the Amherst passing attack can break out this year. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
#2 Jackson McGonagle ’16 is hoping the Amherst passing attack can break out this year. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Outside of Wesleyan, nobody lost more from its roster than Bates so I am not quite sure what to expect from them. The game last year was touch and go to the end, but the defense for Bates will have difficulty keeping this one low-scoring. The best hope for a Bates victory comes from being able to control the clock and hit Mark Riley ’16 on a lot of third downs. The Jeffs of course get the benefit of playing the Bobcats first and have had ample time to get ready defensively to defend the triple option. The 3-4 defense that Amherst runs is already well-suited to stopping it, and the Jeffs have more than enough athleticism in the front seven to make plays. This one won’t be as close as it was last year, but Amherst doesn’t blow many teams out either.

Prediction: Amherst 23 – Bates 7

Williams at Bowdoin: Brunswick, Maine, 1:00 PM

The first game for JB Wells is a chance for Bowdoin to wipe the slate clean and put last year’s 36-0 blowout loss to Williams in the rear mirror. That moment turned out to be the high moment of the year for Williams who face a lot of questions entering the season.

The loss of safety Justin Harris ’17 for the season is a tough one especially since the Ephs also lost Tom Cabarle ’15 to graduation. Corners Taysean Scott ’17 and Mike Davis ’17 are still very good, but the Ephs will really have to hope that their front seven can handle Bowdoin’s running attack without having to bring one of the inexperienced safeties into the box. That running attack is led by Tyler Grant ’17, who didn’t do much in this game last year. The new Bowdoin offense will look similar when they line up, but the action after the snap will be very different. The Polar Bears want to throw the ball more than they did last year, and Dan Barone ’16 will be targeted in the passing game early and often. Because he works out of the slot a lot, I’m not sure how Williams will matchup with him, but he could give the outside linebackers fits.

I’m higher on Austin Lommen ’16 in his senior year than most, and he needs to prove in this game that he can lead the offense even if the running game isn’t working. The Williams receivers will have a large height advantage in at least one of their match ups, but that has often been the case, and they haven’t found a way to exploit it.

As a reminder, I (Adam) played for Bowdoin my freshman year and do not pick their games because of that. So the prediction is from Joe.

Prediction: Bowdoin 17 – Williams 13

Trinity at Colby: Waterville, Maine, 1:00 PM

In case you forgot, Trinity comes into the season with a three-game losing streak. They are going to come ready to play. Sonny Puzzo ’18 is the QB with Henry Foye ’16 ready to play, also. The big battle is in the trenches between the inexperienced Trinity offensive line and the veteran Colby defensive line. The Bantams ended up running all over Colby in the second half last year, but that was after the front seven had been worn down. Chris Marano ’17, Ryan Ruiz ’16 and the rest of that defensive line have to get penetration and stop those big Trinity running backs before they get a head of steam going. When Puzzo does go to throw the ball, he should have great success with all of his talented receivers back against the very inexperienced Colby secondary.

Jabari Hurdle-Price '17 become the team's feature back once Carl Lipani '17 went down with an injury last season and proved that he can carry the load, averaging 4.1 YPC. (Dustin Satloff/Colby College Athletics)
Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 become the team’s feature back once Carl Lipani ’17 went down with an injury last season and proved that he can carry the load, averaging 4.1 YPC. (Dustin Satloff/Colby College Athletics)

Running back Carl Lipani ’17 had great success running against the Trinity front seven last year, and the Mules have to keep that level of commitment to running the ball in order to not have their defense tired at the end of the game. That also means quarterback Gabe Harrington ’17 has to complete above 60 percent of his passes. The entire linebacking group for Trinity is new, and so Harrington should put pressure on them to make tackles in space by getting the ball to either his running backs or receivers in the flats. Trying to throw the deep ball against Trinity safety Spencer Donahue ’17 is not a winning proposition. The Mules keep it close again for a while, but the strength of Trinity wins out over four quarters

Prediction: Trinity 22 – Colby 16

Tufts at Hamilton: Clinton, New York, 1:00 PM

Year two of Dave Murray’s tenure begins with a Tufts team coming to town eager to prove they are a better team than the one that beat Hamilton a year ago and that they can win on the road. The key for Hamilton is improvement on defense. They held opponents to under 30 points just three times all season in 2014. The good news is that most of the defense is back, and they had to fend off competition for their spots. The offense should be decent overall, but I don’t like the way that things matchup for Hamilton against Tufts. The Continentals had over 400 yards of offense last year, but they didn’t finish drives.

Tufts will run the bubble screen until the Continentals prove they can stop it, and that isn’t easier given the skills of the Tufts slot receivers. I am worried about the quarterback play for Tufts, though. Alex Snyder ’17 has not grabbed the job in the fashion that the coaches were hoping he would, and the Tufts offense will have to be more effective than it was last year when they relied heavily on their defense and special teams to create points. I’ve actually gone back and forth on this one a little because I do like what Murray is selling at Hamilton, but I don’t think his first win comes in this one.

Prediction: Tufts 19 – Hamilton 13

2015 NbN Preseason All-NESCAC Teams

Adam and I decided to make things simple and go with 11 players on each side of the ball, one kicker, one punter and one return man on each team. These selections are based off of the best preseason research into NESCAC football that you can find. Some of these predictions will prove correct, and some will certainly prove foolish, but as of now, consider the following players the most likely to garner accolades at season’s end. These young men all have a great combination of skill, drive and opportunity in the coming season.

Your 2015 NbN Preseason All-NESCAC Teams:

FIRST TEAM
Offense
Position Name School Class
QB Matt Milano Middlebury 2016
RB LaDarius Drew Wesleyan 2015
RB Nick Kelly Amherst 2017
WR Matt Minno Middlebury 2016
WR Mark Riley Bates 2016
WR Mike Rando Tufts 2017
OL Matt Netto Bowdoin 2016
OL Jim Daniels Amherst 2016
OL Blake Cunningham Wesleyan 2016
OL Matt Porter Trinity 2016
OL Lyle Seebeck Bates 2016
Defense
Position Name School Class
DE Lyle Baker Trinity 2016
DE Ryan Ruiz Colby 2016
DT Paul Johnson Amherst 2017
LB Alex Daversa-Russo Wesleyan 2016
LB Tim Patricia Middlebury 2016
LB Frank Leyva Trinity 2016
LB Mark Upton Bates 2017
CB Nate Leedy Middlebury 2017
S Justin Sanchez Wesleyan 2017
S Mike Stearns Tufts 2017
CB Jaymie Spears Amherst 2016
Specials
Position Name School Class
K Ike Fuchs Wesleyan 2017
P Kyle Pulek Trinity 2016
RS Darrien Myers Trinity 2017
SECOND TEAM
Position
QB Austin Lommen Williams 2016
RB Tyler Grant Bowdoin 2017
RB Chance Brady Tufts 2017
WR Ryder Arsenault Colby 2017
WR Jackson McGonagle Amherst 2016
FB Rob Murray Colby 2016
OL Andy Klarman Middlebury 2017
OL Chris Simmons Trinity 2018
OL Sam Hart Amherst 2016
OL Akene Farmer-Michos Tufts 2016
OL Charlie Grossnickle  Williams  2016
Defense
DE James Howe Williams 2016
DE Nadim Elhage Bowdoin 2016
DT Gil Araujo Middlebury 2016
LB James O’Grady Williams 2016
LB John Phelan Hamilton 2016
LB Thomas Kleyn Amherst 2016
LB Matt McCormack Tufts 2016
CB Rob Manning Wesleyan 2016
S Dan Pierce Middlebury 2016
S Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn Amherst 2016
CB Yosa Nosamiefan Trinity 2017
Specials
K Zach Altneau Hamilton 2018
P Andrew Murowchick Bowdoin 2016
RS Ryan Rizzo Middlebury 2017

Final Preseason Power Rankings

The Panthers - as expected - top our 2015 Preseason Power Rankings. (Photo by Joe MacDonald
The Panthers – as expected – top our 2015 Preseason Power Rankings. (Photo by Joe MacDonald

Editor’s Note:

Below Contributor Nick DiBendetto gives us the first of our weekly installments of our Power Rankings. DiBo will be our Power Ranker, if you will, for the remainder of the 2015 football season. These rankings are as up-to-the-minute as you get, and could reflect the newest information available and any discussions had among the editors and contributors. Admittedly, though, these preseason ranks do follow our projected records (included in parentheses) fairly closely. Check back weekly to see how each team has moved through the ranks.

1. Middlebury (8-0)

We have projected Middlebury to be the outright NESCAC Champions, something they have not done since 2007. The team looks strong with plenty of returners on both sides of the ball. They will be a very good, physical team. UNLV transfer Jared Lebowitz ’18, a 6’4″ Vermont native, will compete and push an already great senior quarterback in Matt Milano ’16. The Panthers are the safest bet at this point for a NESCAC title.

2. Amherst (7-1)

Amherst is coming off their fifth NESCAC Championship season, and is going to give the title another run. They boast running back Nick Kelly ’17, but they don’t seem to have a go-to guy at quarterback, which should make for two very difficult games against Trinity and Middlebury. Their typically strong offensive line looks nimble as ever this season, which could be big for Kelly.

3. Trinity (6-2)

The Bantams have a refined team this season with the addition of two serious offensive threats in quarterback Sonny Puzzo ’18, and 21 year-old rookie running back Joe Moreno ’19. The All-Time NESCAC Championship tally still belongs to Trinity with six titles, but they are planning to make it seven. This will be no easy task with Middlebury and Amherst right in the way, two teams that Trinity so badly wants redemption against. If Trinity’s anticipative offense can make some magic happen, the defense will grind out games – and the Coop may find itself basked in glory for one last time before Jessee/Miller Field is torn down for a renovation project.

4. Wesleyan (5-3)

This team was runner-up last year, but they are not returning many starters. Running back LaDarius Drew ’15 poses a lethal threat to opposing defenses. The quarterback race is not over, but there seems to be looming promise in quarterback Gernald Hawkins ’18, who comes from a football-rich area in West Park, FL which borders Miami. They kick the season off against Middlebury – which feels like a loss already, but don’t count them out too soon because Hawkins is a wild card and may have the Panthers biting their nails.

5. Tufts (4-4)

Tufts is coming off a .500 season, and does not seem to have any answers for becoming a winning team. There is reason to lack confidence in their quarterback, Alex Snyder ’17, who was average in limited play last season. If he is able to find some mojo within him Tufts could potentially get five wins this season. The defense looks solid, and look for Chance Brady ’17 to be leading the offensive rush. Don’t count the Jumbos completely out, but it does not look like they will display much improvement this season.

6. Colby (2-6)

The only real surprise in this week’s Power Ranks, the Mules are projected for a 2-6 record but could rise to greater heights. QB Gabe Harrington ’17 has potential to make big strides this season, the two-headed monster at running back should be one of the league’s best, and a few of the returners on defense are real difference-makers.

7. Bates (3-5)

The Bobcats have some playmakers this year, but it is a matter of if they can pull it together in time. Quarterback Pat Dugan ’16 hopes to stay healthy this season, and he will have some good receivers to throw to and experience behind him in his running backs. This team has talented players, but it is unlikely they will find themselves with a winning record come the end of November. I think they will give teams a real run for their money and even give a scare to some of the top dogs in the conference, but Bates is likely to crumble in the big moments due to their inexperience.

8. Williams (2-6)

The Williams offense looks solid this season with some weapons at TE, in particular, and a solid O-line to protect Austin Lommen ’16, the Boston College transfer. Their defense is going to be young, so that will really hurt them and their offense is unlikely to put up enough points to cope with the raw defense.

9. Bowdoin (3-5) 

The Polar Bears are hoping for Trey Brown ’16 to come out of hibernation and make a big impact at running back. After three ACL injuries in three years and then spending a year as a student trainer, Brown could spell Tyler Grant ’17 for significant portions of time. Beyond their Boobie Miles project there are many spots up for grabs. The Polar Bears do feature a lot of depth on the O-line, which could allow for Brown and quarterback Tim Drakeley ’17 to do some damage. Bowdoin’s new coach JB Wells is looking to turn this program around, but it will be no walk in the park.

10. Hamilton (0-8)

Last in the ‘CAC a year ago, Hamilton is determined to not go all season without winning a game again. They may be looking at QB Brandon Tobin ’18 to switch up the offensive gears and make gallant decisions. LaShawn Ware ’18 will come back as running back and is expected to have a very good season. In general, the team is more focused than ever and may actually upset a few teams, and a realistic goal for them would to get to .500.

 

Dreams Never Die: NESCAC Fantasy Football is Back!

 

We know you were hoping that we wouldn’t do this again. That we’d stop pretending that this is the NFL and just let the kids play. That we’d retire our make-believe fantasies of running an NFL organization and building a perennial championship competitor.

But we did it anyway.

This season, four opponents once again step up to the plate and compete for NESCAC Fantasy Supremacy – editors Joe MacDonald and Adam Lamont, longtime contributor Carson Kenney and newcomer Nick DiBenedetto.

The rules are basically the same as last year. We shrunk the roster size slightly, bringing it down to 14 players. We’ll be starting two each of QBs, RBs and WRs, one TE, one FLEX (RB, WR, TE), a D/ST and a K. Each team has four bench spots.

With this week as an exception, player acquisitions will be made on Tuesdays every week via the very sophisticated method of group chat. The waiver order will always go in reverse order of the standings. If there is a tie in the standings the tiebreakers listed below will take affect.

The following two sections are basically copied verbatim from last year’s initial fantasy article:

 

Scoring:
Our scoring scheme is essentially the same as an ESPN standard league, so in the interest of saving time and space I won’t put down every point total here.
The only difference is in the points we award for passing. In ESPN standard leagues, QB’s receive one point for every 25 passing yards and four points for a TD pass. However, the NFL is much more pass happy than the NESCAC. Over the three years from 2011-2013 (I chose not to go through the tedious work of adding the 2014 information to this study), there were 316 passing touchdowns and 306 rushing touchdowns in the NESCAC, and 45,452 passing yards compared to 34,181 rushing yards. So, we decided to award six points for touchdowns of any kind (passing, rushing or receiving), and one point for every 20 passing yards as opposed to 25. Running backs and receivers earn one point for every 10 yards on the ground or through the air.
One other miscellaneous note: individual players do not receive points for kick returns. For example, Darrien Myers ’17 is one of the league’s best return men, but if he runs a kickoff back for a touchdown he will accrue no points, while the Trinity D/ST will receive six.

Schedule:
We will be competing in weekly head-to-head matchups. There are four teams, so each team will play each other team twice over the first six weeks. Weeks 7 and 8 will serve as a single-elimination playoff. The top seed will play the fourth seed, the second will play the third, and the winners of the Week 7 matchups will compete for the title.
First tie-breaker: Head-to-head record
Second tie-breaker: Most points in head-to-head matchups
Playoff tie-breaker: QB points
Second playoff tie-breaker: RB points
Third playoff tie-breaker: WR points

We’ve also added one new wrinkle to try and compensate for the most glaring inefficiency in NESCAC Fantasy Football – injuries. So, if an owner plays an individual who ends up not appearing in that week’s game, and there was no prior indication that he would not be playing (meaning that he played the entire game last week, and to the best of our knowledge was healthy going into the current Saturday), then the owner will receive the average of all the players on his bench who are eligible to play that position. Make sense? Good.

Below is how the draft itself shook out. Some picks might raise a few eyebrows. After each round there is a bit of analysis from one of the team owners.

ROUND 1:

Joe MacDonad: Middlebury QB Matt Milano ’16
Adam Lamont: Amherst RB Nick Kelly ’16
Carson Kenney: Wesleyan RB LaDarius Drew ’15
Nick DiBenedetto: Trinity RB Joe Moreno ’19

Joe: The NESCAC is a running back-heavy league. So I took the gunslinging Matt Milano. No one throws it quite as often or effectively as Middlebury, and that offense is loaded. I really wanted either Drew or Moreno in Round 2 (specifically Drew), but my competitors were too smart for that. Shocker. I also will be interested to see if Moreno can really return this level of value.

ROUND 2

ND: Trinity WR Darrien Myers ’17
CK: Middlebury WR Matt Minno ’16
AL: Tufts RB Chance Brady
JM: Wesleyan RB Lou Stevens

Adam: Such a blatant homer pick by Nick to take Trinity WR Darrien Myers ’17 that you can’t help but love it. The Minno pick could be considered high for a WR, but he looks primed for a massive year the way he and Milano found chemistry down the stretch. I love Chance Brady, might have picked him a little high there at seven. Joe showed his respect for the Wesleyan offense by taking another Cardinals running back eighth.

ROUND 3

JM: Bowdoin RB Tyler Grant
AL: Williams QB Austin Lommen
CK: Trinity QB Sonny Puzzo
ND: Colby QB Gabe Harrington

Carson: I got off to a great start in my opinion by snagging Drew and Minno, but I needed a quarterback. As a Trin alumn/current employee, obviously my allegiance is with the Bantams. Puzzo didn’t play at all last year so he should have a lot to prove. Word on the street is the kid is about to blow, and since he’ll get fantasy points through the air and on the ground, I thought he was a good choice at QB. Adam taking Lommen that early, in my opinion, was a bit of a panic pick.

ROUND 4

ND: Bowdoin WR Dan Barone
CK: Bates WR Mark Riley
AL: Wesleyan QB Gernald Hawkins
JM: Colby RB Jabari Hurdle-Price

Nick: Mac’s pick in the fourth round looks promising. The Colby RB’s should have ample opportunities to put fantasy points on the board. Mark Riley seems to be Bates’ weapon, that may or may not work out for Carson as teams may stack Riley’s side. Adam went with a young Wesleyan QB in the fourth round, which could prove to be the pick of the draft. The Floridian knows what football is, but does he know how to play in the frozen tundras of the Coop. Gernald Hawkins could emerge as a big-time player this year. Lastly, Dan Barone is a solid pick as he should be a big contributor to Bowdoin’s offense at wide receiver.

ROUND 5

JM: Middlebury WR Ryan Rizzo
AL: Colby WR Ryder Arsenault
CK: Middlebury RB Jonathan Hurvitz
ND: Amherst QB Alex Berluti

Joe: If you’ve read anything I’ve written about Middlebury this season, I’ve been hyping up Rizzo like you wouldn’t believe. Full disclosure, he’s a friend of mine, but he’s also a damn good football player. The caveat is that there are some other really good wideouts pushing him right now, and I could see Conrad Banky ’19 taking away some of his reps. But I think when the time comes, Rizzo will produce.

ROUND 6

ND: Trinity TE Matt Hirshman
CK: Trinity WR Ian Dugger
AL: Tufts WR Mike Rando
JM: Tufts TE Nik Dean

Adam: Quickly getting into the part of the draft where we say, why not, I’ll take him. Hirshman didn’t have a catch last year so total trust pick. Carson also stays loyal to Trinity and makes a solid pick with Dugger. Then Joe and I go back to back with Tufts guys, two good picks. Nik Dean at tight end is a really good one for Joe because the NESCAC as a league does not tend to use tight ends in the passing game very often, and Dean should get consistent targets.

ROUND 7

JM: Colby WR Mbasa Mayikana
AL: Bates Slotback Shaun Carroll
CK: Amherst TE Rob Thoma
ND: Wesleyan TE Ben Kurtz

Carson: I was confident in the team I had picked up to this point. Have a good group of receivers, two running backs I like, a QB, so I figured I needed a tight end. I wanted to take Hirshman since he’s a Bantam and is looking to have a big year, but DiBo had a stroke and forgot how to human, so I let him have him. Amherst is going to be good this year but they are inexperienced at QB. So why not throw quick passes to your TE? Also, I like Monty’s pick with Carroll. Could have a sneaky good year in Bates’s two slotback offense.

ROUND 8

ND: Trin D/ST
CK: Amherst D/ST
AL: Amherst WR Jackson McGonagle
JM: Tufts QB Alex Snyder

Nick: I started off the eighth round with a flawless pick in the Trinity D/ST. The Bantams are on brink of another undefeated season, and if all goes well, the Trinity defense will be up to par. Trinity had a solid special teams last year, and Devanney welcomes in a true competitor in a freshman kicker. Carson followed in my footsteps, taking one of the other top defenses in the league. The Amherst defense is gritty and they are looking to repeat as undisputed NESCAC Champions. If all goes well for Amherst, this pick from CK will be the right one. Adam has a nice pick with Amherst wide reciever Jackson McGonagle, coming into his senior year he should be a threat, and we heard that he trained with a lot of D-I talent this summer – potential for consistent points there. Really uneasy about Joe’s pick here. Why go with a QB who is going to win one game this year!?!? Tufts QB Alex Snyder has seemed to grow exponentially since his freshman year, but I’d rather see Joe choose a winning QB.

ROUND 9

JM: Hamilton RB LaShawn Ware
AL: Wesleyan K Ike Fuchs
CK: Wesleyan WR Neil O’Connor
ND: Williams RB Connor Harris

Joe: I like my pick better than the rest here. I actually think the Hamilton O can be middle of the pack, as Ware is a good runner, and whoever ends up starting for Hamilton – whether that’s Brandon Tobin or Chase Rosenberg – will be doing so because they had a promising camp. Either Rosenberg will have shown improvement, or Tobin will have come in and wrestled the starting job away. I do think Connor Harris could be a steal, though. He showed off his athleticism in the return game last season. Let’s see if that translates to the backfield now.

ROUND 10

ND: Middlebury TE Trevor Miletich
CK: Trinity WR Nick Gaynor
AL: Williams TE Alex Way
JM: Trinity RB Ethan Suraci

Adam: The round started with Nick changing his pick from the Trinity freshman kicker who he couldn’t remember the name of to Middlebury’s tight end Trevor Miletich ’16. Ended up working out pretty nice for him. Then what felt like the 20th Trinity player came off the board. I grabbed my tight end in Alex Way, and then somehow Joe decided that it was necessary to take yet another Trinity player with his pick. Unless the Bantams score 100 points a game, some of these picks are going to look quite silly.

ROUND 11

JM: Midd D/ST
AL: Tufts WR Ben Berey
CK: Middlebury K Charlie Gordon
ND: Trinity Kicker

Carson: I’m a big believer that kickers are the most underrated player on your fantasy team. A good kicker can get you an easy 10-12 points a week which can be huge in winning a matchup. I took Mason Crosby in the seventh round of my real life fantasy draft (which I’ve started out 0-2 so what do I know). Gordon should only have to worry about extra points for most of the year, or kicks from 30 yards or closer, so I’m optimistic he can get me quality points every week. Trinity Kicker is a funny name for a person but I trust Dibo knows what he’s doing.

ROUND 12

ND: Middlebury RB Diego Meritus
CK: Middlebury QB Jared Lebowitz
AL: Hamilton WR Pat Donahue
JM: Bates QB Pat Dugan

Nick: Diego was my Middlebury RB pick out of the hat, but he is actually nasty after watching his highschool highlight film. Carson went with Middlebury’s hometown (sort of) hero. Jared Lebowitz is a big bodied sophomore QB who may not see the field due to Matt Milano, but I believe Lebowitz is up and coming. Backup QB’s are awkward picks, but in the 12th round he is a fine pick. Adam chose Pat Donahue. Joe went with the Bates senior which is a good pick to get a starting QB this late.

ROUND 13

JM: Middlebury WR James Burke
AL: Colby RB Carl Lipani
CK: Bates Slotback Frank Williams
ND: Bowdoin QB Tim Drakeley

Joe: I think Burke is a steal here, and I actually had Banky on my mind but couldn’t pass up on Midd’s starting wideout opposite of Minno. Sure, maybe a bit of a homer pick, but I like Burke’s upside way more than anybody picked after him. Maybe Lipani will make me look like a fool, though, if he can seriusly cut into Hurdle-Price’s carries.

ROUND 14

ND: Middlebury WR Tanner Contois
CK: Trinity QB Henry Foye
AL: Wes Defense/ST
JM: Amherst K Charlie Wall

Adam: Taking a Midd wide receiver late is never a bad pick since they throw the ball so often, even though Contois is pretty deep on the depth chart right now. I grabbed the Wesleyan Defense/ST, realizing my mistake of not grabbing one of Trinity, Middlebury, or Amherst too late. Wesleyan had a great defense a year ago, but that unit is almost entirely gone. I think that while the defense will take a step back, this will still be a good unit because of the talent on the roster and the coaching ability of the Wesleyan staff.