It feels like every week has consisted of better and better football this year, and I, for one, am pretty happy about it. The thing about the NESCAC, however, is that the best games are not always the ones you expect them to be. Everyone had their sights set on Middlebury-Trinity this weekend in anticipation of an all-time classic. In theory, it made sense – the two top teams duking it out – but in practice, it didn’t quite work out this way, and the Midd-Trin game actually ended up being the biggest blowout of the weekend. This weekend, it was the Bates-Colby game the presented the biggest thrill factor, including furious fourth quarter comeback and a number of crucial defensive stands. Despite the final score, Amherst-Tufts was also a very close game, and it really wasn’t until the last few minutes that Tufts was able to pull away, something they might not have done if not for a key stop following a Tufts turnover in the fourth. It’s sad that only two weeks remain in the NESCAC football season, but if the upward trend of the games so far this fall is any indication, these last two weeks will be the best two weeks yet.
Without a doubt, this is Trinity’s biggest win of the season. Middlebury has been the only team to rival Trinity in the top-dog conversation throughout the year, but Saturday ended that argument. Not to be outdone by Chance Brady’s performance last week, Max Chipouras ran for 186 yards and 3 touchdowns, reconfirming to everyone around the league that the Offensive POY race includes more than just one tailback. Sonny Puzzo had a low-key day, but he was effective when he needed to be, providing just enough of a change of pace for the ground attack to thrive. But forget the offense, the defense was outstanding on Saturday. The Bantams allowed just 13 points, all of which came in the third quarter. Middlebury was held to just 3/18 (17%) on 3rd down, largely due to the Trinity pass-defense forcing mistakes out of Jared Lebowitz, who was just 12/38 on the day. Now all that is great, but I gotta say, the most impressive player on Trinity this year has been Eric Sachse. The sophomore kicker is now 11/11 on field goals and 28/28 on extra points this in 2016, giving him the second most points in the league with 61 (trailing only Brady, who has 66). It didn’t quite matter on Saturday, but Sachse’s consistency is pretty incredible.
Bates when facing Colby
Heartbreak City, Utah. That’s where the Colby Mules traveled this weekend as they lost their third straight matchup against CBB rival Bates, all of which have come down to the wire. With previous wins of 10-9 (2015 score) and 34-28 OT (2014 score) against Colby, Bates knew that this weekend would be a tight one, but with the confidence gained over the past two seasons the Bobcats were able to fend off a late comeback on their way to a 21-19 victory. While they got off to a hot start and led 21-3 at halftime, the Bates offense couldn’t muster up any points in the second half. Devastated by injuries to starters and seniors alike, the Mules fought, scratched, and clawed their way back into the game, and found themselves within 8 points with just under 6 minutes left. The Mules drove down the field, and Christian Sparacio found Sebastian Ferrell in the endzone to put Colby within 2. But that’s when the Bates defense put their foot down. Colby looked to pass on the ensuing two-point conversion, but the Bobcats were ready and forced an incomplete pass, essentially locking up a victory for the home team. That’s now three one-possession wins in a row against Colby, and Bates has put themselves in a phenomenal position to win the CBB Championship heading into their Week 7 game against Bowdoin.
Wesleyan Quarterback Mark Piccirillo ‘19
While Wesleyan hosting Bowdoin wasn’t the most highly-anticipated matchup of the weekend, it certainly still mattered. To keep their playoff hopes alive, Wesleyan pretty much needs to win the rest of their games. Well, right on cue, Piccirillo stepped up and had a heck of a game. The sophomore dual-threat QB threw for 220 yards and a pair of touchdowns on an impressive 22/32 throws. Piccirillo also led Wesleyan in rushing, running the pigskin 8 times for 67 yards and a TD. I know that Bowdoin is a team that Wesleyan should beat, but one thing I’ve learned about NESCAC sports over the years is that you can’t take any team lightly – when you lack a killer instinct is when you get upset by an inferior team. Well, Piccirillo must be drinking the same Kool-Aid, because once the Cardinals had the lead heading into the second half he stepped on Bowdoin’s throat, absolutely crushing any momentum the Polar Bears might have had. While his numbers don’t jump off the charts like those of Puzzo or Lebowitz, Piccirillo is quietly in the discussion for best quarterback in the NESCAC.
Since their win against Amherst, Middlebury has shown subtle flashes of vulnerability. First, against Williams – after three quarters, the Panthers only had a 28-23 lead, until they finally figured it out in the fourth – and then again against Bates – the Bobcats actually got out to a 9-0 lead against Midd until Coach Ritter’s offense was finally able to put some points on the board in the second quarter. Well, as a baseball player, I am very familiar with the old adage, “three strikes and you’re out,” and that seems to be the case for Middlebury. After two slow starts in a row, the Panthers began with a third on Saturday, and Trinity punished them for it. After one quarter, it was 14-0 Bantams. After two, it was 28-0, and Trinity never looked back. All year, Middlebury has been a team that has worn teams down as the games have gone on, but against a team as strong as Trinity, that’s just not really an option. The Panthers still have a shot at winning the title, but they are going to need an absolutely superb effort out of a slumping Amherst team in Week 7 in order to get the ball rolling.
I know hindsight is 20/20, but the fact of the matter is that we have two matchups of extreme importance that simply aren’t on the schedule this year. It’s a shame, a damn shame, that we will not see Wesleyan play Middlebury this season, and also that we will not see Williams play Bowdoin. Let’s look at the former game first. There is no denying that Wesleyan-Middlebury would have an enormous impact on the way the standings shake out at the end of the year. Both teams are 5-1, and each team has yet to play the team the other has lost to – both of these matchups take place in Week 8, when Wesleyan faces Trinity and Middlebury travels to Tufts. It’s frivolous scheduling like this that results in three-way ties…ANYWAYS. As for the other game, Williams and Bowdoin are both winless at this point, but they are also both hungry for their first W. While there is no guaranteeing the results of the final two weeks one way or the other, it’s frustrating that these two will not face off in 2016. Who knows, both teams could end up at 2-6, this is the NESCAC after all. But with 10 teams and just 8 games, it seems pretty darn easy to add a week to the regular season so that everybody plays every other team.