The Beat Goes On: Football Weekend Preview 9/23

Week Two features several games that could go either way, making for an exciting week of football. The schedulers continue their support of the Williams resurgence, giving the Ephs another game against the lower tier of the league. Hamilton gets another chance for a signature win, taking on the Mammoths in the close runner up for GAME OF THE WEEK. And the winner of that race, Tufts @ Wesleyan, promises to be a terrific matchup featuring two rivals who played in hard fought matchups in Week One.

Middlebury (1-0) @ Bowdoin (0-1)

Bobby Ritter
Bobby Ritter ’19 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

The Panthers looked like the Patriots for the first three quarters of their opener against Wesleyan, and then the Browns for the fourth quarter. They led the Cardinals 30-13 with 7 minutes left, then surrendered two touchdowns in a four minute span before a game saving pick by Bobby Ritter ’20 ended the comeback. For Middlebury, the first three quarters should be the biggest takeaway. They made an elite defense look tired, as Jared Lebowitz ’18 spread the wealth between several receivers before Conrado Banky ’19 got involved at the end. And defensively, they held Wesleyan in check before running out of gas. They were particularly effective in stopping the run, as Defensive Player of the Week Wesley Becton ’18 put up 11 tackles and forced two fumbles. Middlebury has weapons on both sides of the ball, and should get better at playing all four quarters as the season goes along.

Bowdoin fell victim to Williams’ youthful energy, losing 28-14 in a game that wasn’t even that close. The Polar Bears struggled on offense, only gaining 220 yards total for the entire game. They did show signs of life on defense, with LB Latif Armiyaw ’20 spending most of the day in the Williams backfield, but the offense simply couldn’t do enough to keep them off the field. This won’t get better against the Panthers.

Predicted Score: Middlebury 38, Bowdoin 6

Williams (1-0) @ Colby (0-1)

Colby had the misfortune of running into Trinity in Week One, so it’s hard to get a read on how the Mules look this season. However, they scored 0 points against the Bantams, so it’s safe to say that the offense could stand to improve. Luckily, Williams’ defense is certainly not on par with Trinity’s. Look for Colby to try to establish RB Nate Richam ’18 and the running game early and often against the Ephs, who, being a young team, might struggle with a long road trip.

This picture, Frank Stola ’21 running away from a defender, basically sums up Williams’ week one match up with Bowdoin.
(Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Williams put on a terrific offensive display against Bowdoin, thanks almost entirely to a pair of first years. QB Bobby Maimeron ’21 threw for 283 yards and two touchdowns, and 168 of those yards, as well as both touchdowns, were to receiver Frank Stola ’21. Of course, this is a blessing and a curse for the Ephs. They have a bonafide weapon now, but Colby knows exactly who to focus on. They will focus their solid secondary, and particularly DB Don Vivian ’18, on Stola. This will be a test for these two phenoms, and I think they pass it.

Predicted Score: Williams 21, Colby 9

Amherst (1-0) @ Hamilton (0-1)

Both teams looked great in their season openers, with Amherst slaughtering Bates 41-17 while Hamilton narrowly lost to Trinity, 35-28 in overtime. Hamilton receiver Joe Schmidt won offensive player of the week honors after recording eight receptions for 214 yards and four touchdowns. Linebacker Tyler Hudson shared the defensive player of the week honors with Middlebury’s Wesley Becton. Hamilton sported the top three tacklers in week one with Cole Burchill and Colby Jones recording 13 and 11 tackles respectively. The Amherst Mammoths may not have any league leaders, but Ollie Eberth’s 210 passing yards and Andrew Sommer’s 10 tackles are still impressive.

Hamilton lost 34-0 at Amherst last year in the teams’ season opener. Hamilton has a long way to come to beat Amherst, but the Continentals looked much improved at Trinity and will need this home win to break into the top half of the conference. With the offensive performances last week, this game could turn into a shootout and might even come down to the last play.

Predicted Score: Hamilton 35, Amherst 31

Trinity (1-0) @ Bates (0-1)

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

Not a lot to say about this one. Trinity is far and away the best team in the league, having won 12 in a row at this point. They pasted Colby 35-0, and didn’t even play that well. The offense turned the ball over three times, something uncharacteristic of both QB Sonny Puzzo ’18 and RB Max Chipouras ’19. That was to be expected with the shortened preseason; they will probably tighten it up going forward.

Bates has to be a little disappointed in their Week One performance. Senior QB Sandy Plashkes struggled mightily, going 7-19 with an interception against an Amherst defense that, while solid, is not quite on the level of, say, Trinity or Wesleyan. Bates was forced to run the ball a great deal, which they did fairly effectively, but not nearly well enough to give the defense a chance to breath. And that tired defense looked very tired, giving up four touchdowns to unknown first year QB Ollie Eberth ’21. Trinity should do everything Amherst did to the Bobcats, just far worse.

Predicted Score: Trinity 49, Bates 3

GAME OF THE WEEK: Tufts (1-0) @ Wesleyan (0-1)

Ryan McDonald ’18 will try to lead the Jumbos to a 2-0 start.
(Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Overview:

The biggest match-up of the week is basically a must win for Wesleyan if they want any hope of competing for a title. There’s a chance that Trinity or one of the other contenders will lose one game, but they certainly won’t lose two. And Wesleyan already has their loss, falling to Middlebury on the road in Week One. In that game, they discovered that QB Mark Piccirillo ’18 (432 yards) is ready for prime time, but their offense was one dimensional. Middlebury shut down their rushing attack very effectively, forcing them to throw their way back into the game. Of course, the Panthers were surprised to find that they could.

This bodes well for their matchup with Tufts. The Jumbos squeaked out an overtime win in a classic against Hamilton. But over the course of that game their pass defense was certainly exposed. They gave up 365 passing yards to Hamilton QB Kenny Gray ’20, and 214 yards and four touchdowns to receiver Joe Schmidt ’20. Piccirillo and Mike Breuler ’18 are more experienced versions of those two, so Tufts may be susceptible to the same fate as last week.

Key for Tufts: Establishing the Run

Tufts QB Ryan McDonald ’19 was one of the stars of Week One, throwing for 267 yards and rushing for 92 more. He accounted for three touchdowns on his own, including this #SCtop10 candidate. But with all due respect to Hamilton (whom I think it’s clear that we’re high on this season,) Wesleyan’s defense is a bit of a different story. McDonald will not be able to throw all over the Cardinals, and they’re certainly experienced enough to not let him break free for long runs. Tufts should work early on running the ball to set up play actions and bootlegs for McDonald.

Key for Wesleyan: Controlling the Pace

The way that Middlebury was able to attack Wesleyan’s vaunted defense was by tiring them out. The Panthers are one of the best teams in the league at running no huddle, and Wesleyan’s defense looked gassed an confused several times during Week One. This was supported by several very short drives by the offense in the first three quarters, keeping the defense on the field. To prevent Tufts from following Middlebury’s game plan, Wesleyan needs take some time on their offensive drives.

Predicted Score: Wesleyan 27, Tufts 24

The Mules are Stubborn: 2017 Colby Football Preview

2016 Record: 3-5

Projected 2017 Record: 2-7

Projected Starters: Offense (*Returning)

QB: Christian Sparacio ‘18*

RB: Jake Schwern ‘19

WR: TBD

WR: Mark Snyder ‘18*

WR: Matt RIchman ‘19

TE: TB

OL: Chris Bedigian ‘19

OL: Luke Borda ‘18

OL: Travon Bradford ‘18

OL: TBD

OL: TBD

Projected Starters: Defense (*Returning)

LB: Bryan McAdams ‘18*

LB: Sebastian Philemon ‘19*

LB: TBD

DB: Don Vivian ‘19*

DB: Ian Dickey ‘18*

DB: Will Caffey ‘19*

DB: TBD

DL: Sam Gomez ‘18*

DL: AJ Carrigan ‘19

DL: TBD

DL: TBD

Christian Sparacio
Christian Sparacio ’18 (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)

Offensive MVP: QB Christian Sparacio ‘18

Colby’s offense was nothing to write home about last season, and they lost arguably their two biggest threats; RB Jabari Hurdle-Price and WR Sebastian Ferrall, who did not graduate and simply isn’t returning to school. This puts incredible pressure on Sparacio to step up, even with those security blankets out of the picture. He is the presumptive starter and got the brunt of the action, but was challenged last year by first year Jack O’Brian ‘20, and there is a Dartmouth transfer, Harry Kraft ‘19, who will also press him. Sparacio has the ability to hold onto his job, but the Mules need more than that if they want any hope of matching last year’s win total.

Don Vivian
Don Vivian ’19 (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)

Defensive MVP: DB Don Vivian ‘19

Colby retains much of their solid defensive core from last season, and Vivian is the biggest prize of that returning crop. He picked off two passes and broke up five, but his greatest contributions are as a run stopper and tackler. He tallied 63 tackles, a number usually reserved for linebackers, and made an impact in the backfield with three tackles for loss. Vivian heads up a defense that is as experienced as any in the NESCAC, and should be the Mules calling card this season.

Biggest Game: vs. Bates, October 28

NESCAC football is exciting, yes, but it is also stratified. For the most part, you know at the beginning of the year which five teams will be competing for the title. This puts the teams that are outside of that upper tier in a competition for an award I like to call “The Best of the Rest.” Fans of those upper teams often dismiss games between those teams, but they are often the most enjoyable to watch. This game could very well decide the “Best of the Rest,” assuming neither team makes a miraculous leap to the upper tier. Additionally, the game could decide the CBB winner, which is a fierce regional rivalry. Mark this one down as one to check out.

Best Tweet:

Summary:

Colby surprised many last year by tallying three wins, and they return a good deal of that team this season, with the notable exception of star WR Sebastian Ferrall ‘19, who is not returning to the school. Without him, the Mules will have to rely heavily on their experienced defense and try to manufacture offense as best they can.

Defensive back Don Vivian ‘18 is a First Team candidate, and he leads an experience secondary that is Colby’s greatest strength. They also return a talented duo of linebackers in Bryan McAdams ‘18 and Sebastian Philemon ‘19. Defensive line could be an issue, as they are still waiting on several position battles to work themselves out. Stopping the run is critical to NESCAC success, and it’s very tough to do that with an inexperienced offensive line.

On offense, the Mules greatest returning weapon is kicker (yes kicker) John Baron ‘18. Many NESCAC teams struggle to find consistent placekickers, and many teams aren’t particularly bothered by that. But having one is a real weapon, particularly for a team like COlby that lacks a truly dominant red zone weapon. Baron is a key to Colby’s chances this year, especially if they get into games that come down to the wire. Aside from that, offense is going to be a real problem for Colby. They will need to see vast improvement from QB Christian Sparacio, which will not be helped by the loss of Farrell and starting running back Jabari Hurdle-Price. If they don’t get it, junior transfer Matthew Kraft ‘18 (of the New England Patriots Krafts) will be waiting in the wings.