(Almost)Taking the Head Off the Jumbo: Week 1 Power Rankings:

1: Trinity (1-0)

Trinity now runs its winning streak to 10 games going back to 2015 following a blow out win over Colby. They were expected crush them and played nearly flawlessly, but still could improve. QB Sonny Puzzo’s INT should’ve come as a shock to the Bantams, but other than that, they played great football. Max Chipouras decimated the Colby defense and this team looks primed to blow out Bates in week two. The secondary looked great following the graduation of many All-NESCAC players, and that was the biggest hole. There’s honestly not a whole lot else to say, the Bantams are rolling.

2: Middlebury (1-0)

Jared Lebowitz and the Panthers couldn’t have started off 2017 in better fashion as they knocked off a top tier team, learned about numerous first year weapons, and didn’t totally screw up on special teams. Without RBs Diego Meritus and Will McKissick, Peter Scibilla ’21 took the reins on the ground and was serviceable, but not great. Once the other running weapons return (Meritus should be back this week), the ground game will drastically improve, making Midd even more dangerous. Their receivers are the best in the league and that isn’t open for debate. Not player by player necessarily, but between Maxim Bochman ’20 who went off on Saturday in his first year shot, 2016 breakout Conrad Banky, athletic freak three sport college athlete Frankie Cosolito, and All-American track runner and special teams player of the week Jimmy Martinez, there are so many options for the already established Lebowitz. Opposing secondaries, watch out.

Middlebury’s Ian Blow downs a punt at Wesleyan’s one yard line last Saturday.

3: Amherst (1-0)

There are still some questions for the Mammoths despite their win over the weak looking Bates team last weak. When will Reece Foy come back and how good will he be when he does? If he isn’t healthy, is Ollie Eberth ’21 the real deal? Why am I so bummed that Mike Odenwaelder didn’t have a bigger role? Granted, not all of these questions are bad, and Amherst has an answer to all of them, resulting in their placement barely below Midd on these rankings. Foy was in uniform last weekend and should be back in week two, but even if he doesn’t start, Eberth looked good and had a real connection with Craig Carmelani in the air. Odenwaelder is still raw as a football player and played on special teams, although I still hope he breaks out as a tight end. Jack Hickey was great in his limited action (5 carries, 9.4 yds/carry) and should see more time against Hamilton. I would like to see a better rush defense from the Mammoths as they allowed two TDs to Bates, but Hamilton’s game isn’t running. They should outlast the Continentals and will only get better from here.

4: Wesleyan (0-1)

Some Jumbo fans might be mad that the Cardinals are in this spot, but they simply played a better team in Middlebury and had a solid game. Mark Piccirillo didn’t get off to a fantastic start with two INTs but still threw for four TDs and 432 yards. Dario Highsmith performed poorly in his limited sample size, but the large deficit in the first quarter leading to a passing offense was not a product of him. The Panther receivers simply dominated the Cardinal secondary and while no team is arguably as deep in their receiving core as Midd, Ben Thaw and Elias Camacho will need to pick up the slack against Tufts. We learned last year not to read too much into Wesleyan’s week on result after they lost to Tufts, so I’m going to stick with them as my favorite against the Jumbos, but they are in a must win scenario.

5: Tufts (1-0)

While they were manage to pull out the win in week one, it seemed pretty flukey. Backup QB Ryan Hagfeldt entered the game on the final drive in a tie game in the fourth quarter after an injury to starter Ryan McDonald and landed on his own fumble to score the game winning touchdown. McDonald had a solid game with 26 completions and two TDs and 92 yards rushing, but his status for week two against Wesleyan is up in the air. Their linebackers and DBs didn’t play well and will need to step it up against what is a better QB in Mark Piccirillo. Their ‘bad’ game was as much a product of their own poor play as it was Hamilton’s breakout game, and the Continentals deserve a lot of credit. Tufts will be fine and still found a way to win which is what good programs do. The Jumbos could still be a top tier team this year, but they still lack a Chance Brady. They simply aren’t the same team as last year simply as a product of not having an all world RB, and Dominic Borelli is not even close. Andrew Sanders will be the X-Factor in week two as he has the biggest play potential. Whether it is Hagfeldt or McDonald, the QB won’t be a big issue as the two were in competition to begin the year anyways.

6: Hamilton (0-1)

At the end of the day Hamilton is still winless, however, they made a big challenge to move towards the top tier of the conference in week one. An OT finish after a furious fourth quarter comeback, led by an incredible performance from QB Kenny Gray (370 yards passing, 4 TDs, 0 INT) would have resulted in glory if not for Tufts QB Ryan Hagfeldt recovering his own fumble in the end zone for a TD on fourth down. The Continentals were on the Jumbo’s seven yard line in OT before turning the ball over to end the game, but should still be epically proud of their performance. As a win/lose game goes, no team is happy with a loss, but Hamilton prove to be the real deal if they can manage a close game or win this weekend against Amherst.

7: Williams (1-0)

I’m sure some Ephs fans are upset that they are so far down the rankings after an undefeated start, they did play a weak opponent. Nobody is awestruck that Williams pulled out a win, especially Pete, who called it. There were a host of positives for this team though as they found their first win in over a year, found a QB in Bobby Maimaron ’21, a top receiver in Frank Stola ’21, and saw a breakout performance from RB Connor Harris who had the best game of his college career. Maimaron even kicked off once and Stola returned the punts, showing that this two headed monster, if they are the real deal, should roll over the Colby Mules on the road this weekend. A 2-0 start for the Williams Ephs? When was the last time we predicted that?

8: Bates (0-1)

I’ve always liked the way Coach Harriman runs and recruits the Bates offense as they are the only team so run oriented and with so many slot players. They have a lot of play action passes to open things up, but showed that too few play making receivers leads to a lack of big play potential. QB Sandy Plashkes is in his second year as the starter and was able to find just nine yards for his biggest completion and just 44 in the air total. While he was able to make a dent in opposing defenses by breaking off some big runs in 2016, he rushed for a total of zero yards on twelve tries last Saturday. Ouch. Sure, not all of them were designed runs, but he’s got to make a big play in one area of the offense. Matt Golden’s one completion of 33 yards nearly matched Plashkes’ total, and that should scare the junior signal caller as he needs to step it up against Trinity or he could lose his job. RB Tyler Baum was one of the lone positives as he was able to break off a 42 yard rush at the end of the first half, and could see more carries this week. The Bobcats did play a tough opponent in Amherst, but without their starting QB, and got roughed up by a first year who found the end zone four times as new DB starters Coy Candelario and Jack Maritz were not able to fill the big holes left by Sam Francis and Mark Upton from 2016’s secondary

.9: Bowdoin (0-1)

Losing to one of the teams that didn’t win in 2016 isn’t the start the Polar Bears were looking for. While the Ephs did look much improved, Bowdoin still allowed 439 yards on defense and flat out were beaten. Noah Nelson tried to salvage his lackluster passing day with his two rushing scores, but was still only able to tally 111 yards in the air, with Nick Vallas’ 46 receiving yards the tops on the team. They weren’t able to score fast enough with their style of play and allowed two Williams’ first year players to smoke them on defense. Ejaaz Jiu, Nick Vallas, and Bo Millet were my favorite offensive playmakers for this team heading into the season and as a result of Nelson’s paltry passing, none were able to make a big impact. Look for Vermont high school legend Griff Stalcup ’21 to see some more snaps this weekend, especially if they get down early, and hopefully he will find the diamonds in the rough in the receiving core. Chris Markisz looks to have successfully lost the starting RB or 1b rushing role as he managed just 1.8 yds/carry, putting the ball in Nate Richam’s hands more this week. The offense might look different this weekend against and they need to find small victories in what is likely to be a blow out against Middlebury.

Williams’ Frank Stola makes a Bowdoin defender miss and heads towards yards after a catch.

10: Colby (0-1)

While the Mules did face the league’s toughest opponent in week one, since they didn’t score a point I didn’t have much choice in this rank. Obviously they have some work to do as their defense was torched on the ground by Max Chipouras. This is as much a credit to Chipouras as it is a lack of credit to Colby’s run D. The top two Bantam backs averaged almost nine yards per carry on Saturday, and the Mules had just four tackles for losses. They had several bright spots though as they managed to recover two fumbles and Patrick Yale ’20 was able to pick off Puzzo. Their offense was no better though as they were just 1/15 on third down conversions, and threw for 119 yards in the losing effort. Their run game was OK as Jake Schwern’s 4.5 yards per carry weren’t a huge issue, but 73 yards passing from the starting QB is. They need to figure out how to find some completions to move the chains on third down and then they will have a better chance against the weaker teams.

The Ninth Games: Weekend Preview 9/16

Here we are, NESCAC football fans. Not only is this opening weekend (always exciting) but it is also the first opening weekend of the Ninth Game era, something that fans and players have wanted for a while. I would caution you to take your excitement with a grain of salt, however. This season starts a week earlier than usual. That means a week less practice time for teams to get ready for game play. I would expect these games to be somewhat sloppy, and potentially fairly low scoring. Some grizzled, older fans like my father would like that “smash-mouth football style,” but I like offense. We will see how well teams have adjusted to this new schedule. However, if it means we get to watch football earlier, I’ll gladly accept some sloppiness.

Bowdoin @ Williams, 12:00 PM, Williamstown, MA

The first kickoff of the season features two teams that are looking to put 2016 in their rearview mirror. This can only happen with a good start in 2017, so both sides should be very motivated. All eyes will be on who starts at quarterback for Williams, although sources are telling us that it will most likely be John Gannon ‘18, who is returning from missing last year with a torn ACL. A fair amount of rust is to be expected (from everyone, not just Gannon,) but if he can get into a rhythm then he has the weapons to really explode. TE Tyler Patterson ‘19 is a beast when healthy, and experienced receivers Adam Regensberg ‘’18 and Kellen Hatheway ‘19 give him a lot of options to throw to. Bowdoin’s defense wasn’t exactly world-beating last year, allowing the most rushing yards AND passing yards per game last year, but they return two stellar linebackers Latif Armiyaw ‘18 and Joe Gowetski ‘18 and will be looking to make a statement. However, I think Williams is ready to start trending upwards, and this game is the start of that.

Final Score Prediction: Williams 27, Bowdoin 10

GAME OF THE WEEK: Wesleyan @ Middlebury, 1:00 PM, Middlebury, VT

Jared Lebowitz ’18 is the most dangerous offensive force in the league, but needs a good o-line performance to top Wesleyan.
(Courtesy of vpr.net)

It’s not every year that a Week One game could have championship implications, but this game might. Wesleyan and Middlebury both have the returning talent to make a run at the championship, but one of them is also starting off the season 0-1. With Trinity’s level of talent and easier opening matchup, one loss might be too many to win the league outright. Therefore, we can expect both teams to be extra-fired up entering this one. Middlebury has been excellent at home over the last few years, but Wesleyan is well equipped to attack the dynamic Panther offense. The only way to beat Middlebury is to get pressure on QB Jared Lebowitz ‘18. If he has enough time, he will pick your defense apart. But when under pressure, he is prone to rushed throws and turnovers. Wesleyan’s defense is certainly athletic enough to get through the young Middlebury offensive line.

However, the Cardinals offense can be inconsistent. They lost two of the major weapons from their running attack last year in WR/RB Devin Carillo and RB Lou Stevens. Therefore, they either have to use Dario Highsmith ‘19, the new starting RB, in a much larger role or reinvent themselves as a more pass-heavy offense. If their offense struggles, Middlebury’s no-huddle offense will wear down the defense, and eventually Lebowitz will get the time he needs. And at that point, it’s game over.

Score Prediction: Middlebury 31, Wesleyan 28

Hamilton @ Tufts, 1:00 PM, Medford, MA

This game has by far the highest upset potential of any this weekend, and I’m jumping on it. Hamilton returns a great deal of their much-improved offense from last year, including quarterback Kenny Gray ‘20, who impressed many with his poise as a first year last season. The defense is far newer, but they benefit this week from facing a Tufts team that graduated most of their offense from last year. Of course, that offense came in the form of one man, RB Chance Brady, who dominated the league like Tecmo Bo Jackson last year. It will take a great deal of work for Tufts to adjust to life without Brady. I think they’re up to the task, but the shortened preseason will cost them here in Week One.

Final Score Prediction: Hamilton 17, Tufts 14

Bates @ Amherst, 1:00 PM, Amherst, MA

Jack Hickey ’19 might well be the next star NESCAC running back in Amherst’s renewed offense.
(Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

This game features the return of Amherst QB and POY candidate Reece Foy ‘18, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. And not only do the Mammoths get Foy back, they return red zone weapon Jack Hickey ‘19 at running back. Hickey scored seven touchdowns last year, and seems poised to break out as a star this year in a wide open race for First Team RB. Amherst also returns star WR Bo Berluti ‘20. The Mammoth’s offense is ready to break out after struggling at times last season, and a strong defense puts Amherst back towards the top of the preseason rankings. Bates returns a great deal of talent as well. QB Sandy Plaschkes ‘18 has been solid for years, but has to raise his game in this game, and this season, if Bates wants to compete with teams like Amherst. Bates has the talent to make it a game, but Amherst is back and there’s nothing the Bobcats can do about it.

Final Score Prediction: Amherst 28, Bates 17

Colby @ Trinity, 1:00 PM, Hartford, CT

There are teams that have a chance to take Trinity down this season, and games in which they could struggle. Colby is not that team, and this is not that game. Trinity brings back QB Sonny Puzzo 18, RB Max Chipouras ‘19 and WR Bryan Viera ‘18. In other words, they bring back arguably the best in the league at three skill positions. This bodes well for Trinity’s offense. Colby, on the other hand, lost their biggest weapon in Sebastian Ferrall ‘19. They do return a great deal of talent on defense, especially in the secondary and at linebacker. If everything goes perfectly for the Mules, they put up a great performance on defense and only lose by one touchdown. Unfortunately, the team that beats Trinity this season will have to beat them in a shootout, not a defensive battle.

Final Score Prediction: Trinity 40, Colby 10.

 

The Brady(less) Bunch: 2017 Tufts Football Preview

2016 Record: 7-1

Projected Record: 9-0

Projected Offensive Starters: (*Six Returning)

QB: Ryan McDonald  ’19*

RB: Dominic Borelli ’19*

WR: Mike Miller ’18*

WR: Jack Dolan ’19

WR: Dan De Leon ’19

TE: Jack Donahue ’20

LT: Liam Thau ’18*

LG: Josh Thibeault ’19*

C: Nick Roy ’19

RG: Gian Calise ’18*

RT: Tim Reitzenstein ’19

Projected Defensive Starters: (*Nine Returning)

DE: Zach Thomas ’18*

DT: Doug Harrison ’18*

DT: Tom Baker ’20

DE: Micah Adickes ’18*

LB: Steve DiCienzo ’18*

LB: Greg Holt ’20*

LB: Caden Bevilacqua ’19/Tylor Scales ’20

CB: Tim Preston ’19*

SS: Brett Phillips ’18*

FS: JP Garcia ’18*

CB: Alex LaPiana ’19*

Projected Specialists:

K: Andrew Pettit ’20/ Matt Alswanger ’21

P: Alex Lapiana ’19/ Dan De Leon ’19

KR/PR: Jack Dolan ’19/ Tim Preston ’19

Summary:

School is back in session, and each morning as I enter the local Dunkin’ Donuts, I hear chatter about whether or not 2017 is the year Tufts Football brings home the NESCAC Championship. One local remarks, “Ah they no longah have that Brady kehd, they’ve got no chance.”, another one says, “Jim enough of ya complainin’, I haven’t seen a defense like this since the ’85 Bears”. I leave that Dunkin’ Donuts and think, You know what, they might be lacking 2 time NESCAC Player of the Year, Chance Brady, but like the New England Patriots, Tufts Football goes by the motto, “Next Man Up”. After all, Tufts Athletics have proven themselves as the top dog in the NESCAC in recent history and 2017 Tufts Football will only solidify that.

A year ago, Tufts Defense was 4th in the NESCAC in points allowed per game at 18.9. With nine returning starters, expect that number to drop. There are few holes in this defense with big guys Doug Harrison ’18 and Micah Adickes ’18 up front holding up the running game. Steve DiCienzo ’18 and reigning NESCAC leading tackler and Rookie of the Year, Greg Holt ’20 provide athleticism and power at the LB positions. Arguably the strongest part of their defense is their secondary. Any coach would be a fool to even consider throwing near Tim Preston ’19, who led the NESCAC with 5 picks as a sophomore. Preston was recently seen selling Preston Island T-shirts outside the dining hall. Returning back from injury is the hardest hitting safety in the league, Brett Phillips ’18 who is complemented by JP Garcia ’18. Finally another returner Alex LaPiana ’19 is the other CB. Expect big things from the defense.

Tufts Offense is a whole other story. Like I stated above, there is tons of doubt following Chance Brady’s departure. Tufts replaces Brady with Dominic Borelli ’19, who has 73 carries and 2 scores in his first two seasons with the Jumbos. Ryan McDonald ’19 will be the quarterback again for the Jumbos as he is an ideal dual threat QB, finding the end zone 5 times on the ground and 5 in the air last season.

Chance Brady was one of the most potent offensive forces in recent NESCAC memory. Tufts will be hard pressed to replace him this season.

Mike Miller ‘18 leads their wide out core. Miller is a deep ball threat any time he is lined out wide, as he has speed and the ability to go up and grab the football. If the Jumbos are able to put up anything close to the offensive numbers they did last season, (31.5 PPG) they are a strong favorite to win the NESCAC in 2017.

Special teams will be a lot different for Tufts in 2017. They lose, now Duke University and 1st Team Kicker/Punter Willie Holmquist. Behind Brady, Holmquist was 2nd on the team in scoring in 2016, showing the value he added to their 7-1 season.

Defensive MVP: D-Line

The Tufts D-Line returns three returners in Thomas ’18, Harrison ’18, and Adickes ’18. These men are the spark to the deep Tufts defense, all having All-Conference accolades in the past two seasons. Harrison is their go to big body in the middle, Addickes can be a hybrid of a pass rusher/run stopper, and Thomas is known for his effectiveness off the edge in passing situations. Expect these three to be big contributors to the already stacked defense.

Offensive MVP: O-Line

Yes, I know our award winning writers love singling out players for these awards, but the Tufts O-line is a major reason they have had success in recent years. Thibeault ’19 leads this group after missing pretty much all of last year after the 1st play of their night opener against Wesleyan. Tufts has a relatively inexperienced offense, putting more pressure on the O-Line to pave the way for the rest of the offense.

Biggest Game: September 23 @ Wesleyan

Everyone was probably thinking it would be Trinity or Amherst, both at Home, but Week 2 @ Wesleyan will set the tone for the rest of the season. In 2016, Tufts came back to beat Wesleyan in the 4th quarter in the first ever night game at Tufts. This destroyed Wesleyan’s NESCAC Title hopes as they eventually made a push at the title, but 1 can be detrimental in an eight/nine game schedule. Expect this game to have even more intensity than last season as both teams knows very well this could be make or break in their push to the NESCAC Championship.

Best Tweet:

Put It Over the Fireplace: The Postseason Awards Blog

Darrien Myers and Trinity ran away with the title this weekend in Hartford (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Darrien Myers and Trinity ran away with the title this weekend in Hartford (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

First of all, congratulations to Trinity on an amazing season. In a league that featured four real threats to win the NESCAC title this year, Trinity was dominant from start to finish. The Bantams had the most consistency of any team, and it was this consistency that brought the championship trophy back to Hartford. This marks Trinity’s 7th 8-0 season in the current format, with Amherst and Williams being the only two other schools to put together perfect seasons. Congrats Trinity on another phenomenal season. We’ll discuss your accomplishments in greater depth tomorrow, but for now, let’s get to the awards.

The actual awards will be coming out presently, so these are less of a blog necessity and more of an excuse for Rory and I to talk about NESCAC football all day on a Sunday instead of doing homework. The main evidence that we used to make our decisions was statistics, as our biggest weakness as bloggers is our inability to watch every game at once. However, we also tried to spread the wealth fairly evenly throughout the league. There is of course a natural bias towards more successful teams (better teams tend to have better players), but we looked to get every school represented. The toughest call was probably QB, as Middlebury’s high volume passing attack led to Jared Lebowitz having by far the highest numbers. But we couldn’t overlook Puzzo’s consistency and performances in big games.  As always, any complaints can be directed to our “Suggestion Box.”

Image result for recycling bin
We recycle our suggestions here at Nothing But NESCAC.

First Team Offense:

QB: Sonny Puzzo (Trinity)

(16 TD, 4 INT, 186.5 YD/G, 60.1)

RB: Chance Brady (Tufts)

(17 TD, 1099 YD, 137.5 YD/G, 5.4 Y/A, 0 fumbles lost)

RB: Max Chipouras (Trinity)

(7 TD, 910 YD, 113 YD/G, 5.8 Y/A)

WR: Conrado Banky (Middlebury)

(925 YDS, 115.6 YDS/G, 12 TD)

WR: Darrien Myers (Trinity)

(485 YD, 69.8 YD, 8 TD)

WR: Bo Berluti (Amherst)

(498 YD, 62.3 YD/G, 8 TD)

WR: Devon Carrillo (Wesleyan)

(349 YD, 49.3 YD/G, 13 TD *twelve rushing*)

TE: Bryan Porter (Bowdoin)

(310 YD, 14.1 Y/C, 2 TD)

OL: Chris Simmons (Trinity)

OL: Joe Wilson (Wesleyan)

OL: Beau Butler (Wesleyan)

OL: Joe Farrah (Trinity)

OL: Gian Calise (Tufts)

First Team Specialists

PK: Eric Sachse (Trinity)

(13-13 FG, 38-38 XP)

P: Justin Foley (Bates)

(81 P, 37.9 Y/P, 20 IN20)

RET: Darrien Myers (Trinity)

(9 KR, 22.7 Y/KR, 1 TD, 17 PR, 14.6 Y/PR)

First Team Defense

DL: Tyler Harrington (Bates)

(34 TKL, 6.5 SCK, 9 TFL)

DL: Micah Adickes (Tufts)

(32 TKL, 4.5 SCK, 5.5 TFL)

DL: Robert Wood (Middlebury)

(28 TKL, 5 SCK, 9.5 TFL)

DL: Patrick Fabrizio (Bowdoin)

(19 TKL, 4.5 SCK, 7.5 TFL)

DL: Jordan Stone (Wesleyan)

(26 TKL, 4.5 SCK, 7 TFL)

DL: Niyi Odewade (Amherst)

(32 TKL, 4.5 SCK, 9.5)

LB: Mark Upton (Bates)

(87 TKL, 7 SCK, 14 TFL, 1 INT)

LB: Greg Holt (Tufts)

(98 TKL, .5 SCK, 6 TFL)

LB: Parker Chapman (Amherst)

(66 TKL, 2 SCK, 2 FF, 1 INT)

LB: John Jackson (Middlebury)

(61 TKL, 7.5 SCK, 11.5 TFL, 2 FF, 1 INT)

DB: Spencer Donahue (Trinity)

(46 TKL, 3 SCK, 3 FF, 2 INT, 5 Break-ups)

DB: Tim Preston (Tufts)

(28 TKL, 5 INT, 6 Break-ups)

DB: Ian Dickey (Colby)

(52 TKL, 1 FF, 3 INT)

DB: Kevin Hopsicker (Middlebury)

(37 TKL, 1 TFL, 2 INT)

DB: Nate Taylor (Wesleyan)

(19 TKL, 1 TFL, 3 INT)

DB: Joe Frake (Bates)

(43 TKL, 2.5 TFL, 3 INT)

Offensive POY: Running Back Chance Brady ‘17  (Tufts)

Chance Brady
Chance Brady ’17 (Courtesy Tufts Athletics)

If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of picking Brady for this award, just ask any of the corpses he left strewn all over Middlebury’s field on Saturday. Middlebury and Tufts’ matchup had tremendous championship implications, but it also effectively decided the Offensive POY race. Brady and Jared Lebowitz were the two front runners heading into the game. Lebowitz struggled in the first half before mounting an impressive comeback in the second, and Brady absolutely buried the Panthers throughout afternoon. He had five total touchdowns (three rushing, two receiving), including three in the decisive second quarter that saw Tufts take a 34-7 lead into halftime. Brady eviscerated the entire league this season, and his work put him in the NESCAC history books – on Saturday, Brady set the record of most rushing touchdowns in a single season with 17. What a stud.

Defensive POY: Defensive Back Spencer Donahue ‘17 (Trinity)

Spencer Donahue
Spencer Donahue ’17 (Courtesy Trinity Athletics)

It is the mark of a truly great defensive back when they can have an impact on the activity in the backfield as well as in coverage, effectively putting their finger on the pulse of the game in all areas on the field. At times this season it seemed like there were three or four Spencer Donahues running around all over the field; that’s how dominant he was from the safety position. He was particularly effective at getting into the backfield, recording three sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss. Donahue wraps up a tremendous career with an 8-0 season, and we think he should take home some personal hardware as well.

Rookie of the Year: Greg Holt ‘20 (Tufts)

Greg Holt
Greg Holt ’20 (Courtesy Tufts Athletics)

As one great defensive player leaves in Donahue, another one rises up in Greg Holt. Holt led the entire league in tackles with 98, and was the centerpiece of a defense that helped the Jumbos surprise many in the league and finish at 7-1. Early in the season Holt didn’t really get into the backfield, recording no sacks or forced fumbles in the first four games of the season despite 14 and 20 tackles in his first two college games. However, something clicked in the second half of the year, and Holt tallied .5 sacks and six tackles for loss over the final four games. Holt gives the Jumbos a player to build a defensive dynasty around.

Image result for steve holt
There is no relation between Greg Holt and Steve Holt…that we know of.

Coach of the Year: Jeff Devanney (Trinity)

Not a very tough call here. If your team finishes 8-0 with an average margin of victory of over 24 points, your status as coach of the year is pretty hard to argue. Trinity was the best team wire to wire this season (even though it took a couple weeks for the geniuses over at NbN to put them at #1 in the power rankings), and look poised to continue their run next year.

You Got Records? I’ma Smash ‘Em: Stock Report 11/7

 

Brady has dominated all season, and he is currently the frontrunner for Offensive POY voting (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics).
Brady has dominated all season, and he is currently the frontrunner for Offensive POY voting (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics).

No upsets this weekend, and aside from Amherst and Bowdoin each hanging on through three quarters (until they both threw up goose eggs in the 4th), these games weren’t very close at all. Wesleyan did put up the highest score of the 2016 season in their 59-14 win over Williams, and both Middlebury and Tufts clung onto their title hopes with wins in their respective matchups. Alas, we are in the same position as last week in terms of determining the NESCAC Champion, so it’s all in Trinity’s hands this coming weekend.

There were lots of terrific individual performances on Saturday, so there are definitely some names not on here – Spencer Donahue ‘17 forcing a fumble and returning it for a touchdown, Jared Lebowitz ‘18 throwing for four TDs and running for one, Trinity moving to 7-0, Bates winning the CBB – don’t be mad if you didn’t get a write-up, there were just a lot of guys who had outstanding games this weekend, and who have been consistently having outstanding games throughout the season.

As for the writers’ picks this weekend, everyone went 5-0 except for Colin and I, who both went 4-1. Here’s where everyone stands as we enter the final week of action:

1.) Liam O’Neil (27-3)

2.) Rory Ziomek (25-5)

2.) Nick DiBenedetto (25-5)

4.) Sid Warrenbrand (24-6)

4.) Pete Lindholm (24-6)

6.) Colin Tiernan (23-7)

6.) Colby Morris (23-7)

The last week of action should be a great one, but that’s a long way off as of now. Let’s see who excelled and whose stock dropped this weekend.

 

Stock Up

Tufts RB Chance Brady ‘17

Brady ran for 174 yards and 3 touchdowns on Saturday, but that’s not really the highlight – the senior broke two different school touchdown records this weekend. The first, single season rushing touchdowns, was previously set at 13, but Brady now has a total of 14 rushing TDs on the year. The second record is somehow more impressive than that: career touchdowns. Brady now holds the Tufts record for career touchdowns with 30. I’ve always felt spoiled as a Boston sports fan, but being a Chance Brady fan is arguably more of a treat. He is now just 2 touchdowns away from tying the NESCAC single-season rushing touchdowns record (16), which Fred Storz set in 1998 for Williams. There’s a very real possibility that Brady ties that record on Saturday – go get ‘em Chance.

Wesleyan’s Big Three: QB Mark Piccirillo ‘19, WR Devon Carrillo ‘17, WR Mike Breuler ‘18

Holy cow, Wesleyan really worked the Ephs this weekend…I mean talk about a beatdown. The Cardinals won 59-14 on Saturday, primarily because of the incredible performances of these three guys. Piccirillo threw for 5 touchdowns and 288 yards, and also ran for 66 yards and a TD. Meanwhile, Carrillo ran for 2 touchdowns and caught one, while also racking up 95 yards, and Breuler accumulated 125 receiving yards and 3 receiving touchdowns. The highlight of the day was a 50 yard touchdown pass and catch between Piccirillo and Breuler. Poor Williams. Quite the tune-up game for Wesleyan as they head into a title match against Trinity. Coach DiCenzo is gonna need these three to bring the heat against the Bantams if they want to pull off the upset.

Trinity PK Eric Sachse ‘19

Last year it was Tufts’ Willie Holmquist ‘17 who tied the NESCAC single-season field goals record with 11, but Sachse broke that record on Saturday when he nailed his 12th field goal of the season. The sophomore kicker is still a perfect 12/12 on the year on field goals, and he has also converted every PAT that he has attempted in 2016 (31). Sachse’s consistency has been an unbelievable advantage for Trinity the entire year, and it’s no wonder that he ranks 3rd in overall points in the conference. The only potential knock on Sachse is that his longest field goal of the year is just 40 yards, but that’s not necessarily his fault either. He hasn’t attempted a field goal from outside 40, so it’s not like you can make the argument that 41+ is outside of his range. Unless he has an absolutely dreadful Week 8, Sachse should earn a First Team selection without a doubt. It’s rare you see this type of consistency in the NESCAC, and the golden boot of Sachse has truly been a spectacle week after week.

Tufts CB Tim Preston ‘19

Ya know, I really thought Preston’s league-leading 6 interceptions during his freshman year was a once-in-a-career type of season. I mean, no one is going to keep throwing the ball his way if he is that good, right? I guess I was wrong because once again, Preston is leading the NESCAC in interceptions, and his 5th pick this weekend was definitely the most impressive of his sophomore campaign. Despite the final score, this was a back and forth game early on. Down 7-0, Colby drove 81 yards down the field to set themselves up with a 1st and Goal from the 4 yard line. Quarterback Christian Sparacio dropped back to pass and tried to hit his man in the endzone, but Preston jumped the route and snagged the football at the 1 yard line. He wasn’t content with the interception, however – Preston weaved in and out of Colby’s offensive players and ended up returning the INT 99 yards for a touchdown. Though it’s a long ways off, it’s worth noting that the sophomore is currently on pace to break Tufts’ career interceptions record of 20 that was set by Evan Zupancic (1999-2003). For the NESCAC quarterbacks reading this: STOP THROWING TOWARDS PRESTON (or continue to do so, I do go to Tufts after all).

 

Stock Down

Colby Offense

In the second quarter, the Colby defense forced a punt on two consecutive drives. On each of those two punts, the Mules were able to  storm into the backfield and block the punts off of Willie Holmquist’s foot, giving them the ball on the Tufts 22, and then on the Tufts 16 to start their drives. Unfortunately, Colby couldn’t move the ball at all, and each time they had to resort to kicking a field goal, making the score 16-9 Tufts at the half. Between these two disappointing opportunities and the interception that Colby threw on the goal line in the first quarter, the Mules just simply couldn’t take advantage of the opportunities that Tufts gave them. If they score a touchdown on each of these three drives, the score is 24-9 Colby at halftime and all of a sudden, this is a completely different ballgame. The margin of error is so small in the NESCAC, so failing to convert on three prime touchdown opportunities is not quite a recipe for success.

Bottom Three Ball Control

It might not be the only reason that Hamilton, Williams, and Bowdoin are the three worst teams in the NESCAC, but it is certainly telling that they committed 6, 5 and 4 turnovers respectively on Saturday. Hamilton threw 5 picks and lost a fumble; Williams threw 1 interception and lost 4 fumbles; Bowdoin threw 3 INTs and lost 1 fumble. Unsurprisingly, all three lost their games this weekend. The fact is, you can’t just throw away possessions like this and expect to win football games. Maybe I’m being harsh, but it’s true. Hopefully they can figure out what went wrong on film and then use the knowledge gained to turn it around next weekend.

Down to the Wire: Week 7 Weekend Preview, 11/5

Alex Waugh '18 and Hamilton hope to pull off the upset as they host Middlebury this weekend in Clinton (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)
Alex Waugh ’18 and Hamilton hope to pull off the upset as they host Middlebury this weekend in Clinton (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

Honestly speaking, this has been the most exciting NESCAC season that I have witnessed in my college career. Looking over the schedule for the final two weeks of season, I am drawn to game after game after game. There are games with championship hopes on the line (both NESCAC and CBB championship hopes); there are games with endless pride at stake; there are in-state rivalry games, conference rivalry games, grudge matches…there’s even some little school in Connecticut that’s trying to finish out an undefeated season. 2016 has given us the rise of a historically less relevant team in terms of championship contention (Tufts), and it has also presented us with an epic fall from grace (Amherst). All in all, it’s hard to objectively look at the 2016 NESCAC Football season and be upset — the competition has been good, great, phenomenal…I can’t wait to see what type of upsets are in store for us over these next two weeks.

Hold your horses though, folks. Before we can get to the decisive Week 8 games, we need to get through this weekend. Good news! There are a number of very important games tomorrow, games that will set the stage for a thrilling final week. The most obvious is Amherst-Trinity, a matchup that features an undefeated group of Bantams looking to win the sole title of 2016 NESCAC champion. Amherst has been on quite the slide as of late, but if they can put together a little Western Mass magic like we remember from the good old days, then Week 8 will be VERY interesting. Elsewhere, Middlebury, Tufts, and Wesleyan all have one loss, and all need to win-out in order to have a shot at taking home at least a share of the title (I’d be unbelievably surprised if there was a sole champion that didn’t hail from Hartford, CT, but I suppose it is possible). The good news for all three of the 5-1 squads is that they play Hamilton, Colby, and Williams respectively. The bad news? Hamilton, Colby, and Williams are ALL looking to spoil some championship dreams. So check out Saturday’s action below – this should be an awesome weekend.

(Per usual, Pete and I split up this weekend’s preview. I wrote about the Colby-Tufts and Wesleyan-Williams games, while Pete wrote the Middlebury-Hamilton, Amherst-Trinity, and Bates-Bowdoin games)

Colby (2-4) at Tufts (5-1), Medford, MA, 1:00 PM

Sebastian Farrell '19 debatably leapfrogged this defender (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)
Sebastian Ferrell ’19 debatably leapfrogged this defender (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)

Well, Pete moved Tufts into the #2 slot in this week’s power rankings, so it’s time for the Jumbos to show everyone that they deserve that nod. While the Trinitys, Middleburys, and Wesleyans of the world have been able to blow out some inferior opponents by ~30 points somewhat often, Tufts has not done so, but that doesn’t mean they’re any worse of a team for it. Scoring 40 or 50 points is not their M.O. – playing solid defense and wearing down opposing defenses is. That’s why Tufts has the lowest point differential per game, an average of just +9.33 per game compared to Trinity (27.00), Middlebury (11.33), and Wesleyan (21.00). It’s also why I think that this weekend’s game could be closer than many people are anticipating. Colby is fresh off a devastating loss to Bates, but the fight they showed in the second half of that game is a testament to their willpower. The Mules are clearly not going to roll over, and whether or not Jabari Hurdle-Price ‘17 is back from injury this week, Colby is going to be ready to play. Expect Coach Michaeles to stick with what’s working – lots of plays drawn up  for Christian Sparacio ‘18 to feed Sebastian Ferrell ‘19. Lockdown Jumbo cornerback Tim Preston ‘19 is back to his old ways – once again he leads the NESCAC in interceptions (4), so expect him to line up against Ferrell. The main question, as always, will be whether the opposing D can shut down Chance Brady ‘17… I somehow doubt it.

Rory Ziomek: Colby 17, Tufts 24

Pete Lindholm: Colby 10, Tufts 13

Liam O’Neil: Colby 10, Tufts 40

Colin Tiernan: Colby 13, Tufts 31

Colby Morris: Colby 7, Tufts 35

Sid Warrenbrand: Colby 7, Tufts 41

Nick DiBenedetto: Colby 7, Tufts 21

 

Wesleyan (5-1) at Williams (0-6), Williamstown, MA, 1:00 PM

I have tried to be pretty optimistic about Williams all season long, and they have shown some instances of competitive football in 2016, but overall, I think that Williams’ defense has been their downfall. The Ephs are allowing 29.3 OPPG, largely in part because of the nearly 400 YPG that they allow (381.5). Conceding a league-worst 199.2 YPG on the ground is not a recipe for success against Wesleyan, the third-best rushing attack in the NESCAC (180.5 YPG). And it’s not that the Cardinals can’t pass either! Quarterback Mark Piccirillo ‘19 can pass, he can run, and above all else, he can facilitate offensive flow. If Williams wants to win this game, they are going to need to score the football…unfortunately, I think that could be an issue for them. Though Williams ranks 6th in scoring in the NESCAC, they are a hop, skip and a jump below Amherst’s scoring average, once again highlighting the “league of two tiers” that we have often alluded to this fall. Wesleyan still boasts the best defense in the league, allowing just 7.7 OPPG, one that has only gotten better as the season has gone on. If the rest of the 2016 season is an accurate barometer, Wesleyan should head to Trinity at 6-1.

Rory: Wesleyan 42, Williams 7

Pete: Wesleyan 35, Williams 7

Liam: Wesleyan 27, Williams 10

Colin: Wesleyan 27, Williams 10

Colby: Wesleyan 28, Williams 13

Sid: Wesleyan 38, Williams 6

Nick: Wesleyan 38, Williams 14

 

Middlebury (5-1) at Hamilton (2-4), Clinton, NY, 1:00 PM

Contrary to the apparent mismatch, this is a crucial game for the Panthers.  Last weekend, Trinity Sonny Corleone-d the Panthers to the tune of a 49-13 drubbing that may not even have been that close.  The Panthers now must win out (and get a little help from Amherst this weekend) in order to have a shot at sharing the league title.  Their biggest obstacle on paper is a home game against Tufts to close the year, but Middlebury would be wise to not discount the Continentals this weekend.  Hamilton is a long drive from Middlebury, and the Panthers have had a tendency to start slowly, particularly on the road.  Also, Hamilton is truly not that bad.  Quarterback Kenny Gray ‘20 has had some impressive connections with receiver Charles Ensley ‘18, and the defense features certified studs Mickey Keating ‘18 and Tyler Hudson ‘19, who are excellent at pressuring the quarterback.  The struggling Middlebury offensive line will have to step up their game in order to give Jared Lebowitz time to get back into POY form after a very tough week against Trinity.  This should be a tune-up game for Middlebury in preparation for Tufts, but it would be very dangerous for the Panthers to think like that.

Rory: Middlebury 20, Hamilton 23

Pete: Middlebury 23, Hamilton 14

Liam: Middlebury 34, Hamilton 10

Colin: Middlebury 27, Hamilton 10

Colby: Middlebury 38, Hamilton 14

Sid: Middlebury 24, Hamilton 6

Nick: Middlebury 42, Hamilton 0

 

Amherst (3-3) at Trinity (6-0), Hartford, CT, 12:30 PM

Look, did I expect Amherst to be 3-3 heading into Week Seven?  No.  Am I happy about it?  No, (holding back gleeful laughter) okay maybe a bit, but just because it makes for more interesting #content for us to write about here at NBN.  Amherst has lost three of their last four games, with turnovers out of quarterbacks Alex Berluti and Nick Morales being the main culprit.  Additionally, running back Jack Hickey ‘19, who was looking like a darkhorse All-League team candidate early in the season, has pretty much disappeared from the offense, posting only 97 yards and one TD over the last three games after 6 touchdowns in the first three games.  Amherst simply has no offensive firepower right now, and that doesn’t bode well for a matchup with Trinity’s vaunted defense.  However, Amherst still has one weapon left in their arsenal: pride.  This is a team that won 21 in a row just a short time ago, and the attitude that makes the rest of the league hate them is still there.  If they can summon that attitude, take care of the ball and let their still-excellent defense match up with Trinity’s dominant offense, this could be a classic.

Rory: Amherst 13, Trinity 31

Pete: Amherst 10, Trinity 28

Liam: Amherst 13, Trinity 28

Colin: Amherst 24, Trinity 33

Colby: Amherst 13, Trinity 27

Sid: Amherst 14, Trinity 21

Nick: Amherst 17, Trinity 38

 

Bates (2-4) at Bowdoin (0-6), Lewiston, ME, 12:30 PM

There’s a battle for Maine brewing in Lewiston this weekend, as well as a battle for Bates to have one of their best seasons in the last ten years.  The second game of the CBB (Colby-Bates-Bowdoin) series features Bates coming off a hard fought 21-19 win over Colby, and Bowdoin coming off a shellacking at the hands of Wesleyan. Bates has a great opportunity in the next few weeks to finish at .500, as they play Hamilton in Week Eight.  Bowdoin, on the other hand, has an opportunity against Bates or Colby to leave 2016 with a win, potentially two, which would be a tremendous moral victory in a season that was doomed from the start.  The key for the Polar Bears will be keeping Bates QB Sandy Plaschkes from breaking away for big plays.  Plaschkes 42% completion percentage looks bad on paper (and honestly is pretty bad,) but he has eight touchdowns and only four interceptions on the year, and has a knack for coming up with big throws when the team needs it.  The stakes in this game are not high rankings-wise, but they are for the teams involved, making for a hard fought game.

Rory: Bates 27, Bowdoin 21

Pete: Bates 24, Bowdoin 7

Liam: Bates 26, Bowdoin 8

Colin: Bates 17, Bowdoin 20

Colby: Bates 17, Bowdoin 13

Sid: Bates 16, Bowdoin 9

Nick: Bates 28, Bowdoin 14

An Update on the Offensive Player of the Year Race

Chance Brady won the Offensive POY Award last year, and he took home the Golden Helmet Award after his Week 5 performance. Is another piece of hardware going to find a home on Brady's mantle? (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Chance Brady won the Offensive POY Award last year, and he took home the Golden Helmet Award after his Week 5 performance. Is another piece of hardware going to find a home on Brady’s mantle at the end of the season? (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Back in September, Rory previewed the Player of the Year race. He hit the nail on the head with Brady, Chipouras and Puzzo as contenders, but two new candidates have emerged throughout the first six weeks of the season. So now, with two weeks left of football it is time to update our readers on the player of the year race…

Tufts RB Chance Brady ’17:

It is to no surprise that Brady is a finalist for player of the year after the numbers he has put up thus far in his senior campaign. Leading a run-heavy offense, Brady has shown opponents that there is really no way to stop him. He is second in the NESCAC in Rushing Yards (740) and first in Touchdowns (11). If it weren’t for “Mad Max” Chipouras down in Hartford, I’d be pretty confident in saying that Chance has more than locked up his second consecutive player of the year award. Brady faces a favorable Week 7 matchup against a pretty porous Colby rush defense.

Trinity RB Max Chipouras ’19:

Max Chipouras '19 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics).
Max Chipouras ’19 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics).

Only a sophomore, Chipouras is the other favorite for player of the year. Chipouras has a slight lead in Rushing Yards (746), but has done so in 18 fewer carries than Brady. He has also found the end zone 8 times this season. It would be almost too hard to determine who has the lead in the player of the year race between Chipouras and Brady, and I expect huge numbers from both of them in week 7 and 8. Chipouras faces the two best run defenses in the league to end the season, Week 7 against Amherst and Week 8 at Wesleyan, so it’s a tall task to ask him to maintain his efficiency. That being said, if he has a better finish to the season than Brady, he deserves the award.

Middlebury QB Jared Leibowitz ’18:

Jared Lebowitz '18 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)
Jared Lebowitz ’18 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Going into week 6 it was hard not to have Lebowitz as a favorite for player of the year. He was averaging 327 YPG with 20 Touchdowns to only 5 interceptions. Then he hit a setback in Week 6 when Trinity’s defense dominated Middlebury the entire day. Given that there are two weeks left Lebowitz, can still make up for this down game, but he will need to have his week 1-5 stuff in order to do so. Regardless of one bad week, 21 touchdowns in 6 games is nothing to sneeze at.

Trinity QB Sonny Puzo ’18:

Sonny Puzzo '18 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics).
Sonny Puzzo ’18 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics).

Through 6 weeks of football, Puzzo has been nearly perfect for the Bantams. Puzzo has the edge over Lebowitz in completion percentage (60%) and his TD:INT ratio is also better (13:2). The junior quarterback is a huge reason why Trinity remains undefeated: he provides a legitimate pass threat in a run dominant offense, and he also has the athleticism to move out of the pocket to make a play. Puzzo has run for over 200 yards, 3 touchdowns, and he even broke off at 69 yard run earlier in the year. Don’t be surprised if Sonny Puzzo sneaks up to grab the player of the year award following week 8.

Wesleyan WR Devon Carrillo ’17:

Devon Carrillo '17 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)
Devon Carrillo ’17 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Some may question this choice, but it’s definitely justified. Simply put, Carrillo is one of the most versatile players in the NESCAC. Wesleyan fans have been calling him the Jabrill Peppers of the NESCAC (minus the defense part). Carrillo has made an impact as a passer, receiver, rusher and returner, accounting for 11 touchdowns (9 rushing, 2 passing) on the season. He leads Wesleyan in points scored with 54, good for third in the league. Carrillo’s Week 8 performance in a potential NESCAC title game against Trinity will likely determine if he has what it takes to be the player of the year.

 

Stay tuned for the defensive POY race update next week.

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

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…

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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.