Familiar Territory: Week 2 Football Power Rankings

I may have hopped on the Hamilton football bandwagon a little too quickly, and now we find ourselves in a familiar NESCAC football picture. While each team looks to have settled in to a more classic position early on in the standings, it’s hard not to lament at what could have been if there were some upsets in week two. What we see now is Trinity’s continuing reign, with Middlebury, Amherst, and Tufts hot on the Bantams’ feathers. While Williams is 2-0 after an 0-8 season in 2016, they still have much to prove to be included in the title hunt. With week three around the corner, here is where each squad stands:

1: Trinity
Two games and two dominant results. The Bantam defense is unstoppable at the moment, not allowing points heading into October. After a 31-0 mark at the end of the first quarter, they cruised to victory as Sonny Puzzo ’18, Max Chipouras ’18, and Dominique Seagers ’18 had huge days. Seagers had a pick-six and a tackle for a loss. Even their special teams were perfect as kicker Eric Sachse ’19 made his only field goal attempt and John Spears returned a punt 51 yards to the Bates 16 yard line, leading to a Chipouras TD. An 11 game win streak, 86-0 aggregate season score, and all three prongs of the game in full force lead to a sure fire top ranking here.

Dakota Foster rises up to make a grab against Bates in week 2.

2: Middlebury
Middlebury stands out on offense right now. QB Jared Lebowitz ’18 is off looking for more TD records as he found the end zone four more times in week two, finding four different receivers in the process. Breakout WR Maxim Bockman ’20, Conrado Banky ’19, Max Rye ’20, and Jimmy Connell ’21  all had reason to celebrate, while Tanner Contois ’18 and Jimmy Martinez ’19 also had solid days. Their receiving depth is noteworthy, and although Diego Meritus ’19 was still out, he should be coming back soon. In his stead, Senior Matt Cardew ’18 shined in his biggest college game, running for 74 yards and a TD, looking like a solid option out of the backfield. They have an easy game against Colby in week three at home, and if Meritus is back it would be a good time to ease him into action and see what he can do alongside Cardew.

3: Amherst
Reece Foy ’18 is back after missing all of 2016. That’s big news for Mammoth fans as he brought a win along with him. While Amherst eased him in to action, he still ran for a TD in the first quarter and backup Ollie Eberth ’21 looked fine for most of the game. Jack Hickey ’19 led the way with two scored and 122 yards rushing, while Elijah Ngbokoli ’20 had a breakout game with a TD run of 39 yards in the third quarter. The defense also forced four turnovers against a Hamilton team that looked to be an up and coming threat. While the Mammoths certainly sent the Continentals back to earth, they looked clean and ready to take on the tougher teams in the process. Look for them to roll over Bowdoin.

Wesleyan celebrates their OT victory over Tufts.

4: Wesleyan
Nearly identically to last year, Wesleyan shrugged off their opening game loss against a tough team to beat another one in week two. They are here to stay, and although they have a tally in the loss column, they could make a run at the title just like they did until the final week of last season. Their OT win against Tufts saved their season and will be a great stepping stone after a defensively oriented game. Mark Piccirillo ’18 looked good passing but lost two fumbles, and the running game was weak, however, Ben Thaw ’20 and Shane Kaminski ’18 saved the day by each intercepting passes from Ryan McDonald. If Dario Highsmith ’20 can rebound against hamilton after rushing for just ten yards, then Wesleyan will be in good shape.

5: Tufts
Wesleyan avenged their 2016 week one loss to the Jumbos with an OT victory last week, dashing Tufts’ hopes of a perfect season. It’s really nice to think that the Jumbos aren’t totally out of the championship picture with the addition of the ninth game providing more hope, but it will be a tough road. After exiting the opening game against Hamilton early, Ryan McDonald ’20 returned but didn’t look good in the air, throwing two picks and zero TDs. He looked great on the ground though, running for over seven yards per carry and 122 yards total, including a TD. Tufts didn’t muster much offense other than his rushing though as if it weren’t for an 85 yard punt return from Jack Dolan ’20, they would’ve been routed in regular time. If Ryan Hagfeldt can return for week three, he might see some pocket action against Bates as the Jumbos should easily rout the Bobcats on their way to a 2-1 start.

6: Williams
2-0! A perfect start for a team that had a perfectly bad season in 2016. Is this the story of 2017 NESCAC football? Don’t get too excited too fast as the Ephs have yet to play a team from the top half of the division. They have some great pieces that they are rolling out as new QB Bobby Maimaron ’21, WRs Frank Stola ’21 and Justin Nelson are running the show. They were down 7-0 and then up just 10-7 at half against Colby, but turned up the heat in the fourth quarter, finishing the game with 24 unanswered points. Their first real test will be this weekend at Trinity, and if they can pull off this upset I will be shocked. If they put up a close game then they should still be considered the real deal. Let the Coop bring its worst, the Ephs are warmed up.

7: Hamilton
Well, I will admit defeat with this one. I wanted so badly to see a Cinderella story with the Continentals in 2017, but am realizing how that train has already left the station. Hamilton came off a hard fought loss against Tufts and just got abused by Amherst. Ball security was an issue as two RBs and a WR fumbled, leaving the Continentals with a poor red zone execution rate. Gray also threw a pick and with those four turnovers, they never had a shot. Granted these aspects of the game are correctable as Gray looked solid, and so did lead receiver Christian Donahue ’20, but they still couldn’t gain any traction on the ground. Their rush defense was also pitiful, and against other top teams like Trinity and Wesleyan with good backs, they will continue to watch their deficits shoot up.

8: Bowdoin
Bowdoin didn’t look great against Middlebury, particularly their defense, and only scored garbage time TDs. They did score twice though, putting them ahead of Colby and Bates in the rankings. This was an important game though as it was the first start for Griff Stalcup ’21 who took over for Noah Nelson ’18 (as predicted). Stalcup struggled some, completing just 12 passes for 105 yards, but ran the ball well, rushing ten times for 54 yards and a TD. If he keeps developing he could be an exciting dual threat player for the Polar Bears, although I will keep in mind it was against the Panthers’ reserves. Lebowitz had all day to throw for Middlebury, as he was sacked just once, and if they can’t pressure the QB, the opposition if going to keep having a field day against Bowdoin.

9: Colby
The Mules move up in the rankings by virtue of getting on the scoreboard in week two, but are only marginally higher than Bates. Sure they only lost by 17 (is that even a bright side?), but getting dominated by Williams, regardless of how good they might be, is not a good result. QB Jack O’Brien had an OK day, not throwing a pick, completing over 50% of his passes, and finding the end zone, but he also fumbled and failed to keep his team in the game. Jake Schwern had a solid day on the ground with 71 yards rushing, and the positives stop with him. The Mule defense sacked Williams’ QB Maimaron just twice and recorded five tackles for losses compared to 12 from the Ephs, pointing to line troubles on both sides of the ball. This was probably a game that was circled on the Colby schedule as a victory before the season and is going to hurt for a while.

10: Bates
There are four 0-2 teams and one of them had to bite the bullet. Bates is last on these rankings due to lack of a point scored in week two. Their offensive struggles of week one worsened and that is a big issue for a team that looked to be on the rise a season ago. As I predicted, QB Sandy Plashkes’ (’18) lack of production led to Matt Golden taking over, although with limited success. Plashkes’ completions to the Bobcats matched his completions to the Bantams (one each) and the Bates QBs threw for just 45 yards combined. They stayed true to their system of a run oriented offense, but besides Kyle Flaherty (seven rushes, 43 yards) no player with over two attempts averaged more than three yards per carry. If Bates’ defense continues to struggle, then running the ball in such a high volume without a dynamic back won’t lead to many comebacks. On the bright side, Justin Foley netted 247 total yards on punts.

(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.

Dreams Never Die: NESCAC Fantasy Football is Back!

 

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

But we did it anyway.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

ROUND 1:

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

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

ROUND 2

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

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

ROUND 3

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

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

ROUND 4

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

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

ROUND 5

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

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

ROUND 6

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

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

ROUND 7

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

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

ROUND 8

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

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

ROUND 9

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

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

ROUND 10

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

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

ROUND 11

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

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

ROUND 12

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

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

ROUND 13

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

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

ROUND 14

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

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

Milano, Minno and a Couple of Pierces: Middlebury Season Preview

The Panthers have benefited from practicing against themselves, but will be eager to take on a different opponent. They get their first chance to do so on Sunday against Dartmouth. (Photo taken by Joe MacDonald)
The Panthers have benefited from practicing against themselves, but will be eager to take on a different opponent. They get their first chance to do so on Sunday against Dartmouth. (Photo taken by Joe MacDonald)

Editors’ Note: While 99 percent of the work done in these previews is credited directly to the author, the projected records are a decision made together by the editors, Adam and Joe. So if you don’t like it, blame us.

Projected Record: 8-0

Projected Offensive Starters (*Six Returning)

QB: Matt Milano ’16*
RB: Jonathan Hurvitz ’17
WR: Matt Minno ’16*
WR: Ryan Rizzo ’17*
WR: James Burke ’17
TE: Trevor Miletich ’16*
LT: Win Homer ’17*
LG: Ryan Rudolph ’18
C: James Wang ’16
RG: Will Fleming ’17
RT: Andy Klarman ’17*

Projected Defensive Starters (*Six Returning)

DE: Jake Clapp ’16*
DT: Kyle Ashley ’16
DT: Gil Araujo ’16*
DE: Matt MacKay ’18
ILB: Tim Patricia ’16*
ILB: Addison Pierce ’17*
OLB: Wesley Becton ’18
Boundary CB: Nate Leedy ’17*
S: Dan Pierce ’16*
S: Kevin Hopsicker ’18
Field CB: Andrew McGrath ’17

Projected Specialists: (*One Returning)

K: Charlie Gordon ’19
P: Jim Simmons ’16
KR/PR: Ryan Rizzo ’17* / Conrad Banky ’19 / Kevin Hopsicker ’18

Offensive MVP: QB Matt Milano ’16

‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ I think that will ultimately be the driving force behind the decision to start Milano in Week 1. Jared Lebowitz ’18 would have had to blow everyone out of the water in camp, I believe, in order to usurp Milano as the starter. Both have been very good, but I think Milano takes the majority of the snaps – and the entire league already knows what he can do on the football field. I do think that Lebowitz will see time in some capacity, though what that means I cannot be certain.

Defensive MVP: ILB Tim Patricia ’16

I thought about giving this prediction to DE Jake Clapp ’16 because of his ability to rush and pressure the passer in one-on-one situations, which makes everyone else’s job on the defense much easier. Then I remembered that this is the NESCAC, not the NFL, and every team but Middlebury and Tufts seems to be allergic to throwing the football. Patricia takes on the bulk of the run-stopping responsibility, but of course Addison Pierce ’17 and Dan Pierce ’16 are important in that regard, too. I think the three-time All-NESCAC Second Teamer, Patricia, carries this defense and makes the leap to the First Team.

Biggest Surprise in Camp: Head Coach Bob Ritter elected to point out a player on each side of the ball that has made a big leap from 2014. WR James Burke ’17 came into camp in great shape and has shown improvements in his route-running and pass-catching abilities, giving the coaching staff confidence that he’s ready to be a playmaker in the NESCAC. On the defense, Steve Bissainthe ’18 made the switch in the offseason from O-line to D-line, and has adapted well to his new role. There are a lot of names fighting for reps along the D-line, but with Middlebury’s tendency to rotate plenty on the D-line, Bissainthe has a shot to make an impact in his first season on defense.

Steve Bissainthe '18 has impressed in his first stint on the defensive line. (Photo taken by Joe MacDonald)
Steve Bissainthe ’18 (51) has impressed in his first stint on the defensive line. (Photo taken by Joe MacDonald)

Biggest Game: October 10 at Amherst

The Amherst D embarrassed Middlebury last year at Alumni Stadium, shutting out the Panthers. However, that was early in the year before Milano really got rolling and the weather was not conducive to throwing the ball with wind and rain. Conditions ought to be better this time around, and the winner of this game will have the inside track on a title.

Best Tweet:

Really Mr. Castillo’s entire Twitter feed is worthy of a peruse, but we went with this one because it shows off that charming grin.

Summary: We’ve projected the Panthers to go 8-0 so take any criticisms that follow with a grain of salt. The offense should be dynamic as ever. Despite some inexperience on the O-line, the guys that end up stepping into starting roles are every bit as talented as the guys they replace. Most likely, more than three guys will rotate through those interior spots, and the projected starters above might find themselves as part of a rotation – or out of the rotation all together. Alec Auwaerter ’17 and Michael Brady ’16 are also in the mix. The WR position runs deep for Middlebury. Matt Minno ’16 is a stud, the type that can bail out a quarterback on a bad throw by making an incredible play. Burke will takeover as the starting wideout on the other side, and Ryan Rizzo ’17 will take the majority of the snaps early on from the slot. Rizzo is the team’s top returning receiver, and yet will be pushed for reps by newcomer Conrad Banky ’19. Banky will probably see reps at every wide receiver spot to spell the starters, and Rizzo might need extra rest early on as he recovers from a leg injury that kept him from conditioning much in the offseason – especially if Rizzo ends up returning kicks once again. Tanner Contois ’18 is a dark horse to make some catches, as well. Trevor Miletich ’16 is the team’s starter at TE, but Dan Fulham ’18 will get work and be a threat in the red zone. In the backfield, Jonathan Hurvitz ’17 did a nice job last season and is back, but he’ll share time with Matt Cardew ’18 and Diego Meritus ’19.

On the other side of the ball, Middlebury uses a hybrid-style defense that can loosely be described as a 4-2-5 (or a 3-4, or a 4-3, or, dare I say, a 3-2-6 … but I digress). It all centers around Patricia and Addison Pierce who are true middle linebackers. Aaron Slodowitz ’18 will spell both players. There are three D-line spots in which multiple people will be used. Gil Araujo ’16 is the most experienced returner in that group, and lost a lot of weight during this past offseason. Henry Muter ’18 backs him up. Kyle Ashley ’16 figures to get plenty of reps, while the third defensive line job is still up in the air, but Matt MacKay ’18 looks like the frontrunner right now. All of these guys, along with Robert Wood ’18 and Joe LaLiberte ’18, will play and move around on the D-line. Clapp often looks like a D-end, lined up with the strength of the offensive formation, but will sometimes drop into coverage as well. In that regard he plays much like a pass rushing OLB, but will usually have his hand down. He’s backed up by Henry Castillo ’17. The “fifth DB” is a strong safety/OLB hybrid. Wesley Becton ’18 and Carsen Winn ’17 should both see time there. The defensive backfield looks strong with the dominant Nate Leedy ’17 at boundary corner, Andrew McGrath ’18 on the other side and Kevin Hopsicker ’18 joining Dan Pierce ’16 at safety. S Justin Fahey ’19 will be one of the few rookies who can make an immediate impact for Middlebury this season.

Though a few of the graduated players from last year’s team were elite talents in the NESCAC, Middlebury actually has a chance to be better this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if they fell short against Amherst or Trinity, but I don’t think that happens and I think those teams’ question marks are bigger than those of the Panthers. Time will tell, but the odds in favor of Middlebury winning just its second outright NESCAC title.