It’s Trinity’s Title To Lose: Stock Report 10/31

Max Chipouras '19 ran away with the NESCAC POY title in Week 6 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Max Chipouras ’19 ran away with the NESCAC POY title in Week 6 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

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.

 

Stock Up:

Trinity

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.

 

Stock Down:

Middlebury

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.

NESCAC Schedulers

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.

The Quasi-Championship Game Heads to Hartford: Week 6 Weekend Preview

NT Matt D'Andrea '17 looks to continue getting pressure on the quarterback this weekend against Middlebury (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics).
NT Matt D’Andrea ’17 looks to continue getting pressure on the quarterback this weekend against Middlebury (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics).

Week Six is here, and it is shaping up to be a doozy.  In a largely predictable NESCAC season, three top tier teams have their day of reckoning this Saturday.  Middlebury and Trinity square off in the league championship (barring some wild results in Weeks Seven and Eight), and Amherst faces Tufts in an effort to make 2016 not a total lost cause of a season.  There is also an intriguing matchup at the bottom of the league, as Williams and Hamilton battle for the right to stay out of the cellar.  There is only one probable blowout this weekend, as Wesleyan will most likely take Bowdoin behind the dumpster like Joe Biden would Trump if given the chance. The stresses of being an editor have finally gotten to Rory and he’s laid up in the health center, so cut him some slack when his analysis is inevitably wrong; he took care of the Tufts-Amherst, Bowdoin-Wesleyan, and Williams-Hamilton games this week, while I wrote up on Middlebury-Trinity and Colby-Bates.  We’ve got you covered with the preview of a potentially thrilling weekend down below, as well as our score predictions.

Here are the standings as they are now (keep in mind that Rory compiles all the predictions, so can these numbers even be trusted?)

  1. Rory (18-2)
  2. Pete (17-3)
  3. Nick (17-3)
  4. Liam (17-3)
  5. Colin (17-3)
  6. Colby (16-4)
  7. Sid (15-5)

Middlebury (5-0) @ Trinity (5-0), 12:30 PM, Hartford, Connecticut

Colby tackled this one in depth in the Game of the Week blog that went up this morning, but this would be a difficult one for us to overcover.  This game represents as close as we can get to a NESCAC Super Bowl.  Both teams enter the game undefeated, and have shown themselves this season to be the class of the league.  Middlebury and Trinity both pride themselves on their offenses, as they are 1 and 2 in the league in total yards.  They are both led by stellar quarterbacks in Jared Lebowitz ‘18 and infamous Chicago “sanitation specialist” Sunny Puzzo ‘18.  Trinity may have the edge in the running game, as Max Chipouras ‘19 gives them a deadly ground attack to compliment Puzzo’s passing abilities.  Middlebury will need to put up a considerably better defensive performance than they have in the last couple weeks in order to clinch (for all intents and purposes) the league title.  And if the Panthers are reading, I’d like to point out to them that only Colby and I (the two Middlebury writers) have picked them to win.  Put it on the bulletin board, boys!

Rory: Middlebury 31, Trinity 38

Pete: Middlebury 31, Trinity 28

Liam: Middlebury 18, Trinity 27

Colin: Middlebury 17, Trinity 20

Colby: Middlebury 30, Trinity 28

Sid: Middlebury 26, Trinity 28

Nick: Middlebury 14, Trinity 20

Editor’s Note: I truly apologize for Pete’s 50th joke in a row about Sonny Puzzo’s name being reminiscent of some sort of Chicago racketeer/Godfather character/1970’s gangster. If you’re reading this Sonny, I’m sure it would mean the world to Pete if you could autograph a ball and have one of the Middlebury players deliver it to him when they get back to school.

Colby (2-3) @ Bates (1-4), 1:00 PM, Lewiston, Maine

Call this one “The Battle for the Middle.”  Or call it “The Battle for Maine.”  But DO NOT call me about it during the Middlebury-Trinity game.  Bates and Colby have been going back and forth all year as the top of the lower tier of NESCAC teams, which is not exactly a sexy war to be waging, but it is a war nonetheless.  It’s like if Macbeth was fighting Macduff for the right to be a duke rather than King.  Both have at times looked ready to make a large step forward, and both teams have at times disappointed.  Bates’ inconsistent season can be summed up by quarterback Sandy Plaschkes (it’s 2016 and we have starting NESCAC quarterbacks named Sandy and Sonny.  What a world.)  He has made some very exciting plays, and shown an ability to improvise and keep plays alive with his feet that few QB’s have.  However, he has been far too inconsistent with his accuracy this season.  Colby has two wins this season, and has a real chance to finish .500 or better, which would be a huge victory for the program.  This will be a hard fought game, but I don’t think many people win tune away from Middlebury-Trinity to catch it.

Rory: Colby 21, Bates 17

Pete: Colby 6, Bates 17

Liam: Colby 10, Bates 17

Colin: Colby 17, Bates 15

Colby: Colby 9, Bates 17

Sid: Colby 10, Bates 17

Nick: Colby 12, Bates 13

Tufts (4-1) @ Amherst (3-2), 1:00 PM, Amherst, Massachusetts

This is a must-win game for both schools. Tufts is still in the title hunt technically, but more importantly, they are trying to prove that they know how to beat a top team on the road, a skill they have yet to demonstrate since their resurgence in the past couple years. The squad on the other side of the field is on a slippery slope right now, and though it’s weird for me to write this having grown up in Amherst, the ex-LJs have not yet beat a top half team this season (maybe they need to decide on a new mascot ASAP). So what are we going to see on Saturday? Per usual, I expect a run-heavy attack from the Jumbos, but Amherst has eaten run-first teams for breakfast this year. I know Tufts has Chance Brady, who is fresh off a 165 yard/4 TD week that earned him the honor of receiving the Gold Helmet Award from the New England Writers Association, but Amherst is allowing just 25.2 YPG on the ground – through five weeks of action, that’s a pretty ridiculous stat. When possession changes, I expect Amherst to attack more through the air than on the ground, and as long as Nick Morales takes care of the ball, the Purple and White should have pretty decent success, much like Trinity did against the Jumbos. A potential curveball this weekend is that it snowed in Amherst yesterday. Will the turf be clear by Saturday? Likely. But you never know what’s going to happen in Western Mass, and if there is a light layer of snow on Pratt Field the offenses could be slow moving on Saturday.

Rory: Tufts 13, Amherst 10

Pete: Tufts 10, Amherst 24

Liam: Tufts 19, Amherst 17

Colin: Tufts 22, Amherst 24

Colby: Tufts 21, Amherst 24

Sid: Tufts 14, Amherst 13

Nick: Tufts 21, Amherst 24

Bowdoin (0-5) @ Wesleyan (4-1), 12:30 PM, Wesleyan, Connecticut

I hate to be the bearer of bad news for the Polar Bears, but this game has blowout written all over it. Wesleyan just notched their biggest win of the season against Amherst last week, and in doing so, they have maintained a spot in line to board the champion-ship. Meanwhile, Bowdoin has yet to win, and to date, their best opportunity to do so was just two weeks ago against Hamilton, when they lost on a last minute score by the Continentals. Other than that, Bowdoin has faced a string of bludgeonings, resulting in a league-worst 35.2 OPPG. Compare that to Wesleyan’s league-best 7.2 OPPG and you understand why I say this is an uphill battle for the Polar Bears, especially on the road. Wesleyan has thrived on their home turf, allowing a total of just 6 points in two home games. The Cardinals are led by Devon Carrillo, who has posted 7 rushing touchdowns on the year, and Mark Piccirillo, who ranks first on the team in both passing and rushing yards. Throw in some other big names on Wesleyan’s offense such as Lou Stevens, Dario Highsmith, and Mike Breuler and I frankly just don’t see any way that Bowdoin can slow down this multi-faceted attack.

Rory: Bowdoin 6, Wesleyan 38

Pete: Bowdoin 0, Wesleyan 27

Liam: Bowdoin 7, Wesleyan 34

Colin: Bowdoin 6, Wesleyan 37

Colby: Bowdoin 10, Wesleyan 35

Sid: Bowdoin 0, Wesleyan 38

Nick: Bowdoin 14, Wesleyan 25

Williams (0-5) @ Hamilton (1-4), 1:20 PM, Clinton, New York

This will be a very intriguing matchup in Clinton, NY. A win for the Ephs would be a huge confidence boost as they head into their final two games against Wesleyan and Amherst – in other words, this is the last game in which Williams isn’t a heavy underdog. Hamilton has quite the stake in this game as well, and they are still hoping to put together at least a three win season here with their remaining opponents being Williams, Middlebury, and Bates. For these reasons, I expect another intense tilt out of these two squads, similar to Williams’ opener against Colby or Hamilton’s Week 4 win over Bates, both of which ended in “2-minute drill” winning drives. Though the Ephs lost to Tufts last weekend, they were able to run for 227 yards, primarily through a two-pronged attack of Noah Sorrento and Connor Harris. This should be an encouraging sign for Coach Raymond as his squad faces off with the Continentals, who have a pretty comparable run defense to Tufts statistically. Meanwhile, Hamilton definitely boasts more of a passing attack than a running game, so they are likely to air it out, especially considering the recent success of freshman quarterback Kenny Gray in the past couple weeks. This one could be a fight ‘til the end between two pretty evenly matched football teams.

Rory: Williams 21, Hamilton 14

Pete: Williams 21, Hamilton 14

Liam: Williams 10, Hamilton 24

Colin: Williams 21, Hamilton 17

Colby: Williams 20, Hamilton 18

Sid: Williams 21, Hamilton 17

Nick: Williams 21, Hamilton 0

Welcome to the Thunderdome: Middlebury at Trinity, Your Week 6 Game of the Week

Middlebury looks to keep the wheels turning this weekend against Trinity, which will be no easy task (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics).
Middlebury looks to keep the wheels turning this weekend against Trinity, which will be no easy task (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics).

Middlebury (5-0) at Trinity (5-0), 12:30 PM, Hartford, CT

On Saturday October 29th the Panthers will challenge the Bantams in their house. Who is scarier? Since it is Halloweekend after all, if we look strictly at the mascots, a Panther is much more intimidating than a little chicken, but it is the guys wearing the costumes this weekend that people should fear. These #1 and #2 squads on our power rankings face off in week six, and no matter what you think their respective order should be on that list, they are clearly alone at the top.  Midd has fared incredibly well so far this year, topping Amherst and handling their business against the lower tier NESCAC teams, but Trinity hasn’t scored less than 36 points this year. So the real question is, if each team showed up to your front door to trick-or-treat, who’s ‘Boo!’ would frighten you more?

 Last Time They Met and What’s On the Line: October 31st, 2015, Middlebury, VT. Trinity defeats Middlebury 26-14

Last year, Middlebury held on to a 14-13 halftime lead, but couldn’t muster any offense in the second half and ultimately let up two 4th quarter TD’s to lose.  However, the last one was on a drive with time running out to tie the game when QB Matt Milano ’16 threw a pick-6. It was a great matchup and is sure to be similar this year, although each team has improved greatly from where they were at last year. It’s a little bit too early to tell if this is going to be the quasi NESCAC championship game (another reason why NESCAC football should have playoffs), but this is going to be a top 3 game of the season. While Sid discussed earlier this week how it’s still possible for Wesleyan to win the crown of the conference, he just casually assumed Tufts would roll over Midd, which is bold to say the least. Barring an unthinkable, unpredictable, and unlikely ending to the year, either Trinity or Middlebury will win the NESCAC and this is going to be a huge game in deciding that future.

 Trinity X-Factor: DB Spencer Donahue ‘17

Spencer Donahue '17 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Spencer Donahue ’17 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

This isn’t a bold prediction by any means, as Donahue leads the Bantams with two INT’s, 20 tackles, one forced fumble, two fumbles recovered, and one block. He’s good. He’s great. But can he stop WR Conrado Banky ’19? While he might not cover Banky, he will definitely need to play a big part in containing the speedy wide-out who leads the Panthers with 614 receiving yards and eight TDs. Jared Lebowitz ‘18 is a big time passing QB who has thrown 20 TDs this year, but five of them were to Ryan Rizzo ’17. What does this have to do with Donahue? Well, since Ryan Rizzo is now out for the year with a fractured wrist, Banky becomes the center of the receiving core, and if Donahue can neutralize him, with Trinity’s ruthless offensive attack, Middlebury will have a tough time keeping up.

Middlebury X-Factor: The Linebacker Core’s Big 2

Addison Pierce '17 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)
Addison Pierce ’17 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)
John Jackson '18 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)
John Jackson ’18 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Middlebury averages 35.8 points a game and Trinity averages 37.4 ppg. These teams are going to score this weekend, and that’s why each team’s X-Factor defensive. Addison Pierce ’17 and John Jackson ’18 are the center of the defensive unit and each have a monsterous 40 tackles on the season, and their ability to stop Max Chipouras ’19 and Lucas Golon ’19, averaging 175 collective yards per game on the ground, is going to be a key to limiting the Bantam’s point to under 36 for the first time this year. The senior captain, Pierce, also adds three sacks and one forced fumble and combined with Jackson’s five sacks and two forced fumbles, the Trinity running backs are going to have their hands full. If Sonny Puzzo ’18 is forced to throw because of the rush defense, only allowing 2 yards per carry last week and -0.4 yards per carry against Amherst on week four, then the Panthers would have the comparative advantage on offense.

 Everything Else

These two offensive juggernauts lead the league in almost every offensive category and are going to hit each other head-on on Saturday. Middlebury offense gains 429.2 yards per game compared to the league leader Trinity at 482 yards per game, while each squad’s defense ranks fourth and third, respectively, in yards allowed per game.

Trinity definitely had an easier game week one against Bates than Middlebury did last weekend, as the Panthers went down 9-0 before rumbling back to score 28 unanswered points. However, each team has played well against the other Maine schools, and beaten all of the teams they needed to, as expected. The only two really interesting games each has played were Midd vs. Amherst, and Trinity vs. Tufts. Each team clearly came out on top, but Trinity did so much more convincingly than Middlebury. Up until last weekend, Middlebury’s year to date strength of schedule appeared to be higher, but Amherst’s brutal loss to Wesleyan drastically lowered their stock, and therefore the quality of the week three win for Midd. Tufts on the other hand is about just as good as expected and has leapfrogged Amherst in the power rankings, showing that perhaps Trinity’s victory over the Jumbos was much more impressive than the Panthers’ victory over the Purple & White.

Defense hasn’t been Middlebury’s strongest area, as they faltered against Williams during week four, but an underrated key player is Nate Leedy, who had a big interception last weekend against Bates to thwart the early Bobcat threat.  His ferocity should continue this weekend. Sonny Puzzo ‘18 should be scared of this senior captain as he will lurk in the secondary, ready to pounce and add on to his season total of 15 tackles and go for his second straight week with a pick. As I mentioned above, Rizzo’s injury is a big hit to the Panther offense, and while they were able to beat Bates without him, the Bobcats’ defense is not exactly the top in the league. Trinity’s secondary is no joke, drawing my comparison to Seattle’s Legion of Boom earlier in the year. Because of this deficit and Trinity’s balanced offense, on paper it appears that they are the favorite. Puzzo has drastically improved his TD:INT ratio from last season, and still only has one pick on the year. Lebowitz is having a better year, but if RB Diego Meritus can’t take some of the load off of the receivers’ backs, I’m uncertain as to whether the air game will be as sustainable for Middlebury this weekend. Having said that, while the current forecast in Hartford predicts sun and 60 degree temperatures, weather changes rapidly because, after all, this is New England. The Panthers are also not going to go down easily as Wesleyan is creeping behind these top two teams in the standings and none wants to play second fiddle to the undefeated team. Middlebury wants this game, Trinity wants this game, and there is only one King Sized Kit-Kat bar left at the bottom of the candy bin. Who will take it?

It’s That Time of Year: Women’s Soccer Regular Season Wrap-Up and Quarterfinal Predictions

Trinity took down Tufts a couple weeks ago, but can they do it again on Saturday? (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Trinity took down Tufts a couple weeks ago, but can they do it again on Saturday? (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

The NESCAC Womens Soccer regular season wrapped up on Tuesday leaving some teams jumping for joy, and others with that familiar sinking feeling that come with having to clean out ones locker too early in the year. Since I know you all just want to hear my predictions for the upcoming PLAYOFFS!!!! Ill just go through the scores from this last weekend of NESCAC play as quickly as possible.

 

Saturday, October 22nd

Hamilton @ Colby, Final Score: 1-0 Hamilton

Hamilton defeated Colby by a score of 1-0. The only goal was scored by Amanda Becker (18) with less than five minutes to go in the game.

Williams @ Tufts, Final Score: 2-1 Williams

Williams beat Tufts on this road trip by a score of 2-1. Sarah Pykkonen (17) scored for the home team while Kristi Kirshe (17) and Sarah Scire (20) scored for the visitors.

Amherst @ Wesleyan, Final Score: 2-0 Amherst

The visiting Amherst women defeated the Wesleyan Cardinals 2-0. Emily Hester (17) and Hannah Guzzi (18) scored for the winners.

Conn College @ Bowdoin, Final Score: 0-0 tie

This tightly contested battle ended in an inconclusive 0-0 draw.

Bates @ Middlebury, Final Score: 0-3 Middlebury

The Panthers blanked the Bobcats, winning 3-0. Amanda Dafonte (19), Adrianna Gilder (17), and Rebecca Palacios (18) scored for Middlebury.

 

Tuesday, October 25th

Middlebury @ Williams, Final Score: 0-1 Williams

Williams held service, defeating the Panthers 1-0. Audrey Thomas (17) scored for the victorious Ephs.

Tufts @ Bowdoin, Final Score: 1-0 Tufts

The visiting Jumbos defeated the hosting Polar Bears 1-0. Jess Capone (17) scored the only goal of the game.

Bates @ Colby, Final Score: 2-1 Bates

In a battle for the state of Maine, Bates defeated Colby 2-1. Hannah Behringer (18) and Hannah Graves (17) scored for Bates, and Aliza Van Leesten (17) scored for the Mules.

Conn College @ Wesleyan, Final Score: 2-0 Conn College

The Camels picked up a much needed win, besting Wesleyan 2-0. Michelle Medina (18) and Alex Baltazar (19) scored for the Camels.

Trinity @ Amherst, Final Score: 2-3 Amherst

The second-place team in the conference bested the fourth-place Bantams as Amherst beat Trinity 3-2. The scorers for Trinity were Andi Nicholson (17) and Taylor Kirchgessner (19). Amherst received goals from Emily Masten (17), Hannah Guzzi (18), and Emily Hester (17).

 

That’s the wrap up of the last week of the regular season, and it left us with a clear playoff picture. The top-seeded Williams Ephs (9-0-1) will play the 8-seeded Hamilton Continentals (2-7-1). Amherst (8-1-1) as the 2-seed will play the 7-seeded Conn College Camels (5-4-1). The 3-seeded Middlebury Panthers (7-3-0) will battle the 6-seeded Bowdoin Polar Bears (5-4-1). And the 4-seeded Trinity Bantams (7-3-0) will take on the 5-seeded Tufts Jumbos (5-4-1).

 

Playoff Predictions

Williams (9-0-1) vs. Hamilton (2-7-1)

Prediction: Williams wins 3-0

Sorry Hamilton, I love the spunk that got you the playoff clinching win this past weekend, but Williams is just too strong. Im picking a repeat score from the season opener for these two teams that saw Williams run away with a 3-0 win. Hamiltons only 2 conference wins this year have been against teams that didnt make the playoffs and Williams is just too good on both sides of the ball to really face much of a threat here.

Amherst (8-1-1) vs. Conn College (5-4-1)

Prediction: Amherst wins 2-0

Amherst hasnt lost since September 17th. Theyve won 10 games since then and only tied 1. Conn College, conversely, had lost 3 straight until a tie against Bowdoin and a win against last place Wesleyan this past weekend got them back in the win column. Conn College won a ton of games early but you have to question their strength of schedule – of Conns 5 conference wins, only 1 came against a team who will be hosting a NESCAC quarterfinal. Conn College is 3rd in the conference in goals allowed per game, but their offensive attack has been anemic at times and will struggle against the fourth best defense in the conference in terms of goals allowed per game.

Middlebury (7-3-0) vs. Bowdoin (5-4-1)

Prediction: Middlebury wins 2-1

This game will be close, I guarantee that. Bowdoin beat Middlebury earlier in the season and has played every top team in the league closely. Meanwhile, they have taken care of business against lower class teams, beating them easily for the most part. On the other hand, Middlebury has seemed dominant for stretches of their schedule and is 2nd in the league in goals per game. On the other, other hand, Bowdoin is second in goals allowed per game, relinquishing a stingy 0.52 goals a game. On the other, other, other hand, Middlebury just narrowly lost to the best team in the conference and before that had won eight straight. Im picking Middlebury due to home field advantage but this will be a really close game.

Trinity vs. Tufts

Prediction: Trinity wins 2-0

Tufts is much like Conn College in that they beat up on the weaker teams on their schedule, while looking relatively toothless against teams further up the standings. Tufts even tied with the worst team in the conference earlier this year, and is ranked in the bottom half of the conference in both goals per game and goals allowed per game. However, they did put up a very good fight against Williams this past weekend, taking advantage of the monsoon in Somerville. Trinity, meanwhile, has been consistent all year and even handily beat the Jumbos 2-0 about 10 days ago. Look for the Bantams to repeat this success in the quarterfinals.

I know, I know! I didnt pick a single upset in this entire prediction and Im sorry for that. But there really is a defined tier structure in this year’s conference. Williams and Amherst have been dominant all year with Middlebury and Trinity hot on their heels. Tufts, Conn, and Bowdoin, are all extremely similar in outcomes this year and Hamilton just barely snuck into the playoffs at all. The Middlebury v. Bowdoin game will be tight, and honestly it could go either way, but thats really the only game I see providing major upset material. Regardless, Im looking forward to all these games and hope to be back Sunday to write about the semi-finals!

A New Coach, a New Era: The Rebuilding of Williams Football

Williams has had a tough time in 2016, but it's part of the process (Courtesy of Williams Athletics).
Williams has had a tough time in 2016, but it’s part of the process (Courtesy of Williams Athletics).

Williams’ last perfect season was in 2010, when they won the NESCAC championship with a perfect 8-0 record and also went on to win the Little Three Title. For the next six years, however, the program went on a decline. Williams had three consecutive 2-6 seasons and something or someone needed to change. That chang emerged in the form of Mark Raymond, previous head coach at St. Lawrence University.

But what had happened to the 2010, undefeated NESCAC championship team?

The Ephs topped Amherst in 2010 to win the NESCAC Championship (Courtesy of Williams Athletics).
The Ephs topped Amherst in 2010 to win the NESCAC Championship (Courtesy of Williams Athletics).

“I believe our struggles were rooted in a lack of discipline as a team,” said captain Michael Berry ’18.  “When challenges arose on the field we just could not seem to get out of our own way.”

A mantra posed by Raymond goes like this: “on the path to greatness there are many obstacles to success, don’t be one of them.” As Berry suggests, the Ephs “surely added a multitude of obstacles to our goals over the past few seasons.”

Another factor, as defensive lineman Chris Hattar ’18 puts it, is culture:

“Culture, culture, culture. In the past, there hasn’t been a culture for relentless effort, trust in one another and respect for the game. But all of that has changed.”

Coach Raymond was named Williams head coach in 2016 and it made sense to pick the best possible candidate. Before Raymond arrived in 2010, St. Lawrence University had only one winning season in the last 20 years and not even gotten close to the NCAA tournament since 1982. Raymond, however, brought energy, and vigor to a program that was floundering, and in five short years the University had earned national and regional rankings and finished in the top 10 national categories for passes intercepted, tackles for loss, average punt return yards and turnovers gained. Not once, but twice Raymond was named the Liberty Conference Coach of the Year – Williams is in good hands.

Raymond coaching at St. Lawrence (Courtesy of St. Lawrence University).
Raymond coaching at St. Lawrence (Courtesy of St. Lawrence University).

“Williams is a special place,” said Coach Raymond. “They have an outstanding football tradition, great academics and are an overall great quality school whose mission is to matriculate top-notch students.”

The transition to a new head coach is obviously the hardest part for any program. New players, new staff, new systems, new plays…it all feels overwhelming, it might be hard to adjust; but, it seems that the guys over in Williamstown have welcomed Raymond and his philosophies of mental and physical toughness with open arms.

“Everyone has bought into our motto of Williams toughness, and as a result, we have built great trust in Coach,” says Berry’18. “He promised to change the culture of our program and the team has bought into the movement.”

“My goal is not only to develop player skills and win a NESCAC championship, “ Raymond says. “But also to send these boys from college with a degree in their hand and the world saying, ‘what fine gentleman these Williams guys are.’”

Yes, the Ephs are going through a rough patch right now; but all Raymond needs is a little time and patience and Williams will be back on the track. Captain Michael Berry ’18 could not have said it better:

“There is no question Coach Raymond is leading us down the right path. Football is about positively impacting the lives of young men. Teaching principles such as effort, toughness, and doing your job are lessons that we young men will carry with us forever. Winning is simply an outcome that occurs when you play to the best of your abilities with these principles at the forefront of your thoughts. The lasting impact Coach will have on this program and the lives of the young men involved in it, presently and in the future, is here now and is growing every day.”

The NESCAC is looking forward to the resurgence of Williams’s football.

Shake it Up, Shake it Up (Woah-oh-oh!): Week Five Power Rankings

Week Five featured arguably the most surprising result of the season thus far, with Wesleyan affirming their status as a big time contender by shutting out Amherst 20-0.  It feels strange to be writing an article about NESCAC football without Amherst in the top three, but it’s always nice to try new things so let’s see if I can get through it.  The status quo held up in the rest of the league, with Trinity and Middlebury remaining undefeated and no real surprises in the lower levels.  Now without further dudes (cred to Family Guy), let’s get into the Week Five Power Rankings:

 

1.) Trinity (5-0)

To shamelessly borrow from Rory’s flawless research, Trinity has scored between 36 and 38 points every week this season.  Of course, the other end of that stick is that they have yet to play any of the other top teams in the league.  Their only quality win thus far is a 36-28 home win over Tufts, which was an impressive performance to be sure, but not as impressive as Wesleyan or Middlebury’s wins over Amherst.  The Bantams have arguably the three best teams to close out the season, starting with a home game against Middlebury next week that might very well determine the league championship.  Right now Trinity is the best team in the league, with quarterback (and legendary Chicagoan racketeer) Sonny Puzzo ’18 and running back Max Chipouras ’19 both standing as legit POY candidates.  But things could look very different by the end of the season.

2.) Middlebury (5-0)

Last week the Panthers got moved down in the rankings two days after scoring 49 points on the road.  Predictably, they had some gripes, expressed to me in loud voices in the dining hall as I walked back to my table with my chicken and peas.  However, the Panthers  got off to a slow start again this week against one of the lesser teams in the league, trailing Bates 9-0 at the end of the first quarter before rattling off 28 points in a row to put the game away.  Quarterback Jared Lebowitz ‘18 struggled early, throwing two interceptions (although heavy rain may have contributed to the early sloppiness).  The Panthers have now started very slowly in the last two weeks against two teams that are far from Trinity’s level.  These mistakes haven’t mattered against Williams or Bates, but one against Trinity could cost them the NESCAC championship.

3.) Wesleyan (4-1)

Welcome to the top three, Wesleyan!  We’ve been expecting you (here Trinity and Middlebury open the doors to the exclusive “NESCAC Upper Tier” night club, where T-Pain is playing 24/7 and there’s no need to do homework on Saturdays.)  Wesleyan’s defense has been their calling card this season, giving up only 7.2 points per game. However, their offense has stepped up at times as well.  QB Mark Piccirillo ‘19 hasn’t committed a turnover yet this season, and running back committee Lou Stevens ‘17, Dario Highsmith ‘20 and Devin Carrillo ‘17 have given the Cardinals a dynamic running game.  We went most of this season thinking that Wesleyan wasn’t dynamic enough to overcome the offensive firepower of the top teams, but they made us all look pretty foolish last weekend.

4.) Tufts (4-1)

A side effect of the Wesleyan win over Amherst is that Tufts’ win over them in Week One is now a quality win.  The Jumbos have been quietly playing pretty well this season at 4-1, but their quarterback inconsistencies have kept them squarely out of the top tier.  However, Chance Brady proved this weekend that sometimes it doesn’t matter who your quarterback is, so long as you have Smash Williams 2.0 as your running back.  Brady ran away (pun intended) with Offensive Player of the Week honors, putting up 157 yards and four touchdowns.  Brady is the type of player that can carry a team, and he has the chance to really seal up that reputation next week against Amherst.

5.) Amherst (3-2)

Image result for darth vader
“Luke, I am your father. But I am NOT a very good contractor.”

I expected myself to feel very gratified at the prospect of writing a Power Rankings in which I get the pleasure of putting Amherst outside the top three.  It’s something that I have never gotten to do, as Amherst had never lost a football game in my college career prior to this season.  But faced with this opportunity, I feel less gratification and more melancholy.  Stories simply aren’t that fun if there’s no villain.  Imagine if Darth Vader got demoted for failing twice on the Death Star (I mean honestly, the rebels blow up the first one, so he builds the same ship that can be destroyed in the same way?  Just poor logistical planning) and becomes a Storm Trooper.  Or if Voldemort had to retake Beginning Potions.  That is how the league without Amherst dominating feels right now.  Amherst probably has lost the chance to finish at the top this season, as Middlebury and Trinity will most likely not lose another game other than whoever loses their match-up next weekend.  The best they can do now is play out the season and prepare their youngsters to restart the dynasty next season.

6.) Colby (2-3)

The Mules have been battling Bates all season for “Best of the Rest” status, and they took a big step towards sealing that title with a 27-7 shellacking of Hamilton.  Colby’s defense has been a hallmark of their success this season, and this weekend’s performance was no different.  They forced three turnovers, including a fumble that was then returned for a touchdown.  Colby has already played (and lost to) Amherst, Middlebury and Wesleyan, meaning that they have three winnable games left.  The Mules have a good shot at finishing the season .500 or better, which would be a major accomplishment for a program that has struggled mightily for the last few years.

7.) Bates (1-4)

Bates came out very aggressive against the Panthers this weekend, and led 9-0 after the first quarter.  Unfortunately, the Bobcats’ season-long issue of putting together multiple strong drives reared its head again.  After a 48 yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, the Bobcats didn’t score again for the rest of the game, while the Panthers rattled off four touchdowns and put the game far out of reach.  Bates has shown flashes of contention this season, but seem to lack the consistency to make themselves anything more than those brief moments of sunlight on a dark and cloudy day.

8.) Hamilton (1-4)

After the end of last season, in which Hamilton won two of their last three games, many experts (meaning me) thought that they might be primed for a big step forward this season.  However, the Continentals have not quite lived up to their early season promise.  An exciting win over Bowdoin aside, Hamilton has looked very much like the team they have been the last three seasons.  This weekend’s 27-7 loss to Colby was the pinnacle of this disappointing season; Colby is a team that Hamilton simply has to beat if they want to climb out of their perennial losing reputation.

9.) Williams (0-5)

Williams has shown signs of life in the last few weeks, particularly against Middlebury two weekends ago.  However, they also battled Tufts for most of the first half last weekend, and have by and large acquitted themselves well this season, when taking into account the coaching upheaval of the off-season.  The Ephs appear to have discovered a star in versatile end Tyler Patterson ‘19, and have a golden opportunity against Hamilton next weekend to come away with a huge moral victory.

10.) Bowdoin (0-5)

Bowdoin has given up an average of 481 yards per game this season.  That’s 100 yards more than Williams, and by far the worst in the league.  The Polar Bears have been lost at sea on defense for much of 2016, floating on stranded icebergs from the melting Poles.  They do have Bates and Colby left on their schedule, giving them two chances to come out of this season with at least a win.  But as of now, they’re the underdogs in even those match-ups.

Amherst Who?: Week 5 Stock Report 10/24

Week 5 was an interesting week of football in the ‘CAC. While it was exciting for the fans who got to see one of the bigger surprises of the year in Middletown, Connecticut with Wesleyan blowing out Amherst 20-0, there really wasn’t a close game. Every game was a blowout, and the other four outcomes were all relatively predictable, aside from maybe Colby beating Hamilton since they were both one-win teams coming into the weekend. Trinity kept up their streak of scoring between 36 and 38 points (which they have done every week this season), Middlebury kept up their streak of passing for a million yards, and Tufts maintained their undefeated record at home against Williams. Look below to see who performed exceptionally well and whose stock fell this weekend.

 

Stock Up:

Wesleyan Defense

Put on a show for us, Wes! The Cardinal defense leads the league with just 7.2 PPG allowed, making them the only team in the conference holding teams to single digits. This is in large part due to the play of the Wesleyan secondary, as the Cards are tied with Middlebury (another top team – shocker) with a league-high 8 interceptions so far. If you asked me to pick one standout player on the defensive side of the ball, I honestly don’t think I could. This defense is clearly a cohesive unit, and these kids have been absolutely phenomenal for 19 of the 20 quarters of football they’ve played this year (the one standout quarter being the 4th quarter against Tufts). If their defense maintains this high level of play, Wesleyan will find themselves in a position to win the league when they face off with Trinity in Week 8.

 

Tufts RB Chance Brady ‘17

Well, well, well, Week 6 is upon us and Chance Brady is in the discussion for offensive player of the year. Weird, right? Brady dominated Williams this weekend, rushing for 157 yards and 4 touchdownss. Not only did the workhorse back run away with the NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week award, but he also cleaned up on Tufts accolades as well: Chance tied the Tufts record for touchdowns in a single game and also broke the career rushing touchdowns record for the Jumbos, with his current total sitting at 25 TDs. He leads the league in rushing and rushing touchdowns, amassing 119.2 YPG on the ground for a total of 9 trips to the endzone so far. If he keeps this up, Brady may have a chance to win some more hardware at the end of the season…

tweet-on-jumbocast

 

Colby DB Patrick Yale ’19

Patrick Yale was a spark plug for the Mules this weekend (Courtesy of Colby Athletics).
Patrick Yale ’19 was a spark plug for the Mules this weekend (Courtesy of Colby Athletics).

Yale wasn’t named NESCAC defensive player of the week for nothing – he broke up 4 passes and had 4 tackles in Colby’s win over Hamilton this weekend. He had an interception and returned it 40 yards back to the 50 yard line. Later in the game, Yale recovered a fumble and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown. He fought hard all game long for the Mules, and boy did it show in the results. I mean, there’s leaving everything out on the field, and then there’s literally leaving everything out there on the field – Yale chose the latter. He didn’t even have time to celebrate his first quarter touchdown…after running in for the score, Yale headed straight to the sideline to puke. Electric stuff Pat, absolutely electric.

 

Me

I thought about trying to find a way to humle brag about this, but I figured I’d just be very blatant with my brag instead. Following the results from Week 5, the writers’ standings look like this:

1.) Rory (18-2)

2.) Pete (17-3)

2.) Liam (17-3)

2.) Colin (17-3)

2.) Nick (17-3)

6.) Colby (16-4)

7.) Sid (15-5)

 

Try to keep up fellas.

 

Stock Down:

Amherst

It feels like just yesterday that Amherst won their third straight championship. They were on top of the world, and honestly, it didn’t look like anyone in the league knew how to beat them. Well, here we are almost a year later – Amherst is 3-2 and has lost 2 of their last 3 games. They’ve had to deal with injuries of course, but the once feared Lord Jeffs are now just another solid football team that happens to lack a mascot. Are they still one of the better teams in the league? Absolutely. But for a team that has the number of talented runningbacks that Amherst does, putting up 11 rush yards against Wesleyan this weekend is a pretty glaring deficiency. Amherst has a chance to bounce back against a solid Tufts team this coming weekend, but they have yet to beat a top half team in 2016. Saturday’s contest will prove to us just how good the 2016 Amherst Football team really is.

 

Colby RB Jabari Hurdle-Price ‘17

Hurdle-Price was first team All-NESCAC last year and was a preseason all-american coming into the season. Unfortunately, the senior just  hasn’t carried over his production to 2016. After ranking 2nd in rushing last season, Hurdle-Price is currently 12th in the NESCAC in rushing yards. This weekend’s game against Hamilton was pretty telling: sophomore running back Jake Schwern had more carries than Hurdle-Price (11 vs. 10), and Schwern also ran for 40 yards compared to Hurdle-Price’s 13 yards. We have seen Jabari put on an absolute show plenty of times, so I would not be surprised if he has a breakout game or two over the next three weeks, but so far he has just not been able to match last year’s production.

 

Competitiveness in NESCAC Football

The closest results this weekend were a tie between the Tufts-Williams and Bates-Middlebury games. The margin of victory for Tufts and Middlebury in these games was 19 points. This has been a trend all year, especially when we see matchups featuring a battle between one top half and one bottom half team. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that these games are pretty boring to watch. I’m considering writing a letter to NESCAC HQ to suggest some sort of playoff system so that we can watch the best teams play each other multiple times. Anything to increase the quantity of competitive games across the league. If you want to cosign, let me know…

 

Writer Sid Warrenbrand ‘18

Refer to the standings above.

A Monday Morning Reflection: Another Contender in Connecticut?

The Cardinals forced 5 turnovers en route to a 20-0 victory on Saturday (Courtesy of Lianne Yun/Wesleyan Athletics)
The Cardinals forced 5 turnovers en route to a 20-0 victory on Saturday (Courtesy of Lianne Yun/Wesleyan Athletics).

After Wesleyan’s shocking 20-0 beatdown victory over Amherst this weekend, there is now a possibility that the Cardinals can be the outright champions. They’ll need a number of games to go their way, but if Wesleyan wins out they give themselves a very good chance. After their Week 1 fourth quarter collapse to Tufts, no one thought the Cardinals could rebound – their title dreams had been flushed away, and there weren’t many passengers left on the Wesleyan bandwagon. Well, here we are. We’re headed into Week 6 now, and Coach DiCenzo and company are just within reach of the NESCAC crown after their Week 5 victory in Western Mass. I’ve heard through the grapevine that Bill Belichick slept wearing this crown many times during his years at Wesleyan…in other words, it’s sacred and filled with a gargantuan amount of football knowledge and success. No wonder the Cardinals are where they are through 5 games.

Defense was the highlight for Wesleyan as they shutout Amherst for the first time since 2006 (lots of Amherst streaks being broken these days 🙁), and the Cardinals are now leading the NESCAC allowing only 7.2 PPG. They also picked off Amherst quarterback Nick Morales 5 times on Saturday! That’s more INTs than three NESCAC teams have in total this season. Wesleyan has won 4 straight games and have impressively outscored opponents 109-19 (had to pull out the old calculator for that) during this stretch. They are a well-rounded team, armed with a fast paced offense and lock down defense just at the right time.

Okay, now pay attention here. With a likely victory over Bowdoin this weekend Wesleyan will then need Trinity (5-0) to beat Middlebury (5-0), as well as Amherst (3-2) to beat Tufts (4-1).

 

My projected standings following Week 6

1: Trinity (6-0)

2: Middlebury (5-1)

3: Wesleyan (5-1)

4: Amherst (4-2)

5: Tufts (4-2)

 

Assuming my predictions are right, here’s what comes next: in Week 7, Wesleyan will need to beat Williams (yawn), and Amherst will have to beat Trinity, which will then lead to a Week 8 duel between the Cardinals and Bantams for the outright title. Can someone say ratings?

 

My projected standings following Week 7

1: Trinity : (6-1)

2: Middlebury (6-1)

3: Wesleyan (6-1)

4: Amherst (5-2)

5: Tufts (5-2)

 

So, here comes Week 8. Three teams at the top playing one another. What more could we want?! Say that Tufts beats Middlebury – the championship will come down to a Week 8 showdown between Connecticut foes Trinity and Wesleyan. Last year Trinity won the finale against the Cardinals 17-13 in a game where penalties and turnovers stood in the way of a blowout for the Bantams. This year, however? Take away the one bad quarter in Week 1 against Tufts and Wesleyan has arguably been the most dominant team in the CAC this year. Trinity and Middlebury have very good claims to the title of most dominant, but if the rest of the season shakes out the way I’ve outlined above, Wesleyan’s resume will look better and better down the stretch.

What it comes down to is Wesleyan’s execution in this final stretch of the season – this and only this will give them a shot on November 12th. If the Cardinals continue to dominate teams like they have recently it will be one hell of an ending for them. Wesleyan’s defense has become the proven alpha dog, which is no surprise considering Coach DiCenzo’s career. DiCenzo led the defensive unit at Wes for five seasons as defensive coordinator before taking the reigns as head coach in 2015. Offense has been a huge part of the team’s success this year (they’re tied for third in the conference in scoring), but it’s the defense that has put Wesleyan in a terrific position heading into Week 6. I’m not saying it’s going to happen…all I’m saying is don’t spit out your coffee if Week 8 rolls around and you see Wesleyan atop the NESCAC.

Two Remain Unbeaten (For Now): Weekend Preview, 10/21

Wesleyan looks to stay in the title hunt this weekend as they host Amherst (Courtesy of Steve McLaughlin/Wesleyan Athletics)
Wesleyan looks to stay in the title hunt this weekend as they host Amherst (Courtesy of Steve McLaughlin/Wesleyan Athletics)

Welcome to Week 5. The halfway point has come and gone, and we are on to Act 2 of the NESCAC football season. We’ve seen some great football so far in 2016 – great plays, streaks snapping, wild finishes, and incredible athletes. The standings have continued to shake out, and now it’s up to Trinity and Middlebury to maintain their undefeated records until they meet up at The Coop in Week 6. Your eyes shouldn’t be on the undefeated teams this week, however, you should be looking at Amherst and Wesleyan, two 3-1 squads still hoping to be in the hunt for the NESCAC crown – Pete wrote more about this one below. He also included a writeup of Bates-Middlebury, as well as an overdramatic humble brag about how much he knows about Wet Hot American Summer, using it as a lens to look at the Hamilton-Colby game. Scroll down towards the bottom if you’re looking to hear my thoughts on the Trinity-Bowdoin and Williams-Tufts game previews.

Also, for those of you who are interested, here is an update on the standings for our writers’ picks. Sid, figure it out, buddy!!!

1.) Rory (14-1)

1.) Pete (14-1)

1.) Liam (14-1)

4.) Colin (13-2)

4.) Colby (13-2)

4.) Nick (13-2)

7.) Sid (12-3)

 

GAME OF THE WEEK: Amherst (3-1) at Wesleyan (3-1), 1:00 PM, Middletown, Connecticut

Week 5, (yes we’re already in week 5 ) consists of many unbalanced games, but this matchup between Wesleyan and Amherst will eliminate one team’s title hopes and further propel the other’s into week 6. This is what NESCAC football is all about. FANTASTIC opportunity for the Cardinals to not only give Amherst a two loss season (how sweet would that be,) but also to position themselves for a possible tie for first in the league.  Middlebury or Trinity will end up with at least one loss, as they play in a couple weeks, and if Amherst has two losses, Wesleyan could slide into their spot at the top.  Unfortunately, Amherst recently won quite a few games in a row (in case you haven’t heard,) so knocking them off will be no easy task.  Amherst has to be particularly happy with the play of third string quarterback Nick Morales, who was shoved into action by injuries and has been playing very well, including 300 yards and three touchdowns last week against Colby.  Wesleyan will try to keep the Amherst defense guessing with their variety of offensive sets, and keep the powerful Purple and White offense off the field as much as possible.

Rory Ziomek: Amherst 20, Wesleyan 21

Pete Lindholm: Amherst 27, Wesleyan 24

Liam O’Neil: Amherst 21, Wesleyan 17

Colin Tiernan: Amherst 33, Wesleyan 30

Colby Morris: Amherst 31, Wesleyan 17

Sid Warrenbrand: Amherst 27, Wesleyan 10

Nick DiBenedetto: Amherst 38, Wesleyan 13

 

Bates (1-3) at Middlebury (4-0), 1:00 PM, Middlebury, VT.

In the interest of full disclosure: Almost everyone in my family has gone to either Bates or Middlebury. So naturally I’ll be skipping this one to avoid any uncomfortable family moments.  The Panthers’ performance last weekend in Williamstown can be viewed as either comforting or worrying. On the one hand, it’s pretty nice to be able to put up 49 points on a day where you didn’t even play very well. On the other hand, in the first three quarters Williams exposed some holes in Middlebury’s offensive line, and even made Jared Lebowitz look extremely human.  It didn’t hurt the Panthers in the end, as they were able to overwhelm Williams athletically in the fourth quarter, and they will probably be able to do the same to Bates.  However, WIlliams laid out a blueprint to beat Middlebury, and if Bates can follow it, we could be in for a closer one than we expect. Even if Bates can’t do it, you’d better believe that Trinity has that blueprint pasted all over their locker room.

RZ:  Bates 24, Middlebury 31

PL: Bates 14, Middlebury 40

LO: Bates 14, Middlebury 34

CT: Bates 10, Middlebury 40

CM: Bates 20, Middlebury 34

SW: Bates 6, Middlebury 28

ND: Bates 10, Middlebury 38

 

Hamilton (1-3) at Colby (1-3), 12:00 PM, Waterville, Maine

In honor of Waterville, Maine, home of the illustrious Camp Firewood, I will attempt to use as many references to Wet Hot American Summer as possible in this preview. This not a sexy matchup. While Amherst and Wesleyan fight passionately like Andy and Katie, this game is more like Beth and Henry. Two lovable, awkward people making corny small talk and flirting with each other so subtly that neither of them can tell.  But, like saving the camp from the falling piece of Skylab, the stakes of this game are higher than it seems. Colby already has a win this season, and cementing themselves as the best of the bottom tier of the league could give them a recruiting edge to build on for the future. However, Hamilton has a win of their own, and is looking to build on their one game win streak in Saturday’s action. Plus the two teams could agree to meet back in Waterville in ten years at 9:30 to reminisce, and that would be nice. One of these two teams will, like Ben and McKinley, get to experience “The Ultimate” this weekend, and might even come out of it with a gorgeous chaise lounge. But the other team will leave like Arty the Beekeeper, unshowered and covered in dirt, having not left the radio station for one activity period all summer.

RZ: Hamilton 24, Colby 21

PL: Hamilton 9, Colby 7

LO: Hamilton 24, Colby 17

CT: Hamilton 10, Colby 17

CM: Hamilton 21, Colby 17

SW: Hamilton 20, Colby 13

ND: Hamilton 13, Colby 19

 

Trinity (4-0) at Bowdoin (0-4), 12:30 PM, Brunswick, Maine

I don’t really know how to slice it up, but from how the first half of the season has gone, this one features the league’s best team vs. the league’s worst team. Trinity is scoring 37.3 PPG, Bowdoin is putting up just 14.3 PPG. Trinity is allowing only 13.5 PPG, while Bowdoin is allowing 34.5 PPG. Raw stats aren’t everything, but in this case, this is a matchup of an incredible offense vs. a pretty porous defense, and a relatively poor offense vs. a defensive juggernaut. I expect Max Chipouras ‘19 to run for over 100 yards pretty easily, and Sonny Puzzo ‘18 should be able to light up the Bowdoin defense to an even greater extent than he dominated the Tufts passing-D last weekend (20-30 for 273 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT). Eric Sachse ‘19 has been perfect on the year, making all 10 of his field goals that he has has attempted and putting all 16 XPAs through the uprights. If there is a bright spot for the Polar Bears, it’s that they totaled their highest point total of the season against Hamilton last weekend (25), and nearly pulled it out. Unfortunately, I just don’t see Bowdoin upsetting Trinity to ruin their perfect season.

RZ: Trinity 41, Bowdoin 6

PL: Trinity 38, Bowdoin 7

LO: Trinity 45, Bowdoin 10

CT: Trinity 37, Bowdoin 16

CM: Trinity 45, Bowdoin 7

SW: Trinity 42, Bowdoin 13

ND: Trinity 41, Bowdoin 7

 

Williams (0-4) at Tufts (3-1), 1:30 PM, Somerville, Massachusetts

These teams made strides in opposite directions last week, which doesn’t bode well for the host Jumbos. As we’ve noted all week, the score was a little closer at the end than it should have been. After a field goal with 2:32 left, Trinity had a pretty firm grip on the game with a 36-13 lead, but in three plays, Tufts made their way into the endzone. After recovering an onside kick, the Alex Snyder ‘17 threw a 62 yard touchdown pass to Nik Dean ‘17 on the first play of the drive, following up with a 2-point conversion that put Tufts down by just 8. That was as close as the game would get, but for the first 57:28 of the game, Trinity dominated Tufts in pretty much every facet of the game. I’m sure Williams wasn’t thrilled to see Tufts end the game as they were starting to click offensively, but they do have plenty to happy about in relation to their own effort against Middlebury. As Pete noted above, the Ephs gave Midd quite the scare for three quarters, but in the end, the better team pulled away for victory. Regardless of the final score, the competitiveness Williams showed has to be a huge source of confidence for them as they look to upset the Jumbos on Parents Weekend in Somerville. Coach Raymond has to be encouraged by the two-pronged running attack he was able to deploy, featuring backs Connor Harris ‘18 and Noah Sorrento ‘19. Additionally, freshman quarterback Jansen Durham is gaining confidence and comfort, especially with Tyler Patterson ‘19, who pulled in 7 catches for 176 yards against the Panthers last weekend. If Williams shows this dual threat offense this weekend, the Jumbos are going to have to bring their A-game to avoid a big upset.

RZ: Williams 17, Tufts 20

PL: Williams 10, Tufts 14

LO: Williams 3, Tufts 30

CT: Williams 10, Tufts 45

CM: Williams 20, Tufts 24

SW: Williams 6, Tufts 24

ND: Williams 7, Tufts 20

You Want the Crown? Come to the Coop and Take It: Power Rankings 10/19

 

Sean Smerczynski '19 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Sean Smerczynski ’19 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

After this weekend, another one of the big four has fallen, and unfortunately for Tufts, their chances for a league title are much slimmer after facing Trinity. Now, there are just two big dawgs left at the top—Middlebury and Trinity, and heading into week five, it doesn’t look as if one of them will get knocked off of the pedestal. While Middlebury is gunning for the ‘CAC ring, Trinity hasn’t faltered at all this season, posing the biggest threat to the rest of the conference. Week 4 saw little else significant happen, other than a strong performance out of Williams – the Ephs showed me that they can play ball after I questioned them last week. Amherst regained their elite status as they blanked and embarrassed Colby 41-0, Hamilton and Bowdoin each finally played a solid game of football, a good matchup between the lower tier of the NESCAC, and Wesleyan showed Bates why they should be considered in the top tier of the league, finding themselves in second place at the halfway point of the year.

At the halfway point of the year, as pointed out in a previous piece, the tiers of the conference are nearly clear, leaving little up to the imagination as to which teams are still contenders in the title race. I like to think that there are four solid squads that are duking it out—Midd, Tufts, Trinity, and Amherst. Wesleyan is dragging their team into the conversation, although I think that they have had the weakest strength of schedule so far out of the previously mentioned teams. As far as the lower tier goes, Bates seems to be the best of the rest as they have had a number of close games against good teams, but I digress as we go more into detail in this week’s power rankings:

 

1.) Trinity (4-0)

As a Panther fan, how could I possibly drop Middlebury down a spot in a week that they won? Well, Trinity simply has played better so far this year, and has been pretty much flawless every week. While the final score indicated that Tufts played them closely, Trinity completely controlled the game on their way to their fourth win, and the Bantams haven’t really been challenged thus far, especially impressive due to the way Tufts looked before this past weekend. Trinity scores points and lots of them. While QB Sonny Puzzo ‘18 had a solid game with 273 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT, it definitely wasn’t his strongest game. But the Bantams had plenty left behind their signal caller to pick up the little slack he left as Eric Sachse ’20 went a perfect 5/5 on field goals, and Max Chipouras did what he does and ran for nearly 100 yards and another TD. Trinity doesn’t really need a good defense since they score so many points, but they just happen to have a terrifying secondary as Archi Jerome ‘17 picked up his second pick of the year and Tufts went just 9-23 in the air on Saturday. Yes, I do think Midd’s win against Amherst is more impressive than Trinity’s against Tufts, but Trinity did so with more conviction, and lacks weakness in all facets of the game. I wouldn’t want to be a visitor in the Coop; they are the team to beat.

 

2.) Middlebury (4-0)

As the second ranked team in the ‘CAC, there is little parity here between the top two spots as each squad is deserving of the throne due to their near perfection thus far. While the Panthers did just finish their fourth win in as many chances, they didn’t coast to the finish line nearly as easily as I had expected. Williams looked really bad in their first three games, and for all I know they weren’t as bad as the box scores showed—I haven’t seen them play, but nonetheless, at the end of the third quarter a 28-23 score is not what I predicted. Jared Lebowitz had another great day from the pocket—not as good as his first two games—but still, 290 yards, four passing TD’s, and one rushing TD is something to feel good about. Through 4 games he now has 17 TD’s and just 3 INT’s. Not bad. Diego Meritus also showed us what he is capable of on the ground, rushing for 122 yards and a TD. Conrado Banky and Ryan Rizzo keep finding the end zone as they each had two scores, showing how dangerous this offense is too. Three interceptions on Williams is an impressive statistic too, but I couldn’t shake how close the game was so late. Yeah, they fell to #2, big deal. Lebowitz might break Peyton Manning’s TD record in just 8 games.

 

3.) Amherst (3-1)

Well what could’ve been a moment for panic from Amherst turned out to be one of resilience as they rallied back to shut Colby out 41-0. Colby isn’t very good, but a shutout in football is noteworthy. They allowed 112 yards of total offense, 87 passing yards, two INT’s, forced a fumble, and had seven sacks. This makes a statement about their defensen- they are scary good. Who cares if Nick Morales is a third string QB, he is clearly good enough to start in this league. 323 yards, 3 TD’s, and no picks is a great performance for anybody at any level, and he shows that guys like Alex Moran really can play if they find the starting lineup. The Purple and White have a real shot at taking a share of the league crown if they win when they need to, and put it all together for their Trinity game. They still might party at the Goathouse after week eight.   

 

4.) Tufts (3-1)

After their loss against Trinity, I think the Jumbos have a much slimmer chance at getting back up to the top. They managed to make it a close game at the end, but after four weeks, it seems that they might not be able to trade blows with the heavyweights just yet. They are still solid, but at this point if Vegas cared about the NESCAC, Tufts wouldn’t be favored in their remaining tougher games against Middlebury and Amherst, especially considering those games are on the road. The biggest knock on Tufts is that since the ‘CAC is generally a QB dominated league, their lack a dominant QB puts them at a disadvantage. Alex Snyder ‘17 and Ryan McDonald ‘19 have only thrown for 4 total touchdowns this year, less than Lebowitz’s average total per game. They can run the ball well, but against Amherst, running the ball isn’t going to be the winning formula as the former Lord Jeffs own the ground. Tufts will need to make great strides to leap up the ladder back into the company of the top dawgs.  

 

5.) Wesleyan (3-1)

Similar to Tufts, I’m simply just not sure if Wesleyan will be able to compete against the top NESCAC teams, seeing as they also lost to Tufts earlier in the season. They still have a lot of season left and could potentially make their season with upset wins, but their loss week one is going to come back to bite them. Mark Piccirillo ‘19 didn’t have a big game at all in what seemed to be a convincing win against Bates after the Cardinals got out to a 21-0 lead. Piccirillo threw for just 168 yards and if not for receiver Andrew Mehr, he might not have gotten anything going in the air. The Cardinals’ defense played well, stopping the Bobcat sparkplug Sandy Plashkes, but didn’t have any turnovers to show for it. Wesleyan is a better team than Bates, but I’m not convinced that they can beat any team left on their schedule besides Bowdoin.

 

6.) Williams (0-4)

The remaining five teams are ranked solely off of momentum. None of the remaining five teams have more than one win and are essentially battling it out to not get the ‘Sacko’ of the NESCAC. Still, how can a winless team be ranked sixth on my rankings? Well, seeing as Williams is the only team that has put up a solid game against one of the top teams in the league, they have earned the honors. They still certainly have a long way to go, as they once again are obviously winless, but they were down only five points going into the fourth quarter (it would’ve been only three if they converted a two point conversion) against Middlebury, thanks to a huge resurgent performance from Tyler Patterson, going for 176 yards receiving and two scores. They did lose to Bates and Colby earlier in the season, two teams that I ranked lower than the Ephs, but this improvement shows what their A+ football can look like, and they still have some easy games left on their schedule. If Jansen Durham faces up against a weaker defense, he should be able to avoid turning the ball over (3 INTs) and could easily lead his team to a couple wins after showing big playmaking ability with the 79 yard TD pass he threw to start the game. I expect them to start racking up some wins in the final half of the season, .

 

7.) Hamilton (1-3)

Hamilton finally got their first win, but isn’t ranked higher because it was against Bowdoin. Hamilton looked really weak in their first three games, but they are coming off of a big win, which must be a relief to the Continentals. The 25 points they allowed to Bowdoin were the least they allowed all year, but they showed that their offense can at least put up some numbers. Freshman QB Kenny Gray took over for the struggling Cole Hamilton after he threw two INT’s, and once the door opened, the young gun burst onto the scene as a potential weapon. He went 19-32 for 303 yards and a TD pass, and also rushed for a score, equalling Hamilton’s cumulative season points all by himself. Gray gives Hamilton a glimmer of hope for the future.

 

8.) Bates (1-3)

This is a tough spot for Bates to be in, as it seems that they have regressed from the progress that they made early on in the season. We’ve talked plenty about how Bates relies on QB Sandy Plashkes, and how if he plays well, the Bobcats are capable of playing up to some of the better teams. However, in Week 4 we saw the signal caller perform poorly against Wesleyan, throwing for a TD but only 71 yards in the air. 132 yards of total offense isn’t going to cut it. The Bates linebackers are solid, led by Mark Upton who has three sacks, 30 total tackles, and a forced fumble on the year, but aren’t quite strong enough to carry the team. I may have set Bates’ ceiling a little too high earlier this season, although I still think they are the best of the Maine teams.

 

9.) Colby (1-3)

I know that Colby has won a game, and might feel slighted that they are a few spots behind Williams, but their inability to get on the scoreboard against Amherst isn’t helping their case. They put up pretty much no offensive numbers this past weekend. Amherst has one of the best defenses in the league, but a shutout in football is not something to be overlooked, no matter who it is against. QB Christian Sparacio threw for just 65 yards and they rushed for just 0.9 yards per carry (including sacks). They seem to have slowly crept towards the bottom of these rankings week by week as their best game of the year was in their Week 1 win against Williams, followed by a not so horrible loss to Middlebury, an ugly loss to Wesleyan, and this 41-0 blowout. Their next two games are against weak opponents—Hamilton and Bates—so if they deserve to jump up in the rankings, it will become obvious.

 

10.) Bowdoin (0-4)

Ouch. Tenth out of ten in the power rankings is not where any team wants to be, and Bowdoin keeps getting closer to a win, but to no avail. They continue to lower their margin of defeat week by week, but aren’t getting any luck with their early strength of schedule. They have already faced 3/4 of the top ranked teams in the league and aren’t getting any bones thrown their way with their week five matchup against Trinity. Their second half of the year could be much easier after this coming week, but there still aren’t a whole lot of positives coming from

Brunswick, Maine. Cameron Rondeau ’19 had a huge day against the Continentals with 9 tackles and a pick 6, but even on the offensive side, Bowdoin never really put it together. QB Noah Nelson hasn’t been bad, but hasn’t had any great games either as he is averaging 161 yards passing per game and has a 4:3 TD:INT ratio. Bowdoin has some work to do, but if they keep playing close games, one will roll their way eventually.