And then there were two. With Jared Lebowitz’s absence, Middlebury pose no threat to Trinity, losing 27-5, making the NESCAC a two team race between the Bantams (7-0) and Amherst (6-1). With two games to go in the 2017 season, there is another championship game looming ahead for week eight. As Pete mistakenly predicted and deemed the Midd/Trinity game the quasi-NESCAC championship, Amherst took care of business against Tufts 31-26 and now put all their chips into this decisive week. The results from my weekend preview were as predicted except for an even smaller challenge from the underdogs than I thought there would be. With some competitive games the last few weeks, players’ true colors are showing and here’s the scoop:
The Bantams game against Middlebury showed the rest of the conference two things: 1. Trinity is not just a favorite for the championship on the season, but a dominant team, ripping the heads off of everything in their path. 2. In the presence of a red-hot Panther secondary, they adjusted and totally shifted to a ground heavy offense, letting Chipouras take over. Yes, Chipouras is the best back in the league right now, but that doesn’t mean he can’t get better. He didn’t even score a touchdown, letting Sonny Puzzo put the final touches on two different drives, but 182 yards is ridiculous. He was a work horse last weekend, running the ball 33 times, an NFL caliber workload. While both Amherst and Trinity have challenging schedules for week nine (vs. Williams and Wesleyan, respectively), the rings should go to the winning team this weekend. On that note, Amherst’s rush defense is the biggest obstacle in Trinity’s undefeated quest, and Chipouras has what it takes to take them home to 8-0 after this week.
2018 Bobcat Football
Bates’ season was lost from the get go as their six game losing streak will define their year. However, they admirably play 100% week in and week out, and look to build momentum going into next season. What better way to do that than to win their Maine rivalry games and take the CBB Consortium home with them? They love to run the ball, and finally have a future QB who could take them to the promise land and follow their style at the same time. Brendan Costa is getting better from week to week, winning the job under center, and controlling the offense. His passing game is by far the weakest aspect of his skill set, although he did avoid any turnovers against Colby (0-7), bringing them to a 27-24 win and a 1-6 record on the season. He looked like a more ethical and humane version of Michael Vick (I’m sure he loves dogs—I wouldn’t suggest otherwise in a liberal arts audience), rushing for 155 yards on 26 attempts. Once he gets to be a more disciplined passer, this could turn into a dynamic offense.
I wrote Amherst off in the championship race after they lost to Midd, but they are still sticking around. Defensive touchdowns by Middlebury lost them that game, but their defense has been exceptional all season, even with a slightly below average performance against Tufts. Their ability to stop the run all season has been impressive, although slightly lacking last week. Their secondary played great against a strong Ryan McDonald, not too far off of Sonny Puzzo caliber. Jack Hickey and QB Ollie Eberth both found the end zone and significant running room, with their three top receivers all hauling in at least four catches for over 80 yards. Even Reece Foy got in on the action with a second quarter TD pass. They have the talent in all parts of the game to overtake Trinity in their one meet up, even if they are the underdogs. It will be particularly interesting to see how Foy is used against the Bantams, mixing up the style from Eberth and adding in lots of experience. They still have a shot to win it all, folks.
Full Hearts for Middlebury
I’m not quite sure how Coach Taylor of Dillon would feel about Middlebury’s performances against Trinity and Williams. They lost a heartbreaker to the Ephs, I’ll give them that, but they still had a ch
ance to go for the rings against the Bantams. In a situation where they lost senior star QB Jared Lebowitz to injury (aka the Jason Street of these Panthers), giving junior Jack Merservy (aka Matt Saracen) his chance to become the future QB, they came up way short. I’m not blaming Merservy, as he made some good plays even with his mistakes, but the fight in a win or go home game just wasn’t there. The rush defense went home early, dominated all game by both Puzzo and Chipouras. In their second straight year losing 2/3 games with championship hopes on the line, these last two weeks will show their true colors. They looked like they didn’t care for most of their final game against Tufts in 2016, coming out flat until a late comeback attempt that fell short. They should be able to beat Hamilton (2-5) even if they show up half asleep, but might be in for another final game trouncing by the Jumbos if they don’t get their priorities straight.
Tufts is free falling in the standings and now are only 4-3 on the season. While they aren’t in danger of falling below .500, only because playing Colby is an assured win, their defense looked really vulnerable against Amherst. They allowed three rushing TDs, over 300 passing yards, and didn’t force any turnovers. They only tallied one sack on the day and might come into week nine against Middlebury in a who-wants-to-lose-it-more matchup. They have been great at rushing the QB all season, second in sacks to Amherst with 26, showing how uncharacteristically poorly they played against the Mammoths. They really just didn’t show up, similarly to Middlebury’s defensive line, in a game that ultimately didn’t mean anything for them other than for pride. Lets hope they don’t embarrass themselves against Colby.
Time for the worthy to shine and the hesitant to stumble. We are now down to eight of the finest squads in the country to battle it out for ‘Cac supremacy, and there will be no cakewalks for any team from here on out (looking at you, Tufts). This quarterfinal round presents some appealing and somewhat dangerous matchups, producing an element of added pressure that so often cripples a team’s fate in playoff soccer.
Williams (6) at Bowdoin (3), 12:30 PM
Bowdoin opens up their playoffs at home against a solid Williams team. In their first game matching up in September, the Polar Bears were able to secure a win with a late goal in the second half at home; that being said, these two teams match up very closely together. Despite Bowdoin being higher ranked in the playoff seedings, these two squads have had eerily similar seasons from a statistical point of view. They each have scored 18 goals while Bowdoin has conceded 8 compared to Williams’ 9. Despite the substance of their overall campaigns being almost identical, Bowdoin has managed to score almost two goals for every goal conceded in conference, while Williams scored one for every one against in NESCAC play. What I can garner from this is that Bowdoin has, to this point in the season, performed better against the higher quality teams compared to their Ephs opponent.
Bowdoin will have to keep relying on their stalwart defense, led by recent conference player of the week and goalkeeper Stevie Van Siclen ’18. The senior keeper has continued to be a reliable force in the net and will look to get a clean sheet in front of his home crowd. Offensively, senior Ethan Ellsworth ’18 will attempt to generate the offense for the Polar Bears, leading the team in points in the regular season.
The Ephs need to find a way to create some chances on Saturday, looking to senior Mark Sisco-Tomoleo ’18 and sophomore Bobby Fabricant ’20 to open up the play for this Williams side. In order for the Ephs to truly take advantage of Bowdoin in hostile Brunswick territory, they must take the game to the Polar Bears and pounce on them early.
Prediction: Williams 1 – Bowdoin 2
Hamilton (7) at Amherst (2), 1:00 PM
The defending conference champion Mammoths will seek to open up their title defense in the opening round of the playoffs this upcoming Saturday. Up to this point in the season, Amherst has put on an offensive display, scoring 31 goals in their 15 games played. What they will need to be cautious of is their sometimes vulnerable defense, as they were only fifth in fewest goals allowed in the conference. On the other side, the Continentals come into this game having let up the ninth fewest goals per game, meaning that if Amherst is executing their plays, the Mammoths could easily take advantage of the at-times frail Hamilton defense. In their opening matchup, and to the surprise of many, the Continentals were able to squeak out a tie against the Amherst squad. However, I bet the Mammoths will be looking to get their revenge, especially on their home turf.
For Amherst, they will need to look to standout freshman Sebastian Derby ’21, who leads the team in goals and overall points. This matchup is a good chance for Derby to get a taste of his first collegiate playoff run.
On the other side, Hamilton will call on sophomore Aidan Wood ’20 to direct this offense. If the Continentals want to make a statement in these playoffs, knocking off the defending champs would be a good start.
Prediction: Hamilton 0 – Amherst 2
Middlebury (5) at Connecticut College (4), 2:00 PM
The #4 and #5 seeds square off in this opening round of the playoffs in New London this upcoming Saturday. The Camels will look to prove why they are one of the most dominant forces in the conference, and according to their regular season stats, they are statistical stars. Conn lets in an average of about 1 goal every 2 games, while scoring about 2 times for every single game played; they are also tied for second in the conference in goals scored. I see an issue for the Panthers in this matchup, seeing as they usually give up as many goals as they score, which is definitely not a recipe for success entering the playoffs with these powerful opposing teams. In their meeting during the regular season, Conn beat the Panthers 2-1 in Vermont. If they were able to beat Middlebury away in their NESCAC opener, I have no reason to doubt that they will bring an even fiercer gameplay to the Panthers on their home field in front of a playoff crowd.
For Conn, Ben Manoogian ’19 will look to continue his exceptional play, with his team-leading 17 points. Defensively, the Camels stick freshman A.J. Marcucci ’21 between the posts, as he ranks third in the conference in saves.
As for Middlebury, the key to their offense will be sophomore Drew Goulart ’20, who leads the team in both assists (3) and goals (4). He will need to step up and try to score in front of a raucous Camel crowd.
Score Prediction: Middlebury 0 – Conn. College 2
Bates (8) at Tufts (1), 2:30 PM
The last matchup we have for you this weekend is between top-seeded Tufts and eighth-seeded Bates. Looking at the numbers, Tufts has been unstoppable this year. They have let up 1 goal the whole season, and are also leading the conference in goals per game. Their only hiccup this season came against a stingy Amherst squad, but they stepped on the throttle only harder for the second half of the season. For Bates, I think they are just enjoying the ride up to this point. They had an unbelievable win in double OT (scoring with less than 30 seconds left) against Colby to squeak into the playoffs. Hopefully they can ride that excitement into the quarterfinals and try to put up a fight against this extremely talented Jumbos squad. In their matchup during the regular season, Bates managed to put up a good fight, but lost 1-0 on their home field.
For Tufts, it is hard to name just one player that will be the key to their success. They have senior Dexter Eichhorst ’18, sophomore Gavin Tasker ’20, and senior keeper Bruce Johnson ’18, who has yet to let in a goal all season.
As for the Bates squad, they have the conference leader in points in Nate Merchant ’21, and also defensive lockdown stud Morgan Dewdney ’19. Hopefully these two can will this Bobcats team to a strong effort against this Tufts powerhouse.
One of the results of the lack of parity in the NESCAC football (and of course the lack of a playoff system) is that every year there is a regular season game that serves as a de facto “Super Bowl” for the league. The two best teams in the league meet in a game that pretty much decides who will finish with the best record in the league. The 2017 iteration of that game is this weekend, when 6-0 Trinity travels down to Alumni Field to take on 5-1 Middlebury.
Trinity has spent the whole season as the best team in the league. They have gutted out defensive battles against the two high quality opponents they’ve played (Williams and Tufts) and have absolutely blasted lower tier teams, including a 63 point performance against Bowdoin last weekend. However, Williams was able to make their offense look very fallible. They did this by using a strong defensive front to shut down star RB Max Chipouras ’19. Chipouras only had 80 yards on 28 carries against the Ephs, by far his least efficient performance of the season. Shutting down Chipouras forces QB Sonny Puzzo ’18 to play more traditionally, instead of running outside the pocket and making big plays. Puzzo is easily good enough to do this and win (as Williams saw,) but it eliminates a huge part of their offense.
Unfortunately, the Trinity defense has yet to look fallible. They have forced 16 turnovers on the season, and have players all over the field who are threats to turn those turnovers into touchdowns. They don’t have any real statistical standouts on the defensive end–although that is in large part due to the fact that their starters rarely play fourth quarters–but LB Liam Kenneally ’18 is terrific in coverage and in stopping the run game. And more importantly for the match up with Jared Lebowitz ’18 and the pass-happy Panthers is their dominant secondary. Dominique Seagears ’18 is one of the most dangerous coverage men in the league, with two interception return touchdowns to his credit. He and Samier Madden ’19 form a duo that should give Lebowitz trouble like Lionel Richie would–all night long.
As dominant as Trinity has been, Middlebury has been equally so, except for a fatal five minute stretch in the fourth quarter against Williams. Middlebury’s offense is based around Lebowitz and his squadron of speedy, tall receivers, and it is a well oiled machine when all the pieces are healthy. Middlebury averages the second most points and yards per game (second to Trinity, but still,) and that is despite a mediocre rushing attack. That is also despite a schedule that has included Williams and Amherst, two of the three best defenses in the league by any statistical measure. Against Amherst, who leads the league in sacks and is second in yards per game, Lebowitz threw three touchdowns and was only sacked twice. That is what makes this game so exciting; these two teams are both best suited to beat each other. Just as it should be in the Super Bowl.
Key Player for Middlebury: LB Aaron Slodowitz ’18
This pick is a very optimistic one. Lebowitz left the Bates game halfway through with an ankle injury, forcing backup Jack Meservy ’19 to fill in, which he did admirably. If Lebowitz is out, Meservy immediately becomes the key, as Middlebury cannot win this game without a great QB performance. But on the assumption that Lebowitz will play, Slodowitz and the rest of the linebackers become the key. Much of Middlebury’s defensive success rests on the backs of the three star senior linebackers; Slodowitz, Wesley Becton ’18 and John Jackson ’18. Becton and Jackson are particularly valuable in coverage, leaving Slodowitz free to crush running backs. Which he does with aplomb. Having fully recovered from a knee injury last season, Slodowitz had 18 tackles against the run-dominant Bates and leads the team with 46 overall. He doesn’t get in the backfield much, with 0 sacks on the year, but Becton and DL Alex Norton ’20 handle that. Slodowitz simply tackles dudes, and as Williams showed the league, the way to hang with Trinity is tackle one dude; Max Chipouras.
Key Player for Trinity: WR Koby Schofer ’20
Assuming that Middlebury succeeds in slowing down Chipouras considerably, Trinity will have to throw the ball, especially to keep up with the Panthers breathless, pass-heavy scheme. This brings up the closest thing that Trinity has to a weakness; they really only have one weapon in the passing game, and that is Schofer. He is quite a weapon, however. Despite playing very little in the blowout of Bowdoin (as was the case with several Bantam starters,) Schofer is still fourth in the league in receptions with 35 and fifth in yards with 508. Schofer is actually quite similar to Middlebury WR Conrado Banky ’19. They are both smaller receivers who beat often larger defenders with quickness and terrific hands. The difference is that Middlebury has other receivers to pick up the slack from Banky (or replace him if he’s injured.) Schofer is so far and away Trinity’s best pass catcher that Middlebury will most likely double team him. In a game that is shaping up to be an aerial affair, Schofer is going to have to get around those double teams and give Puzzo a solid target.
Conrado Banky has missed two games in a row, and his status for this one is very much in doubt. If he misses the game, Middlebury will be again looking for big performances from Maxwell Rye ’20 and Jimmy Martinez ’19, two large, fast targets for Lebowitz. Additionally, TE Frank Cosolito ’20 will be a big part of the passing attack. Cosolito has improved every week, and has a knack for showing up in big games. He had six catches for 58 yards and TD against Amherst. If Banky does play, all these guys will be key supplementary targets, and the Middlebury offense may well be unstoppable.
Special teams are going to be a key part of this game. Trinity K Eric Sachse ’19 is one of the best in the league (5/8 FG and 26/28 XP,) giving their offense a dimension in close games that many other teams don’t have. Additionally, Colin Beaulieu ’21 is a dangerous return man whom Middlebury has to watch out for. Of course, he is nowhere near as dangerous as Jimmy Martinez. Martinez has two of the four return touchdowns in the whole league this year, and the only kickoff return touchdown. Even when he doesn’t score, Martinez is constantly putting Middlebury in terrific field position, either through returns or by forcing bad kicks due to teams trying to avoid him. On the other end, P/WR Maxwell Rye has a huge leg, and often pinned Williams deep in their own territory. He will have to do this against Trinity, as giving them a short field is a death sentence. This is the kind of game that should come down to a single play, and that play may well be on special teams. In case you couldn’t tell, I’m very excited. I hope you all are as well.
Predicted Score:* Middlebury 27, Trinity 24
*This prediction is made with the assumption that Lebowitz is healthy and will play.
As the GOAT of all GOATs Herm Edwards once said, “Playoffs?!?!?” Indeed, the season of single elimination is upon us. This time last year Williams was heading into the playoffs as the dominant force in the league only to lose in cinderella fashion to Trinity. There’s a definitive answer as to why the NFL playoffs, World Cup, and March Madness are more fun to watch than other playoff games: they’re single elimination. Anything can happen. The NESCAC is such a strong conference that any one of these teams can make a bid at a national championship. Let’s look at this weekend’s quarter final match ups.
Amherst College (7) vs. Connecticut College (2), 11:30 AM
Connecticut College was shocked by Bowdoin last Saturday in an abysmal 2-0 loss. The high powered offense of the Camels just couldn’t get going. A loss going into the playoffs doesn’t bode well for the team because of shaken confidence. However, the Camels are the number two seed for a reason. All year they’ve proved to the league why they’re one of its best teams. The opponent, however, should scare the Camels. Amherst is 3-1 in its past three games. In any time of struggle or doubt, individuals turn to people they can depend on. Conn’s Michelle Medina ‘18 and Lauren Steele ‘18 are those people. The senior midfielders lead their team in scoring, while providing leadership as well. As noted in earlier articles, Conn is a diverse team filled with young playmakers and veterans. Look for the seniors to set the tone for the Camels. Hannah Guzzi ‘18 barely squeaked Amherst into the playoffs. A disappointing regular season almost kept Amherst out of it all together. Guzzi’s astonishing eleven goals allowed Amherst to obtain a coveted playoff spot. Now that they’re here, the team can’t fully rely on Guzzi if she’s shutdown. I think Conn will be too much for Amherst.
Prediction: Connecticut College 1-0.
Hamilton (6) vs. Middlebury (3), 12:00 PM
Middlebury did what Conn and Tufts couldn’t: beat Williams. The shocker gives Middlebury all the confidence in the world. Midd isn’t a flashy team that depends on scoring at a high rate. In fact, its offensive metrics are mediocre at best. The team simply wins games, however. Beating Wesleyan on a late cross in overtime and squeaking out a tight win against Williams show that Midd is a force to be reckon with because it plays a full ninety minutes. Eliza Van Voorhis ‘21, Virginia Charman ‘20, and Sabrina Glaser ‘20 are tied with a team leading eleven points thus far in the season. Hamilton is 4-2-1 in its last seven games. The team’s strong play is a result of stellar goalkeeping by Emily Dumont ‘18. Dumont’s 0.57 GAA is outstanding, and is a major reason why the team has played so well. Similar to Midd, Hamilton doesn’t have one player that dominates the offensive output. Therefore, it’s tough as an opponent to focus on whom to shut down. I like the way both teams are playing, but Midd is just too strong down the stretch.
Prediction: Middlebury College 2-1
Bowdoin College (8) vs. Williams College (1), 12:00 PM
Bowdoin has been a sleeper the entire season. Many people, including myself, wrote the team off at the halfway point. The Polar Bears handily beat Conn in a 2-0 fashion. This fact should scare Williams. Earlier in the year, the Camels almost pulled off the upset against the Ephs, only to be denied by an Eph corner kick in overtime. The Polar Bears are led by Morgen Gallagher ‘20, who has eleven points on the season. The sophomore F/M is a playmaker, dishing out five assists and scoring four goals. Williams doesn’t want last year repeating itself. Like I said in the introduction, single game elimination scares the Ephs. Like Herb Brooks stated, “If we play them [Soviets] ten times, they may win nine. But not this game. Not tonight.” Any team playing the Ephs know that they could pull off the miracle. Williams has to stick to its game plan and play its game. That being strong defensive play with aggressive steps by defenders and crisp passing. The Ephs generally don’t make too many mistakes, but they can’t start the game flat. Building a lead early on in a playoff game is a necessity and confidence builder. Alison Lu ‘20 and Natasha Albaneze ‘18 lead the team with sixteen points. I don’t see the Ephs letting last year or last Saturday against Midd repeat itself.
Prediction: Williams 2-0
Trinity (5) vs Tufts (4), 12:00 PM
I picked Tufts to beat Williams last week because the Jumbos were hot. Instead, they got trounced by the Ephs in an embarrassing fashion. The Jumbos had all the momentum in the world until they ran into the Ephs. The Bo’s need to remember that they’re still a really strong team. A 1-0 win against Bowdoin on Tuesday should remind them that. Like all year, Emily Bowers ‘19 has led the team; she continues to be at the top of the league in all goalkeeper metrics, along with Williams’ Olivia Barnhill. Bowers must continue to be the best Jumbo on the field if they want to make a deep run into the playoffs. After a shaky start to the season, the Bantams are coming into the playoffs hot. 4-1-1 in their last six games is a great accomplishment with playoffs starting right now. Tricia Pollock ‘20 has been the woman I’ve mentioned in all Trinity articles as the key to the Bantam’s success. She’s the leader in points for the Bantams, and will be the difference maker for them down the stretch. Picking the hot team in the playoffs is the smart choice, however. I’m going with the Bantams.
It felt like it would never end, but the first six weeks of NESCAC football and the atrociously mismatched scheduling that came with it are in the past. With the exception of a couple of recent games, there have been few results that have made a serious impact on the league’s landscape. If this was a season of Game of Thrones, this upcoming week would be Episode 9, the penultimate episode of each season when everything hits the fan and we are left absolutely stunned. Everything is about to get a whole lot more interesting.
Yawn. Did anyone expect anything different? Trinity rolled Bowdoin 63-14 on Saturday, putting up 49 points in the first half while having the ball for barely 10 minutes. They took their foot off the gas after that and were able to give Max Chipouras ’19 and the rest of the starters an early shower in advance of next week’s tilt against Middlebury, but this was the type of Trinity performance that reminded people why they are a cut above the rest of the league right now. They’ve taken care of their business week in and week out and still sit in the driver’s seat. Needless to say, their trip to Middlebury this week is their biggest test of their season, but they continue to check all of the boxes of a championship team.
The Panthers return to the number 2 spot following an equally comfortable win over Bates, a game in which they jumped out to a 27-0 lead and never looked back. 10 different Panther receivers caught passes, but their biggest concern is that they caught them from two different quarterbacks as Jared Lebowitz ’18 was knocked out of the game in the second quarter with some sort of lower body injury. While the game was already out of doubt, any fan of the league should hope it was merely a precaution, because without a healthy Lebowitz, Middlebury’s already slim chances of beating Trinity will be far slimmer. It’s do or die for Midd this week and they need to play their best game to put themselves in the driver’s seat for the NESCAC title.
Perhaps the biggest winner of the week was the Mammoths, who knocked off Wesleyan in a come from behind 21-17 win in Amherst. Their then league leading offense never really got going, but Hasani Figueroa ’18’s 51 yard run with 1:27 left was enough to secure them their biggest win of the year to date. What was most impressive about this win was their ability to win a dirty, tight, defensive game. They scored less than 30 points for the first time all year but held Wesleyan’s offense to 197 total yards. The Picarillo-Breuler combination was completely shut down and although no one stood out offensively for Amherst, Andrew Yamin ’19 was an absolute monster on the other side of the ball, making 12 tackles—including 4.5 sacks. Being able to get that type of pressure next week against dual threat Ryan McDonald ’18 will be crucial if they want to get out of Somerville with a win, and the road doesn’t get any easier with Trinity and Williams to finish out the season, but Amherst is now one of the 3 teams with a shot at winning the league. I certainly wouldn’t count them out.
A big time bounce back week for Tufts, traveling to Williams and extinguishing a red hot Ephs squad. Ryan McDonald ’18 had a big time bounce back game, throwing for 336 and running for an additional 55. But the story of this one, and not for the first time, was the Tufts front 7, who were absolutely everywhere on Saturday, particularly in the Ephs backfield, racking up another 4 sacks to bring their total on the year to 25. It was consistent pressure from Micah Adickes ’18, Doug Harrison ’18 and co., as Bobby Maimaron ’21 was never really able to settle in, and in turn their offense could never really get going. It was a gritty road performance like this that reminded everyone why Tufts is such a good team in the first place. They have so much talent on defense, and their offense is starting to find a steady balance in ways to beat you. McDonald ’18 was his usual slippery self on the ground, but the way they were able to mix in Mike Pedrini ’20 on key short yardage plays was what allowed them to target big play threat Jack Dolan ’19 to the tune of 5 catches, 119 yards, and a touchdown. Other than Trinity, there is not an offense in the league right now that can boast this type of balance. Additionally, this is an experienced, senior-laden team, and I expect that to play a big role as they look towards the final stretch of their season, which, like everybody else, doesn’t get any easier.
A bit of a deflating loss for Williams, as they too had championship aspirations following their buzzer beating win at Middlebury. Instead, they join the pack of 2 loss teams looking to finish out their season strong. As I mentioned previously, Tufts’ front 7 kept this offense in check for nearly all of the game, holding them to 13 points on 299 yards of total offense. One of the things that had made freshman standout Bobby Maimaron so successful was his ability to stay out of trouble, keeping plays alive with his legs and making other smart decisions that were key to their only taking 2 sacks through their first 5 games. But Tufts was able to get a steady stream of pressure all day long, limiting his options and consistently putting them in long yardage situations.
While it is only one loss and
doesn’t warrant an overreaction, there is cause for a little bit of concern in Williamstown. With top running back Connor Harris ’18 out for the year with a broken collarbone, this dynamic offense all of a sudden has a look of one dimensionality in the name of Frank Stola ’21, their big play wide receiver. TJ Dozier ’21 has been a strong deputy out of the backfield but will now need to step up as their feature back if they hope to continue putting up points.
Additionally, while any number of Eph wideouts have shown the ability to contribute, someone needs to emerge as a strong number 2 to Stola ’21 so that they can continue to hurt teams with their fast paced passing attack. Adam Regensburg ’18 and Justin Nelson ’21 are the two most likely candidates for that role, and a home game versus Hamilton is the perfect opportunity for them to figure it out, but with Little 3 foes Wesleyan and Amherst looming, this young breakout team will need to earn what they hope will be an equally strong finish to an already impressive season.
Last week I wrote that Wesleyan has the offensive capability to beat anyone, and they certainly didn’t do that on Saturday. Mark Picarillo ’19 was held to 129 passing yards and 0 touchdown passes, as Andrew Yamin ’19 and the rest of the Amherst defense sacked him 10 times. Their defense was impressive, as they had held the league’s top offense to 7 points through 3 quarters, but ran out of gas in the 4th when Amherst scored twice to eventually take the game. Picarillo ’19 was only able to find standout WR Mike Breuler ’18 3 times for 57 yards on a day for the offense to forget. The Cardinals will have a pretty good chance to clinch a winning record on the year when they play Bowdoin next week, but with Williams and Trinity to follow, this team is all of a sudden trending towards a potential 5-4 finish. It all depends on which offense shows up for Wesleyan. If it’s the one they brought to Amherst, they’re not spoiling anybody’s title plans.
Catching their second win in a row this week was Hamilton, and they looked thoroughly unimpressive doing it. They allowed 24 points in the first half to the worst offense in the league, a Colby team whose previous season high in points was 7. It was 17-0 Colby before Hamilton woke up and began to play football. But nonetheless they were able to come back and eke out a win behind Kenny Gray ’20’s 3 second quarter TDs in a span of about 6 minutes that really turned the game around. The Conts now sit at 2-4, and with one more game against a team from Maine (Bates), should like their chances to get to 3-6—although those chances are a lot slimmer if they play like they did on Saturday. Bates’ offense has come a long way in the last two weeks, and if Hamilton’s defense starts like it did against Colby, Bates could bury them.
Speaking of the Bobcats, they held their spot as the strongest first-grader this week following a comfortable shellacking against Middlebury. While Colby giving Hamilton a serious run for their money would warrant some consideration, but I’m sticking with Bates after another strong performance from Brendan Costa ’21 who has improved in each week he’s been the starting quarterback. 138 rushing yards on Saturday as well as 141 passing yards (a decent amount in a triple option scheme) and a TD, this kind of consistency and the closest thing to firepower any of these bottom three teams have is why I’m picking Bates to finish the year at 2-7. Their matchup against Colby will pit the league’s worst defense against the league’s worst offense, so who knows how that will end up. But Costa very well may be the best player on the field come Saturday, and that could make all the difference.
Colby moves up a spot here following their best performance of the season to date, a game in which they led 24-20 for much of the second half, before Mitch Bierman ’21 won the contest for Hamilton with just under 7 minutes to play. The Mules were treated to something they haven’t really had all year: good quarterback play. Jack O’Brien ’20 had by far his best game of the year, going 28-41 for 242 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. Jake Schwern ’19 continues to give his best Chris Thompson impersonation, catching 10 balls out of the backfield while also leading the team in rushing. Unfortunately for Colby, most of that production came in the first half, and they left most of it in the locker room as they were shutout in the second. We will find out next week against Bates if this offense has made some actual adjustments and improvements, or if the first half against Hamilton was just a fluke.
We don’t have many rules here at Nothing but NESCAC, but one of our general guidelines is that if you’re a winless team and someone scores 63 on you, you’re last in the power rankings. We knew this was never going to be a game in Hartford, but it doesn’t make it sting any less. Trinity had their way with Bowdoin and it got ugly in a hurry—21-0 in the first nine minutes of the game. Not a whole lot more to add to this one, Bowdoin plays Wesleyan next week and they probably won’t win that one either. They can only hope to keep improving as a team and give themselves the best shot to catch a couple W’s against Bates and Colby.
Two straight weeks with what I deem to be an upset is monumental in NESCAC football. Things are getting turbulent for a number of top teams heading into the final three weeks (Really?! Only three weeks left?) and Trinity isn’t slowing down. Unfortunately, to have any excitement in the last two weeks, we are going to need to have Midd upset Trinity, otherwise, the Bantams will cruise to Title Town once again. Amherst and Tufts had resurgent weekends, although the Jumbos need a lot of help to realize their championship dreams. With Midd and Amherst tied in second at 5-1, this Midd vs. Trinity game is putting everything on the line for a number of teams. While that analysis will be done by Pete in a special article later on, here is the rest of the weekend breakdown, featuring some elimination do-or-die games for Amherst, Tufts, Wesleyan, and Williams, with an added rivalry game in the CBB series between Bates and Colby.
Wesleyan (4-2) @ Bowdoin (0-6), 12:30 PM, Brunswick, ME
Wesleyan had a crushing loss against the Mammoths, basically ending all hopes for glory in 2017. While they still have a chance for a massive tie at 7-2 at the top of the division, unless they see the Bantams lose this week, they will not come out on top. Contrary to 2016 where they were able to overcome an opening week loss to go 6-0 until the final week, they lost all offensive capabilities in week six. Since they need help to win it all, they can only focus on their task at hand—burying the Polar Bears further into the abyss of defeat. Dario Highsmith didn’t play against Amherst and is a question mark heading in to this game, and although Mark Piccirillo has been historically good if not great at QB, he looked ineffective—to say the least—last week in Amherst territory. He threw just for 129 yards, no TDs, and the rest of the offense only gained 88 yards on the ground. They lacked spark and only kept the game close because of a Shayne Kaminski pick-six off of Ollie Eberth. While I pick them to win here, this has trap game (a.k.a. a game within two TDs) written on it if Dario Highsmith is still out.
Griff Stalcup regressed in week seven, losing some playing time to former starter Noah Nelson at QB. I’ll cut the kid some slack; He was a first year QB playing against the best team in the league. Nelson wouldn’t have done too well, either. Nate Richam didn’t play in the game, and as Bowdoin’s only offensive weapon, it he isn’t back, they will have a rough game. Stalcup did have a six yard TD run, and Nelson a four yard TD pass, so this game might just decide which QB starts for the Polar Bears in the final two games of their season against their fellow winless Maine teams. Wesleyan is not nearly as scary as an opponent as Trinity, but the absolute thrashing in week six couldn’t have helped this team’s confidence. They could make it interesting, but won’t have enough juice to overcome the Cardinals.
Predicted Score: Wesleyan 28, Bowdoin 14
Bates (0-6) @ Colby (0-6), 1:00 PM, Waterville, ME
Well, one of the Maine football teams will finally find the win column this weekend. By virtue of Hamilton’s slight edge over the other bottom teams, Bates, Colby, and Bowdoin now all find themselves without wins heading into their CBB Consortium series for the crown of Maine. Bates’ Brendan Costa will be the most dynamic player on the field this Saturday for either team, and has locked himself in to the starting QB job. Despite a blowout loss at the hands of Middlebury—which was totally expected and inevitable—Costa still managed to throw for two scores, run for 131 yards, and only throw one pick. While the Bobcats lost two fumbles, one from Costa, one from WR Mickoy Nichol, they could have definitely played worse. With a little bit of offensive momentum going against a weak Mules team, Bates actually finds themselves as the favorite.
After facing a disappointing loss at the hands of another bottom tier NESCAC team, Colby looks to end their winning drought after an encouraging performance from QB Jack O’Brien. Both teams have developing signal-callers, but each is still winless. The Mules also saw a solid performance from K John Baron, earning the special teams player of the week honors, going 4/4 in total kicks. This fact isn’t overly relevant, but is among the only press coverage the Mules have seen all season, indicative of their lack of success. An aerial attack is the only way to find their first win as Bates’ defense is vulnerable, and Jake Schwern has struggled with efficiency lately. This will be run game against passing game, and the end result will show which rebuilding team has more hope for the future.
Predicted Score: Bates 24, Colby 14
Amherst (5-1) @ Tufts (4-2), 1:30 PM, Medford, MA
Amherst is now back in the title conversation with their win over Wesleyan, beating the Cardinals when the Jumbos could not earlier this season. Their lack of a high ceiling, as I mentioned in accordance with Reece Foy’s limping return from injury, is not as valid as I earlier thought. Rather than centering on a strong QB and stellar offensive attack, RB Jack Hickey and QB Ollie Eberth are now among the supporting cast to their dominant defense. Hasani Figueroa and Hickey didn’t get much going against the strong Wesleyan defense, and while they should have more success this weekend, Tufts QB Ryan McDonald should be worried about the Mammoth pass rush. Andrew Yamin had an unbelievable performance, racking up 5.5 sacks on Piccirillo, and was only half of the total attack on the opposing QB. The Tufts run game should be neutralized and McDonald will lack enough time in the pocket to get a whole lot going.
Tufts had a much needed win against Williams, knocking off their first strong opponent of the season. Given their loss to Wesleyan and the Ephs’ win over Midd the week before, this was a surprising victory, showing the prowess of QB Ryan McDonald who was able to find nine different receivers on the day. Jay Tyler and Mike Pedrini both had success on the ground, but should face much more challenge in the ground game this weekend. The Jumbos hope comes on defense where their pass rush leads the league with 25 sacks, one more than the Mammoths’ total. Who’s D-Line is better? Both teams should revert to a more passing heavy attack, but might lack sufficient time to throw. Defense rules in this game.
Predicted Score: Amherst 21, Tufts 17
Hamilton (2-4) @ Williams (4-2), 1:30 PM, Williamstown, MA
Hamilton has been the beneficiary of two weak opponents these past two weeks, bringing their record to a respectable 2-4. If they win out, they could actually finish with a winning record, and given their 0-4 start, that is a good cause for playing hard. I don’t think they have any chance to do that as they only have one more weak opponent, but this could be the game where they show that their week one game was not total luck. They barely lost to Tufts, and I have looked at this game over and over again due to its shockingly close outcome, and after their loss to Tufts, Williams looks like a beatable opponent. While they barely knocked off Colby, they rallied from a 17-0 deficit, therefore dominating the second half of the game. With Kenny Gray moving up in the NESCAC QB ranks, and with a solid receiving core in Christian Donahoe and Joe Schmidt, they have a formidable enough offense to stick with the Ephs.
A relatively surprising loss to Tufts leaves Williams looking for a win. They have two losses on the year and need even more help than Wesleyan to share the ‘Cac crown. They do not control their own fate in any way even if they win out, and face a sneaky Hamilton team this Saturday. Without any production from rising RB star Rashad Morrison, leaving him as a question for Saturday’s game, Bobby Maimaron and company will need to find other ways to outscore the Continentals. Frank Stola and Adam Regensburg are Maimaron’s best offensive weapons, with Regensburg really coming on strongly as a WR, moving away from his defensive role. Kyle Horihan had a breakout defensive game against Tufts, leading the squad in tackles with 11 and an INT, and he should look to replicate that performance against an inconsistent Hamilton team. Despite their recent loss, Williams hasn’t lost a game by more than one possession and has the offense to outlast Hamilton regardless of how Gray and Donahoe play.
Although we saw a relatively unsurprising series of results in this weekend’s games, there were certainly some important headlines and things to focus on as we move into the final third of the season. The only real excitement this week was that Amherst (5-1) topped Wesleyan (4-2) in an ugly game out at Amherst, but then again someone had to lose that game as we start to see the top teams in the league squaring off against each other. Hamilton squeaked out a 3-point victory over Colby at home, holding on to their unofficial title as “the best of the rest,” and now Trinity, Middlebury, and Amherst are the only remaining teams with championship hopes. And luckily for us, Middlebury and Trinity meet this Saturday in a de-facto league championship.
This one could just be called the O’Brien-Snyder duo, but I will give credit to Colby’s entire offense. Against Hamilton, QB Jack O’Brien ’20 did his best Matt Stafford impression, going 28-41 for 241 yards and 2 touchdowns, while throwing no interceptions, to ultimately still fall short 27-24. Colby entered the game with just 7 points as their previous season high, so finishing with 24 is clearly an upgrade no matter what the outcome. O’Brien’s favorite target was undoubtedly WR Mark Snyder ’18, whom he connected with 7 times for 99 yards and 2 TDs. Putting up 24 points is obviously a huge step forward for Colby’s offense, not only scoring more points, but allowing their defense to actually get a break on the sideline instead of having to come right back onto the field. Look for O’Brien and Snyder to continue to do damage as Colby gets into their CBB matchups against the much weaker Bates and Bowdoin squads.
There really was not much to highlight from the Bates-Middlebury matchup this weekend, as Middlebury did exactly what they expected to do, blowing out Bates 43-17. What was interesting about Middlebury’s offensive attack, however, was that 10 different receivers caught a pass of at least 5 yards, 7 receivers had at least 2 receptions, and 7 receivers had between 20 and 75 receiving yards. This is an incredible amount of balance in a receiving corps that leads the league in yards and touchdowns, with much thanks to QB Jared Lebowitz ’18. Despite a week 5 loss to Williams, Middlebury’s title hopes are still very much alive thanks to early season wins over Amherst and Wesleyan. This type of balance and depth will give Middlebury a chance to score a lot of points against an elite defense as Trinity comes to town for a big week 7 showdown.
I was hesitant to include this one, because I don’t feel that Amherst has done much to lose credibility despite a somewhat down year in 2016. Prior to the Wesleyan game, Amherst had not beaten a “top tier” team. They took care of Bates, Colby, Bowdoin, and Hamilton, but fell to Middlebury, keeping them in the middle of the conference. After grinding out a 21-17 against Wesleyan, they have certainly solidified their place amongst the top teams in the NESCAC, even while dealing with quarterback uncertainty all year.
Wesleyan’s Title Hopes
I know the same could be said for Williams this week too, but with all due respect to the Ephs, Wesleyan’s expectations for this season were a little bit higher. After losing week 1 to Middlebury, the Cardinals got hot, winning 4 in a row. Amherst had been struggling to find a consistent quarterback, and Wesleyan was just not able to capitalize. Lots of credit needs to go to the Amherst defense, who held Piccirillo and co. to just 197 yards of total offense. Piccirillo ’18 didn’t throw an interception and Wesleyan didn’t lose a fumble, which is why I am more inclined to say that Wesleyan simply could not get anything going on offense. With Dario Highsmith ’20 out, there was no rushing attack for Amherst to respect, so they could key in on the secondary. Wesleyan has no choice but to play the spoiler for the rest of the season, with intriguing matchups versus Williams and Trinity on the horizon.
Jared Lebowitz’s Health
Potentially the biggest story of the weekend is that Middlebury QB Jared Lebowitz ’18 left the game against Bates in the second quarter with what appeared to be some sort of ankle or knee injury. This is not meant to be a knock on the rest of Middlebury’s team, but it is no secret that their offense is contingent upon having Lebowitz’ under center. I don’t know the full extent or even much about the injury at all – it is possible that he was merely roughed up on a play against Bates, and with the game being so secure, the substitution was merely precautionary. I certainly hope this is the case, because like any other NESCAC fan, I’m eager to see how Middlebury’s offense stacks up against the mighty Trinity defense. Either way, this is worth keeping an eye on because even if Lebowitz plays next week, his performance could be limited.
We’re still sorting through the wreckage of Williams’ comeback, last-second, upset win in Middlebury last Saturday, and I mean that both in a “how does it affect the league” sense and a “how does Pete recover from it emotionally” sense. What we do know is this; two losses will not earn you any share of the league championship. Middlebury, and any other team hoping to earn that coveted co-title (as always, terrific to not have any playoffs to sort this out) will need to win out. For the Panthers, Cardinals and Mammoths, that means beating Trinity. I don’t see more than one team potentially doing that, so the biggest story the rest of the way will be who has the best shot. The title is, now more than ever, Trinity’s to lose.
Colby (0-5) @ Hamilton (1-4), Clinton, NY, 1:00 PM
Hamilton stuck their flag in the ground last week as the Best of the Bad Teams, demolishing Bowdoin 28-7. As always, it was the offense that carried the Continentals to this strong performance. They gained 448 total yards, including 208 on the ground. 158 of those yards came on the back of first year RB Mitch Bierman. Bierman is making a delayed push for Rookie of the Year (Non Williams-division,) with touchdowns in 2 of his last three games and this dominant performance. More promising for their future, however, was the strong play of the defense. They held Bowdoin to 275 total yards, only 60 of which came from Nate Richam, and totaled five sacks. This matchup with Colby is another choice matchup for the Continentals, who would love to get another win under their belts before they play Middlebury and Williams.
The good news is that Colby tied their season high in points last week. The bad news is that their season high in points is 7. They simply do not have any offensive players who scare anyone, and by the end of the first quarter their defense is too tired to make much of a difference. If the offense could sustain some drives and give the defense a break, defensive back Don Vivian ’18 is a menace to quarterback who could give turnover-prone Kenny Gray ’20 fits. Hamilton’s offense might not allow this to happen, however.
I can’t go quite as far as calling this a “trap game” for the Panthers, but it is important. Middlebury suffered one of the most demoralizing losses possible last weekend; the feeling at Alumni Field as Williams celebrated reminded me of when _________ died in Game of Thrones (no spoilers here.) And next weekend, Trinity looms. Middlebury not only needs to win this game (which they will,) they need to dominate and carry momentum into the game that may well decide the season. It would help if Jared Lebowitz ’18 could get his full compliment of weapons. Although he still played well against Williams (304 yards, three touchdowns,) by the end of the game Williams had figured out how to stop Maxwell Rye ’20, Frank Cosolito ’20 and Jimmy Martinez ’19. With star receiver Conrado Banky ’19 out with an injury, Williams was able to eventually key in on the receivers and get stops.
Another thing Middlebury should take this game to work on is rush defense. Bates got the moral victory trophy last weekend in their 41-23 loss to Wesleyan. This was by far their best performance of the season, and the reason for this is that they discovered an offensive identity. The Bobcats put up an impossible 287 rushing yards, 170 of which came from QB Brendan Costa ’20. Bates biggest problem all season has been choosing a QB, and it seems that Costa has won the job. This is actually bad news for Middlebury, as it was an inability to contain Bobby Maimaron ’21 (15 rushes for 93 yards) that helped spell their doom against Williams. Middlebury should work on stopping the run this game, because they know it’s coming against the Bobcats, and even more so against Trinity in two weeks. I think Bates comes out and runs the down the Panthers throats at first, but Middlebury’s offense versus the Bates defense is a perfect storm for Middlebury.
That Bates rushing explosion came at the hands of Wesleyan’s defense, which has been pedestrian all season. They are the only top team to not have a defensive touchdown all season, and they still haven’t forced a fumble. This lack of dynamism from the defense hurt them against Bates. Mark Piccirillo ’18 had to throw them to victory, as he has done all season. But against Amherst on the road, this is not so easy a proposition. Amherst has the most dangerous running game in the league. Jack Hickey ’19 and Hasani Figueroa ’18 combine to average over 120 yards per game, and the team has a whole averages 195. If Wesleyan couldn’t stop Bates rushing attack, which is excellent but is not nearly as polished as Amherst’s, the Cardinals are in trouble. The key to this game will be the Wesleyan D-Line. Shane Kaminski ’18 is excellent at getting into the backfield (3 sacks,) and he will be busy this game.
The other thing that Amherst has going for them is a stingy defense. They only give up 242 total yards per game, which is the best in the league. It is their rush defense that is most impressive, but in generally they do an excellent job breaking up opposing offenses. Andrew Yamin ’19 is the league leader in sacks with 5, and will be coming at Piccirillo all night. And their defensive backs, especially John Rak ’19, are all adept tacklers. Wesleyan’s offense is already not particularly diverse, and Amherst will excacerbate that problem. I see them forcing the turnover prone Piccirillo into trouble, and running the ball to victory.
Not a lot to say about this one. Bowdoin has given up the most yards per game in the league, and Trinity has gained the third most (477 and 438, respectively.) Max Chipouras ’18 might have 200 yards in this game. But, as Tufts found out, Trinity’s offense is not even the most dangerous part of their game. It’s the defense that has won them the two games they’ve played against upper level opponents. In their wins against Williams and Tufts, Trinity has only averaged 20 points and around 385 yards gained, well below their season averages. But in both those games, they have locked down excellent offenses, and the defense has made huge, return touchdown type plays to give them the win. Last week against Tufts it was CB Dominique Seagears ’18 who returned his second pick of the year for a 100 yard touchdown, which ended up being the difference in the game. Trinity won’t have to make any of those big plays this week to win, but the will anyway, and they definitely will next week against Middlebury.
Predicted Score: Trinity 40, Bowdoin 0
GAME OF THE WEEK: Tufts (3-2) @ Williams (4-1), Williamstown, MA, 1:30 PM
As Matt pointed out in the Power Rankings, this is a really fascinating game. Williams has catapulted themselves into title consideration with their upset of Middlebury, but they can easily fall back out of it with another loss. And Tufts just unseated Williams as the team that played the best against Trinity, but that still counts as a loss. If Williams loses, they will be effectively out of title contention, as Tufts already is. The Jumbos should love the chance to play spoiler.
The Tufts defense subscribed to a “Bend don’t Break” approach against Trinity. They gave up 402 total yards, including 165 to Max Chipouras. But they were able to stand strong in the red zone several times, only giving up two offensive touchdowns, including the game winner to Chipouras in the fourth quarter. Indeed, what really did the Bantams in was inconsistency on offense. QB Ryan McDonald ’19 threw three interceptions, one of which was returned for a 100 yard touchdown. He will need to control the ball better against the powerful Williams pass rush and secondary, which have combined to hold QB’s to the lowest YPG average in the league.
Williams will need to keep McDonald inside the pocket. Their pass rush eventually affected Lebowitz, but even he (not known as a burner) was able to hurt them on scrambles. That is McDonald’s game. He is adept at moving the chains with his legs, and on individual plays he gives Jack Dolan ’19 and his other receivers ample time to get open. This is how Tufts will have to win; McDonald will have to carry them. On the road against a confident Williams teams, however, I don’t think he will.
With Connecticut College not playing a league game last weekend, Tufts’ 3-0 trouncing of Bates propelled the Jumbos into second place in the conference. Williams, unsurprisingly, remained unbeaten as a result of a 1-0 win against Wesleyan. The last weekend in regular season play is a decisiveness one. A win can give a team all the confidence and momentum in the world. A loss, however, may lead to unwanted questions going into the most crucial time of year. This weekend’s Tufts vs. Williams game will give everyone a taste of what is to come in the next few weeks.
Going into last weekend, the Tufts Jumbos felt confident about themselves; they were playing a faltering Bates team, and was ranked third in the conference. The Jumbos didn’t just beat Bates: they destroyed them. The scoring party began with Liz Reed ‘21, who notched two goals. Sophie Lloyd ‘21 complemented Reed’s goal with another one. This freshmen one-two punch has accumulated twelve goals this season. We’ve seen all year underclassmen making impacts on the offensive end of the pitch. This ‘Bos combo is no different. Reed and Lloyd account for two-thirds of all the Jumbos’ goals this year. The ‘Bos have all the momentum in the world with a young, potent offense and Emily Bowers’ ‘19 continued dominance in net. Bowers has consistently posted statistics in the top five of the league week in and week out.
Williams, in contrast, almost had a scare last Saturday in Middletown, CT, against the one win Wesleyan Cardinals. A foul in the box almost led to a Kinsey Yost goal, but GK Olivia Barnhill ‘19 bailed the Ephs out. A shaky first half definitely frightened the Ephs players and coaching staff because they came out as a different team in the second. A Jacqueline Simeone ‘18 goal only a few minutes into the second was the difference maker for the Ephs. The rest of the game, they played tight defense and reduced the mental mistakes, dominated time of possession, and kept Wesleyan on their heels; they looked like the Ephs we are accustomed to see. One player that stood out to me was Liz Webber ‘20. Her defensive play was incredible; she seemed to step at all the right times, while not letting any Wesleyan player beat her up the field.
This game will be a tightly contested battle. I suspect that it’ll be a defensive game in the first half. Both teams will try to feel out what the other is trying to do early on. In the second half, however, I think one team will break the game open. Scoring will be at a premium in this game, so expect a lucky bounce on a corner or positioning to be the sole difference maker. It’s a long drive from Medford to Williamstown. Williams will forever have a bullseye on its back as a result of being undefeated, and so far, they’ve proved why they’re the best team in the conference. It’ll be a playoff atmosphere on Saturday, and a game the Jumbos have waiting for for quite some time.
In any sport, I love picking the underdog. However, I believe the smart choice is picking the team with momentum because each player believes that they can win.
As the top half of the league spent the first half of this NESCAC season collectively pounding the state of Maine week after week, we were finally treated with a slate of games with legitimate championship implications, and it certainly lived up to the hype. With Trinity visiting Tufts and Middlebury welcoming Williams, as well as a pair of 0-4 teams in Hamilton and Bowdoin squaring off, Saturday was sure to make this rookie blogger’s Power Rankings debut a whole lot easier.
There is one team in this conference that is undefeated and as long as that holds true, Trinity will remain at the top of these rankings. Max Chipouras ’18 logged a season high 165 rushing yards on 29 attempts and the Bantams defense was able to turn Tufts over 4 times, 3 of those being interceptions off of Ryan McDonald ’18. They once again had a new defensive MVP, this time in the form of defensive back Dominique Seagears ’18 whose 100 yard interception return for a touchdown surely flipped this game on its head. It’s hard to imagine Trinity sliding out of this spot after next week’s matchup at home against Bowdoin, but Middlebury the following weekend will be their biggest test to date.
What a week for the Ephs and again what a week for Bobby Maimaron ’21. Maimaron connected with classmate Frank Stola with 0 seconds left on the clock to stun previously undefeated Middlebury 27-26. Maimaron impressed again, racking up 288 total yards of offense and 3 TDs, earning his second consecutive NESCAC offensive player of the week honor. But I think the most impressive part about this Williams win was how they got it done. They were outgained 432-378, they didn’t force any turnovers on defense, and they found themselves down two scores with 9 minutes left in the game, but still managed a way to win. Despite the fact that Jared Lebowitz ’18 made perhaps his strongest case for being the best quarterback in the league and a continued recipient of compliments from this blog, it was once again the first year QB on the other side of the ball who shone the brightest, leading his team on a 12 play, 80 yard drive in just over two minutes to win what was the biggest game for Williams football in a long time. While Wesleyan and Amherst also sit at 4-1, it’s the Ephs who earn the top spot for one-loss teams with a resume that features a win on the road against a title contender in Middlebury and a single loss to undefeated Trinity in Hartford. Until Wesleyan and Amherst show that they can hang with the big boys, it’s Williams who will hold onto this spot. A lot of things need to fall their way for them to have a chance to win this thing, and while I don’t have the metrics in front of me, I would imagine that still having Tufts, Wesleyan, and Amherst remaining puts them towards the front of toughest remaining schedules, but there is no reason this team should have anything less than championship aspirations, especially after this week.
The Panthers were one play away from firmly planting themselves as the second horse in what looked as if could be a two horse race for the NESCAC, and this space would’ve been taken up with a discussion about 6-0 Middlebury vs. 6-0 Trinity in Week 7 after both teams steamroll Bates and Bowdoin respectively, but the defense couldn’t get a stop against Williams in the waning seconds on Saturday and instead find themselves amongst the rest of the one loss teams rooting for a Trinity loss (although aren’t we all rooting for a Trinity loss?). Unlike Amherst, whose loss against Middlebury a few weeks back raised as many questions about the actual quality of their team as much as it did their chances to get fitted for rings in November, this loss didn’t really do anything to make me feel that Middlebury can’t still sit atop the standings after 9 games. As I mentioned above, Middlebury still played great, Lebowitz ’18 was dynamite again, but Williams simply made more plays and won the game. This team is still a legitimate title contender, and although they can no longer go undefeated, their season was always going to boil down to Week 7 at Trinity. Win or lose against Williams, that was still going be the case. Beat the Bantams and they immediately become title favorites, lose to Trinity and start thinking about next year. This is still a very dangerous team.
Wesleyan and Middlebury have the same record but Middlebury beat Wesleyan so they go ahead of them, nothing complicated about that. As much as it pains me to admit, I think this Wesleyan team is going to sneak up on someone in the next few weeks and be a serious spoiler in the title race. Yet the simple fact that I’m talking about a team that is tied for second as a potential spoiler and not a contender should tell you how much they’re flying under the radar. Their lone loss was a 30-27 Week 1 defeat to Middlebury in Middlebury, they beat Tufts at home, and they’ve taken care of their business against the bottom half of the league to find themselves at 4-1. Mark Piccirillo ’19 is probably the best player that no one is talking about, as his 388 passing yards against Bates kept him comfortably at the top of the passing charts, his 333.2 YPG first in the league. Piccirillo, however, also leads the league with 7 interceptions, and he is yet to have a game without one. If he can find a way to limit the turnovers, then this team is talented offensively to outscore any one team for 60 minutes. Mike Brueler ’18 has comfortably been the best WR in the league this year, running away with the gold medal for receptions and receiving yards, and still leading in touchdowns as well. If Piccirillo and Brueler bring their A game they can throw a wrench in someone’s title plans. While I don’t think they quite have it defensively this year to make a serious splash, I’m confident enough to know that they are going to play a crucial role in the outcome of this season.
This team gives me a headache. I simply don’t know what to make of them. They’ve scored no less than 31 points in a game all season, and they lead the league in scoring offense with 35.8 points per game. But these guys don’t seem to scare anybody this year. Maybe it’s because of the fact that there isn’t one guy on the offensive side of the ball that scares anybody. Jack Hickey ’19 leads the top rushing offense in the NESCAC, but only averages 79.4 yards a game as he is simply half of their two-pronged attack alongside Hasani Figueroa ’18. Maybe it’s because at this point in the year I don’t think there are a lot of people who have much hope for Reece Foy ’18 to return to the POY caliber player he was before his injury, and Ollie Eberth ’20’s name is not going to be one of the first to come up in a debate over who the best quarterback in the NESCAC is. Maybe it’s because they have 4 wins over the 4 worst teams in the league and lost to the only good team they played in Middlebury. Regardless of what it is, I don’t think there is a team in this league with more to prove than the Purple and White. Their four remaining opponents are a combined 16-4, with the “worst” of those teams being Tufts, and Ellis Oval is never a fun place to play. The matchup I’m most looking forward to this week is Wesleyan @ Amherst because I think it’s the matchup we will learn the most from. Amherst’s performance this week will be the strongest indicator yet of what kind team they’re shaping up to be, which is anywhere from a 4-5 team to an 8-1 team.
Ahead of the Jumbos are 5 teams with better records, and below them are 4 teams with worse records, so slotting them in 6 was as easy as it gets this week. Tufts probably isn’t the 6th best team in this league, if I had to guess I think they’ll finish somewhere in the top 4, but as a product of some close games and outrageously lopsided scheduling to begin the season, this is where they stand. A loss to Wesleyan in Middletown in overtime, and a one possession loss to Trinity, a game in which they more than likely would’ve won if not for Dominque Seagears ’18’s 100 yard interception return for a touchdown, a play that turned what would’ve been a 14-7 score line in favor of Tufts into 13-7 the other way. But if we’re counting Williams’ 17-9 loss to Trinity as an impressive showing, then I suppose we have to feel this way about Tufts as well, who were able to put up more points on Trinity than any other team this year.
I know I sound like a broken record here, but this Tufts team’s deal isn’t different than any of the other teams chasing after the top. They have weapons on offense, and some guys on defense, but neither side is really dominant enough to put a scare in you. Ryan McDonald ’18 has proven his ability has a dual threat QB and Jack Dolan ’19 is as dangerous a big play threat as there is in the league, but they have yet to find a way to fill the Chance Brady sized hole in their ground game. McDonald carries for 76.4 yards a game, but it’s hard to really set the tone with a quarterback as your main rushing threat. Defensively, it seems like they have some talented guys, but it just hasn’t come together. The senior trio of monsters in Zach Thomas, Micah Adickes, and Doug Harrison all rank in the top 5 in the league in sacks, and the team itself is 1st with 21, but their ability to get to the quarterback hasn’t really amounted to much as they rank 5th in run defense and 6th against the pass. The Jumbos, like everybody else, have a remaining schedule that could go either way, as they are definitely capable of beating any of Williams, Amherst, Colby, and Middlebury. We will know a lot more about how good this team is after they visit Williams on Saturday.
Someone had to win this game Hamilton-Bowdoin game and it was the Continentals who escaped from the pack of winless teams to go to 1-4. Kenny Gray ’20 continued his strong individual season going 20-34 for 240 yards and 3 TDs, but the real story on offense for Hamilton was the breakout game of first year running back Mitch Bierman who ran for a career high 158 yards on 22 carries, providing a balanced attack for their first win of the season. Although by all accounts it has been a disappointing season for Hamilton, they still have a really good chance to finish 3-6 and end the season on a high note. They have Colby and Bates at home, both matchups in which they are the better team, and then they travel to both Williams and Middlebury. I’m fairly confident in counting both of these games as losses, but if the Conts want to turn that into bulletin board material and maybe catch one of those two looking past them at other obstacles in their race to a title, then I’m sure that would also be a tremendous moment for them as a program, and Pete could hop right back on as the conductor of the “Hamilton is Good” train for the 2018 campaign.
As long as these three teams remain winless, which unfortunately looks like it might carry on for another week, the moral victory trophy is going to be handed out on a relative week by week basis. Colby got pasted at home by Amherst, Bowdoin lost to previously winless Hamilton at home, and Bates went to Wesleyan and scored 23 points in a loss, losing by the least. So they will occupy the highly coveted 8th spot for this week.
On a more serious football note, Bates did impress in their trip to Wesleyan. Their option attack showed signs of life as they logged 287 yards rushing. Brendan Costa ’21 had his best game as the Bates QB1 with 170 rushing yards, but most importantly didn’t turn the ball over once, a significant improvement from his 4 interceptions in Williamstown the week before. No one’s asking Costa to look like Cam Newton, but if they’re going to prioritize the run then they need to take better care of the ball in passing situations. The defense continues to get smoked, as they allowed 41 more points this week, which actually brings their average DOWN to 43.4 points allowed a week. I don’t have a spin zone for that, the defense is just downright bad, but the offense trended in the right direction this week. Their run of pain should come to an end after they host Middlebury this week (don’t get your hopes up folks), and we’ll see how they can finish up against Colby, Bowdoin, and Hamilton.
Bowdoin lost to a previously winless team in Hamilton, and Colby got smoked by a quite decent team in Amherst, but the Polar Bears are going to occupy the 9 spot this week. I know I said that the moral victory trophy and 8th spot would be the decided on a relative week by week basis, but that’s not going to be the case at 9. Neither Bowdoin or Colby are any good, but Colby’s offense is so downright poor (5.4 points/184.2 yards a game), that it’s hard to justify putting them over anyone. We are at the point in the year for these bottom tier teams that you just have to find a couple of silver linings and focus on those. Nate Richam ’20 had some flashes of production, and first year quarterback Griff Stalcup ’21 played turnover free football. They are both obviously still young and hopefully can be two pillars to build on moving forward.
I really don’t have a whole to say here. Colby vs. the top offense in the NESCAC was always going to be ugly and Amherst didn’t disappoint, hanging 40 on the Mules. Just as Bates’ “holding” Wesleyan to 41 points lowered their points allowed average, Colby’s scoring 7 raised their offensive to a whopping 5.4 scored a game. This goes without saying but the biggest problem, among many, for this team is that they simply don’t have any weapons. Jake Schwern ’19 is both their leading rusher and their leading receiver, which is more of an indication that they have no one who can make plays downfield or a quarterback that can get it to them.
Luckily for Colby and Bowdoin, and Bates I guess, although my Maine sources tell me they are the third wheel in this whole Maine rivalry (just like Wesleyan in the Little Three even if they don’t realize it), is that they still have each other to look forward to, and any team with an archrival can tell you that having that game (or games) at the end of the season is like having your own championship or bowl game to play for. If Williams or Bowdoin went 1-7 last year but beat Amherst or Colby, respectively, in Week 8, it sure wouldn’t have felt like they went 1-7, and the same will go for these teams this year. They still have something to play for.