Even Steven: Weekend Preview 11/3

There is another championship caliber game this week in Trinity @ Amherst, which has its own separate preview, but there are still a number of interesting games with pride on the line. The final nine positions in the standings are still up for grabs, and while that might not mean much to some, many programs will benefit in morale, momentum, and recruiting (which obviously doesn’t happen in the NESCAC for our readers from admissions offices) for future seasons. Bates and Bowdoin have the battle for Maine, Williams and Wesleyan are tied in the standings with Williams looking to jump even higher up the ladder from 2016, Midd needs to put up or shut up, Hamilton could still put up a respectable record, and Tufts is in danger of falling to .500. Sorry to Colby Mule fans, there isn’t much going on for you this week other than a potential for a monstrous defeat. Lots to watch this weekend and here is what to expect:

Bowdoin (0-7) @ Bates (1-6), 12:30 PM, Lewiston, ME

Two promising first year QBs for struggling teams in this game. Is this the future of the NESCAC? The next two teams to make a Williams/Bobby Maimaron-esque jump to the top in 2018? Only time will tell how each young signal caller turns out and how their teams develop with them, but for now, Griff Stalcup ’21 and Brendan Costa ’21 should provide an intense matchup in their first of four career head to head battles. Stalcup struggled mightily against Trinity (63-14 loss), looking like he was in danger of losing his job, but knocked it out of the park in a 21-10 loss to Wesleyan. He threw for 317 yards, a TD, and didn’t turn the ball over. Despite a loss, the two possession difference against Wesleyan is a positive for this struggling Polar Bear squad. With Nate Richam ’18 out, the Bowdoin running game is much weaker, but they adjusted from the Trinity to Wesleyan games, making a stab at a late comeback. They also resorted to a more pass oriented offense as Robert Kollmer isn’t nearly as dangerous as Richam. While Richam and Kollmer are both young and promising for the Bowdoin future, without Richam, the passing game will once again be on display. Defense has been a big issue for the Polar Bears, holding off the Cardinals’ running attack, although they were without lead back Dario Highsmith ’20. Their passing defense isn’t as good, but that shouldn’t be a cause for concern against a run-heavy Bobcat offense. Their senior receivers Nick Vailas and Bryan Porter should be open for Stalcup, but their key will be stopping the rush. They have a shot, but Costa might be too much to handle.

Mickey Nichol is an emerging weapon for the Bobcats, both as a runner and a receiver.

A run oriented offense against a weak rush defense (actually, the worst rush defense, allowing 205.7 yards per game). This is a recipe for success for Brendan Costa and the slot-receivers of Bates football. Coming off of a rather ugly win against Colby (27-24, we must not forget that Bates could still easily be 0-7 and in search for their first win. I mean, looking at the matchup and how Costa played, they are the favorite here, but they shouldn’t be by much. If it weren’t for the perfect opponent for this offense, there’s no way the Bobcats could be projected to win. They allow the most pass yards per game (273) and points per game (40.6!) in the NESCAC. Granted Bowdoin, as previously mentioned, allows the most rush yards per game and also the second most points per game (34.7). This is a recipe for Costa to find some success to Mickoy Nichol, and for him, Nichol, and Frank Williams to find some room on the ground. This game should be a defensive nightmare, but will also be a mano-a-mano battle of the new guy QBs for bragging rights in Maine.

Predicted Score: Bates 31, Bowdoin 28

Williams (5-2) @ Wesleyan (5-2), 1:00 PM, Middletown, CT

Another exciting game between two top teams who are just barely out of it, still feeling the sting of Trinity’s dominance. Pride is on the line for both, while Williams looks to one up another top team who dominated them a year ago. With such a young team, each high intensity game gives them an edge for next year when they face the Bantams again. With Williams’ depth, they should be the favorites as without Dario Highsmith, injured against Bowdoin, Wesleyan is not nearly as dangerous offensively. Connor Harris has been the lead back all year, but TJ Dozier has really come on the past three games, putting a hurting on Hamilton last game with 112 yards in their 24-6 win. With Bobby Maimaron at the helm, Rashad Morrison, Harris, and Dozier on the ground, and Frank Stola, Justin Nelson, and Adam Regensburg on the hands team, the Eph offense is scary good. Their only real flawed game was against Tufts in a 21-13 loss where they were vulnerable in the secondary. S Luke Apuzzi, LB Jarrett Wesner, and LB TJ Rothman will need to be strong in the second and third tiers of the defense helping the DBs in order to limit Piccirillo.

Without Dario Highsmith, QB Mark Piccirillo will need to step up in a big way if Wesleyan is to better their 6-2 record from 2016. Piccirillo looked good against Bowdoin, but I’m going to pretend that didn’t happen because of how weak their defense is. Therefore, recently, Piccirillo has struggled mightily. Besides the Bowdoin and Amherst games, he has thrown INTs in every game (including games against Hamilton, Bates, AND Colby). In the game he didn’t throw one against the Mammoths, he got absolutely abused, sacked nine times for 51 yards. Even against Bowdoin he was sacked four times. So maybe, he is just learning to go to the ground and not make late passes when he is being bore down upon by defensive linemen. The Cardinals offensive line is clearly a factor here as their RB Highsmith is injured and Piccirillo is getting hit at an incredible rate, spelling trouble against a strong Williams defense (fourth in the NESCAC with 20 sacks). Williams has a good secondary to boot, so Piccirillo has a tough test here. Now, I am critical of Piccirillo because of how one bad decision could easily change the course of this game. He still leads the NESCAC in passing yards, passing TDs (18), and has the best receiver in the league in Mike Breuler. This is going to have to be a two man show for the Cardinals, and unless Piccirillo learns how to scramble a bit better, he might be in for some trouble. Can he take care of the ball enough to get it to Breuler two times or more? Possible, but unlikely.

Predicted Score: Williams 27, Wesleyan 17

Hamilton (2-5) @ Middlebury (5-2), 12:30 PM, Middlebury, VT

Sadly, Middlebury must now prepare for life post-Lebowitz three games earlier than expected. Jack Meservy ’19 is the heir apparent, and this game is critical for his development. He got knocked around big time by Trinity, but impressed many with his perseverance and arm strength. Middlebury is a quarterback factory, and he has all the tools to succeed. A choice matchup with Hamilton is a great opportunity for Meservy to gain some confidence going into a tough final game at Tufts, and then his senior season.

Against Trinity, Middlebury tried to take some pressure off Meservy by establishing the run, never an easy thing to do against the Bantams. It didn’t work. Middlebury only averaged 3.1 yards per carry against Trinity, down from their season average. Middlebury isn’t built to run the ball, as their entire offense has been set up around Lebowitz’ elite arm. Against Hamilton, they should be free to use much more of the original playbook, as the Continentals give up the third most passing yards per game. Look for Middlebury to get back to their high-flying ways, and potentially use this game as an audition of sorts for Meservy as the starter of the future.

As much as this game is an opportunity for Middlebury, it is far more of one for Hamilton. They will NEVER get as good a chance to knock off a top tier team as this one, and a win against Middlebury would give their various young stars a huge confidence boost. To do this they need to vary their offense. Middlebury’s defense played a fabulous game against Trinity despite getting virtually no rest; they held Sonny Puzzo to his lowest completion percentage and fewest yards of the season. The odds are that they can do the same to Kenny Gray ’20. Middlebury has a plethora of excellent athletes in the secondary to throw at Joe Schmidt ’21, so the run game is the key this week for the Continentals. Mitch Bierman ’21 has been largely ineffective since a breakout against Bowdoin two weeks (and as always, offensive performances against Bowdoin don’t count,) but Marcus Gutierrez ’18 has been running well lately. Look for both of them to get more carries than usual to try and set up Gray’s big play ability. Hamilton will try to seize this opportunity to take down the Panthers, but I think they still fall short.

Predicted Score: Middlebury 20, Hamilton 17

Tufts (4-3) @ Colby (0-7), 1:00 PM, Waterville, ME

The only one-sided game on paper this weekend features a Tufts team that is struggling to remain on the upper crust of the league. They have one quality win; a 21-13 victory over Williams two weeks ago, but other than that they have lost all three of their games against teams with winning records. It is turnovers that have been their downfall. Each of their losses has been decided by one possession and they have 13 turnovers in 7 games. You’re not going to beat Trinity or even Wesleyan if you give them free possessions. QB Ryan McDonald has 11 of those turnovers, keeping him out of the POY conversation even though he is electrifying to watch. McDonald should use this game as an exercise in taking care of the ball, as their Week Nine game with Middlebury will be another golden chance to beat a top tier team.

Ryan McDonald ’19 is maybe the best dual threat QB in the league, when he holds on to the ball.

Luckily for the Jumbos, Colby’s offense is likely not good enough to make them pay if they do turn the ball over. But it’s an improvement to even say likely. After not scoring more than seven points in any of the first five games of the season, they have scored 24 points in each of the last two. This is largely the result of lesser competition; Colby finally reached the other lower tier teams part of the schedule. But they have also finally worked out some QB issues. Jack O’Brian ’20 has found success in the read option, using his legs to create Colby’s best scoring chances of the season. It won’t matter against Tufts, but Colby has enough pride to make this a game if Tufts takes it too lightly.

Predicted Score: Tufts 35, Colby 7

It’s Not Your Imagination, Passing is Up in the NESCAC: Part Two

If you missed Part One yesterday, here you go. Otherwise, read on.


tuftsRanked seventh in passing yards per game, Tufts is one of the few teams that isn’t passing the ball more this season. QB Alex Snyder ’17 doesn’t have the completion percentage of his predecessor, Jack Doll ’15 (who completed 70 percent of his passes), but he’s averaging more passing yards per game (191.7 to Doll’s 186.5). Snyder’s advantage in this regard can be explained by the fact that the Jumbos are averaging more than 50 yards per game this season than they did the last. All things considered, their passing game isn’t seeing the volume it has in recent years. Considering Snyder’s 173 pass attempts thus far in 2015, Tufts offensive scheme is very unlike the one that encouraged QB John Dodds ’13 to throw the ball nearly 350 times in 2012. Averaging close to 13 receiving touchdowns over the previous four seasons, the Jumbos offense is on pace to fall short of that average this fall, having found the end zone through the air only six times through week six.

Instead, RB Chance Brady ’17 has become the pinnacle of the offense. Averaging 104.2 ground yards per game, Brady has rushed for nine touchdowns. Despite Tufts dynamic ground game, its receivers are still producing. WR Mike Rando ’17 leads the team in receiving with 28 receptions. Ben Berey ’17, while not reproducing at the same clip that he did last year (38 receptions, one TD), is contributing to Tufts’ pass production with 13 receptions for 166 yards and a touchdown. The Tufts passing game is clearly not the same threat that it has been in recent years, but it remains a large part of its offensive production. The Jumbos feel that the way to success in the NESCAC is predicated by running the ball first and foremost. They will retain the ability to throw the ball a lot, but the rushing game will become more and more important.

Verdict: Enduring. But not likely to increase in the near future.


WesleyanWesleyan is like Amherst in that its running game is just as valuable as its passing game. Through Week 6, the Cardinals are averaging basically the same amount of yards through the air and ground. QB Gernald Hawkins ’18 has averaged 157.0 passing yards per game but has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. Unlike QB Jesse Warren ’15, who threw for 190 yards per game while firing 15 touchdowns, Hawkins’ arm is not what makes him a dangerous offensive weapon. Simply put, Warren wasn’t a threat on the ground; Hawkins is. He led the Cardinals in rushing through five weeks, until he was held out of most of the Bowdoin game because of health concerns.

Wesleyan’s running attack is paced by Jaylen Berry ’18, who has managed 59.5 yards per game and two touchdowns. WR Devon Carillo ’17 leads the team in touchdowns (five) and poses a significant threat as a productive pass-catcher (10 receptions). WR Mike Breuler ’16, who had only two receptions in 2014, has emerged as Hawkins’ top target. He has hauled in 29 receptions, making him the only player other than Carillo to break the double digit plateau. The ability of Hawkins and Mark Piccirillo ’19 to run the ball helps keep the defense honest and opens up the passing game, but the Cardinals are a team that ideally wants to be running the ball the majority of the time.

Verdict: Temporary. The Cardinals want to run the ball first and foremost.


colbyColby threw the ball nearly 300 times last fall, which accounted for over half of their plays. Through six weeks, the Mules have let the ball fly just 42.4 percent of the time. With an average of 150 passing yards per game, Colby is averaging fewer yards through the air than they have in three of their previous four seasons. QB Gabe Harrington ’17 has struggled to find consistency with his receivers, throwing for only one touchdown with nine interceptions. He is completing nearly 52.7 percent of his passes, but almost a fifth of them are short passes to RB Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17. Last season, WR Ryder Arsenault ’17 emerged as a leader of the WR core with 25 receptions for 263 yards and four touchdowns. As Arsenault has dealt with an injury that he sustained during Week 2 at Middlebury, Mark Snyder ’18 has stepped up in a big way. Snyder has been Harrington’s go-to guy in Colby’s passing attack, recording 25 receptions for 229 yards and a score. Colby has incorporated running backs into their passing game more this season, as Hurdle-Price is already converging on his receptions total from last year.

On the ground, the junior running back is averaging 101.8 yards per game while accounting for half of the Mules’ eight touchdowns. In 2014, 11 of the 17 touchdowns Colby scored were passing, but this year only one of the nine has been. Against Bates and Bowdoin, Colby should have better luck and improve their passing numbers. Even so, the passing offense has taken a step back from where it was, and it is unclear if a quality quarterback is on the roster right now.

Verdict: Temporary. This dip won’t last as they will get back to passing the ball.


batesI’ve heard it said that a rising tide lifts all ships. This fall, Bates is challenging that claim. After averaging only 116 passing yards per game over the past three seasons, Bates has thrown the ball with more efficiency at 130 yards per game, but the volume has essentially stayed the same. Bates has not topped 170 pass attempts in the last five seasons, and it’s unlikely that QB Patrick Dugan ’16 is going to change that this year. Dugan has attempted 122 passes thus far, which is similar to the pace QB Matt Cannone ’15 set last fall. When Dugan throws the ball in the air, it’s extremely likely that WR Mark Riley ’16 is going to be on the receiving end of the play. Riley has carried the receiving core with 33 receptions and 382 yards, which is nearly half of the team’s receiving yards.

Like Colby, Bates much prefers to run the ball, but the schemes the two teams run are of course very different. RB Ivan Reese ’17 has handled the bulk of the carries, and slot back Frank Williams ’18 has run the ball for an average of 40.7 yards per game and a team high three touchdowns. Seven of the team’s eleven scores have come on the ground, and the Reese/Williams combination has accounted for six of them. Obviously since Bates runs the triple option, they are not going to suddenly start airing it out.

Verdict: Enduring. The Bobcats are not about to start the throwing the ball more.

Final Tally

  • Teams throwing the ball more: Seven (All but Tufts, Colby, and Bates)
  • Number of teams throwing the ball more which are expected to continue doing so: Five (Trinity and Wesleyan are temporary in our minds)

Despite the graduation of two successful quarterbacks last season in Jack Doll and Jesse Warren, names like Sonny Puzzo and Reece Foy have filled the void. Multiple receivers have burst onto the scene in 2015 and quarterbacks are taking full advantage of big play opportunities through the air. Whereas only six receivers averaged over 50 yards per game last season, there are 14 topping that mark this fall. Only one NESCAC receiver, Mark Riley, managed over 70 receiving yards in 2014, with 71.5. That number has been topped by six receivers thus far, with Middlebury’s Matt Minno leading the group at 98.0

Teams’ receiving arsenals are becoming the focus on offense, and secondaries are being exploited like never before. Middlebury has long been the only NESCAC team worthy of high praise for its aerial attack, but 2015 has created a different narrative. An outlier in much of recent history, the Panthers passing game is being converged upon. Smash mouth football has receded as the norm in the NESCAC and more exciting offenses have emerged. This isn’t just a short-term uptick either. Yes, there are some younger secondaries that are being exploited, but the vast majority of QBs will be back next year. They will have another year of experience. New NESCAC coaches are more willing to throw the ball than their predecessors. Buckle up because this trend is not going to stop.

QB’s are Important: Week 2 Fantasy Report

Nobody had Jack Cooleen '16 (#81) on their team this week. That will change. (Courtesy of Tufts Daily)
Nobody had Jack Cooleen ’16 (#81) on their team this week. That will change. (Courtesy of Tufts Daily)

It’s been a rough week for me. Losing in fantasy really hurts one’s pride. I studied all off-season for this. Nick didn’t do jack squat. He drafted “Trinity Kicker” during the draft. Are you serious? And yet he smoked me in Week 1.

Well, I think it’s fair to say that I got my revenge against his Bantam counterpart in Week 2. I cleaned the floor with Carson, more than doubling up his Puzzo-led squad. The QB duo of Matt Milano ’16 and Alex Snyder ’17 nearly topped Carson on its own.

The mid-week pickups of Kenny Adinkra ’16 and Devon Carrillo ’16 were pretty profitable, as well. Nick Kelly ’17 sat out with an injury for Amherst, which meant that Adinkra racked up 13 points for me. While I don’t know what’s going on at running back for the Cardinals, with two former All-NESCAC First Teamers filling reserve roles (including Lou Stevens ’17 who is on my bench), I trust that Carrillo is going to get plenty of touches every week with sweeps and in the Wildcat.

There wasn’t much to write home about for Carson. Sonny Puzzo ’18 was solid but less spectacular than a week ago when he tallied 36 points. Otherwise, Bates’ Frank Williams ’18 was the lone bright spot for Carson. Williams’ one-yard TD run in the first quarter was the difference.

See the damage below:

Joe Carson
Pos. Player Pts. Pos. Player Pts.
QB Matt Milano 26 QB Sonny Puzzo 15
QB Alex Snyder 26 QB Jared Lebowitz 10
RB Kenny Adinkra 13 RB LaDarius Drew 2
RB Tyler Grant 0 RB Nick Gaynor 4
WR Ryan Rizzo 12 WR Neil O’Connor 1
WR Devon Carrillo 16 WR Mark Riley 3
TE Bryan Porter 9 TE Rob Thoma 2
FLEX Jabari Hurdle-Price 12 FLEX Ian Dugger 1
FLEX LaShawn Ware 1 FLEX Frank Williams 15
D/ST Middlebury 17 D/ST Amherst 12
K Charlie Wall 13 K Charlie Gordon 1
BE Lou Stevens  0   BE Matt Minno  0
BE Pat Dugan  7   BE Henry Foye  0
BE Mbasa Mayikana  1 BE Jon Hurvitz  0
145 66

In the much less interesting matchup this week, Nick handily dispatched Adam in a pretty uneventful meeting. Adam made a huge acquisition by picking up Reece Foy ’18 last week, but his 31-point performance on the strength of a 90-yard TD run was not enough to close the gap. Nick didn’t get any standout performances, but his entire roster chipped in enough to take down Adam. Oh, and that Trinity defense … wow.

Adam Nick
Pos. Player Pts. Pos. Player Pts.
QB Austin Lommen 2 QB Gabe Harrington 5
QB Reece Foy 31 QB Tim Drakeley 14
RB Carl Lipani 2 RB Diego Meritus 8
RB Chance Brady 4 RB Connor Harris 5
WR Ryder Arsenault 0 WR Darrien Myers 8
WR Mike Rando 5 WR Dan Barone 4
TE Alex Way 3 TE Trevor MIletich 9
FLEX Shaun Carroll 2 FLEX Ben Kurtz 5
FLEX Jackson McGonagle 7 FLEX Jaylen Berry 5
D/ST Wesleyan 7 D/ST Trinity 17
K Ike Fuchs 3 K Eric Sachse 6
BE Gernald Hawkins  10   BE Matt Hirshman  1
BE Pat Donahue  5   BE Alex Berluti  0
BE Nick Kelly  0   BE Raheem Jackson  0
66 86


  1. Nick DiBenedetto (2-0)
  2. Joe MacDonald (1-1, 101 QB Points)
  3. Adam Lamont (1-1, 71 QB Points)
  4. Carson Kenney (0-2)

Bobcats at a Crossroads: Bates Season Preview

Linebacker Mark Upton '17 leads a young Bobcat defense. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)
Linebacker Mark Upton ’17 leads a young Bobcat defense. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

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: 3–5

Projected Offensive Starters (*Seven Returning)

QB: Patrick Dugan ’16
FB: Ivan Reese ’17*
Slot Back: Shaun Carroll ’16*
Slot Back: Frank Williams ’18*
WR: Mark Riley ’16*
WR: Mike Decina ’16
LT: Mitch Hildreth ’17*
LG: Will Barstow ’17
C: Lyle Seebeck ’16*
RG: Jimmy Fagan ’17*
RT: Competition Still Open

Projected Defensive Starters (*Four Returning)

DE: Tucker Oniskey ’16*
DT: Collin Richardson ’18
DE: Sean Antonuccio ’17
DS: Ben Coulibaly ’17*
OLB: Sam Francis ’17
MLB: Mark Upton ’17*
OLB: Max Breschi ’18
DS: Andrew Jenkelunas ’18
CB: Brandon Williams ’17
FS: Trevor Lyons ’17
CB: Chris Madden ’16

Offensive MVP: Wide Receiver Mark Riley ’16

We already talked about Riley and how good he is last week in our look at the Preseason Race for NESCAC Player of the Year. So let’s use this space to talk about the guy throwing to him, Quarterback Patrick Dugan ’16. The senior has had his career interrupted by injuries in his sophomore year when he began the season as the starter. He then played in a few games last season filling in for injured starter Matt Cannone ’15. In both of those short spurts he struggled with his completion percentage and also showed a tendency to hold the ball for too long. Dugan, like most Bates quarterbacks, is an athlete first and a quarterback second, and he will run the ball a fair amount this year. He lacks the size of Cannone, but he is a tad faster and shiftier making the possibility of him busting a long run because of a missed assignment more likely. He is a better passer than he has shown in limited time, but confidence is key for him.

Defensive MVP: Mark Upton ’16

Another one we already covered in the NESCAC Player of the Year portion, so down safety Ben Coulibaly ’17 gets this section. Down safety is the name for the two players who play multiple roles in Bates’ 3-3-5 defense outside of the linebackers. Coulibaly has played a lot of football in his first two seasons in Lewiston. His talent is too good to keep off the field, and he has even returned kicks for Bates because of his athleticism. Injuries and older players like Gilbert Brown ’15 limited his time and he had just 24 tackles a year ago, but the coaching staff is high on him blossoming. Coulibaly is most comfortable coming up to the line of the scrimmage and making plays there. He will get more chances to come off the edge and pressure the quarterback also. Bates has had a habit of seeing part-time players quickly become stars, and he could be the latest in that group.

Biggest Surprise in Camp: Coach Mark Harriman didn’t refer to a specific player on the defensive side that had impressed, but he said he was happy with how the unit has been playing together thus far. A good deal of the new starters played bit roles last year, but they have been in the Bates defensive system for long enough to understand all of the schemes. Some players like FS Trevor Lyons ’17 and DS Andrew Jenkelunas ’18 have had to move positions and will need a little longer to adjust. Also not included on those listed starters are some promising freshman like 280-pound defensive tackle Connor DeSantis ’19 who could have a big impact early.

Biggest Game: October 3 against Tufts: 1:30 PM in Lewiston, Maine

After opening up home against Amherst, Bates gets a second consecutive home game against Tufts. Last year the Bobcats saw a brief second half lead disappear in a wave of Zach Trause ’15 touchdown returns for Tufts. The Jumbo defense had all the answers for the triple option, holding Bates to 98 yards rushing on 39 carries. This was early in the season when the new slotbacks were still adjusting to their roles. Some of the loss from 2014 can also be attributed to the magic dust Tufts had when they played at home. A win for Bates in this game would set them up well as they enter the middle of their schedule. A loss would mean that they start the season 0-2 at home (assuming a loss to Amherst – which is far from a guarantee), and four of their final six games are on the road.

Best Tweet: If there is one problem with this website, it’s the lack of adorable baby pictures.

Summary:The Class of 2015 was one of the most resilient and successful in Bates history. They had to go through the loss of two teammates, Troy Pappas and John Durkin in consecutive years. Over their four years they became a very close-knit group and created a bond that extended well beyond the football field. Replacing that class is not an easy task, and the gains that the Bates coaching staff has worked so hard to achieve could easily slip away. I don’t think that will happen, but this season appears to be a transitional one.

Having Riley and Upton is a great foundation to build upon. Also helpful for the quarterback Dugan is that the top four rushers are all back. Shaun Carroll ’16 and Frank Williams ’18 both ended the year strong as the top slotbacks running on the edges. They are similar players: short, quick and also capable of catching passes. Their presence makes less important for another receiver to emerge across from Riley, a role still up in the air. A major problem last year was the inability to run between the tackles on first down or in short yardage situations. Fullback Ivan Reese ’17 is back, a year after he was disappointing with only 2.7 yards per carry. The offensive line, which has long been a strength for Bates, has three starters returning. The final two spots are still unclear, and Coach Mark Harriman will use a couple of different players there to start the season.

The defense is where this team really has questions. Only three full-time starters from a year ago remain, but Harriman likes the talent and experience that is back. Tucker Oniskey ’16 had two sacks last year at defensive end, and he will play an even bigger role this year. Sean Antonuccio ’17 is the other end and will have to prove that he can be an every down player.


Football End-of-Year Awards: The Definitive Edition

The committee of two has met and after much deliberation has made their decisions. All decisions on awards are final and complaints should be addressed to 472 Smith Union, Bowdoin College. Or the comments section works, too. If you want, take a look at our Mid-Season Awards to see what’s changed. Lastly, these are our own personal opinions of who should win each award. They are not predictions on what we think the NESCAC coaches will decide.

Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics
Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics

Offensive Player of the Year: Quarterback Matt Milano ’16 (Middlebury)

“Another Middlebury quarterback? Really original pick there guys.” Well, Milano didn’t really leave us with much of a choice given how he performed in the month of the year. In fact here are Mac Foote’s stats from last year and Milano’s from 2014.

Player A: 179-289 (61.9 percent), 2004 yards, 6.9 yards per attempt, 24 touchdowns, 3 interceptions.

Player B: 259-421 (61.5 percent), 2766 yards, 6.6 yards per attempt, 26 touchdowns, 12 interceptions.

Player B has a huge lead in yards overall and a slight lead in touchdowns, but Player A was better in yards per attempt and threw a quarter of the interceptions. You could probably tell, but Player A is Foote and Player B is Milano. We don’t put the comparison there to argue that Milano had a better year than Foote did last year, but we just want to put the numbers there so people don’t say Milano was merely a product of the Middlebury system.

The junior took a little time to get settled, but once he did, Middlebury morphed into the hottest team in the NESCAC. Milano put up 18 touchdowns over the last four weeks to go with just one interception, and his yards per attempt rose every week from Week 3 until the end of the season. His play is made even more impressive by the fact that the Panthers averaged only 2.6 yards per rush, worst in the NESCAC, putting even more pressure on the gunslinger. Milano should be even better next year when he and most of his receivers return.

Also considered: Tyler Grant ’17 (Bowdoin), Chudi Iregbulem ’15 (Trinity), Jesse Warren ’15 (Wesleyan) and Mark Riley ’16 (Bates)

Jake Bussani '14 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)
Jake Bussani ’14 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Defensive Player of the Year: Safety Jake Bussani ’14 (Wesleyan)

The NESCAC website only lists the top 50 tacklers, and Bussani falls well short of making that with only 30 tackles on the year. So how does a player who was only sixth on his own team in tackles win DPOY?

Well, first of all, Bussani won by the narrowest of margins over a host of other worthy players. Then it is important to understand Bussani’s role in the Wesleyan defense; a role that requires him to patrol the deep part of the field. He did that to near perfection with seven interceptions and five pass breakups. Bussani also returned two of his interceptions all the way back for touchdowns. Also, he was part of a secondary that was a good rung or two above everyone else and allowed a minuscule 124.0 yards per game through the air.

Bussani and teammate Justin Sanchez '17 smother Alex Way '16 in the Cardinals' Week 8 shutout. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Bussani and teammate Justin Sanchez ’17 smother Alex Way ’16 in the Cardinals’ Week 8 shutout. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Conference coaches know how good of a player he is considering he has made the All-NESCAC team three times already. Last year his stats were even less impressive with 27 tackles and four interceptions. Given how he has been even better this year, the coaches should recognize him once again.

Also considered: Chris Tamasi ’15 (Amherst), Jaymie Spears ’16 (Amherst), Dan Pierce ’16 (Middlebury) Mark Upton ’17 (Bates)

Coach of the Year: EJ Mills (Amherst)

Head Coach EJ Mills (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Head Coach EJ Mills (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Below is the conversation that we had when talking about Coach of the Year. We weren’t planning on publishing it at the time, but it’s just so juicy that we could not resist.

Adam: Alright, Coach of the Year is another interesting one. Ritter has a strong argument because of how well Middlebury did, but I think Mills deserves it.

Joe: Amherst was expected to be near the top again and Middlebury was supposed to be much worse this year.

Adam: Maybe so, but Amherst went through a lot to be undefeated. They played three QBs and switched their lead running back as the season went along. In close games they went 5-0 which is a testament, too, to Mills’ coaching. When I look at Amherst’s season it seemed like they always played a little better than I was expecting or somehow managed to win games when they got outplayed. The coach deserves credit for that.

Joe: I guess. I just feel like the Coach of the Year award is almost equivalent to a team overall achievement award, because we can’t quantify from the outside how much of a team’s success is due to the coach. I expected Amherst to beat everyone but Trinity and Wesleyan at the beginning of the year. As the year went on I got to realizing that Amherst was the best team, but I was always skeptical of Middlebury. I had them middle of the pack but they clearly overachieved. I don’t want Mills to win just because he coached the best team.

Adam: My argument would be that it wasn’t necessarily clear that Amherst really was the best team. Middlebury got better as the year went along and I think mostly because Milano got more comfortable. I didn’t expect he would get so good so fast and that is why I think Middlebury finished with six straight wins. Obviously coaching matters there, but just seems like the player still has a lot of agency, also.

Joe: True….splitting hairs here at this point. I think both are great coaches and just like talking about it.

Drew Jacobs (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)
Drew Jacobs (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Rookie of the Year: Running Back Drew Jacobs ’18 (Middlebury)

There wasn’t an absolute standout first year this season that burst onto the scene like QB Sonny Puzzo last year or LB Tim Patricia ’16 the year before, but Jacobs was productive for the pass-heavy Panthers, and among first-year players he was first in rushing yards and third in receiving yards. His production was all over the map, as his total yards went 113, 55, 43, 154, 62, 82 and 8, as he left the game early in Week 7 and sat out all of Week 8. With another year under his belt, though, Jacobs could turn into one of the league’s best backs, but he will still have to fight off the presence of teammate Jonathan Hurvitz ’17 and classmate John Jackson ’18 for playing time.

Also considered: Slotback Frank Williams ’18 (Bates), K Zach Altneu ’18 (Hamilton), RB/KR Amman Weaver ’18 (Hamilton), WR  Mbasa Mayikana ’18 (Colby)

Zach Trause (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Zach Trause (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Special Teams Player of the Year: KR/PR/RB Zack Trause ’15

Ike Fuchs ’17 made a push for this award in Week 7 when he broke a Wesleyan record with five field goals in one game (and by going 7-7 FG and 8-8 XP in the last three weeks), but Trause’s body of work is enough for him to get the nod. Though most of the fireworks came in Week 2 when Trause followed up his third quarter kick return TD with a punt return TD early in the fourth quarter to seal the Jumbos’ victory, he was an explosive returner all year. His 32.1 yards per kickoff return were tops in the NESCAC and seventh in all of Division-III. Players need 1.2 attempts per game to qualify for leaderboards, so Trause failed to qualify with only eight punt returns, but if he had qualified, his 19.6 yards per punt return would have placed him fifth in the nation.

Trause taking back a punt 49 yards to the house against Bates in Week 2. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Trause taking back a punt 49 yards to the house against Bates in Week 2. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Also considered: Ike Fuchs ’17 (Wesleyan), WR/KR/PR Ryan Rizzo ’17 (Middlebury) and K Phillip Nwosu’ 15 (Amherst)

Feel free to tell us how wrong we are in the comments section.

Panthers Make Rude Guests in Hartford: Stock Report 10/26

Every streak will end at some point, and Trinity’s vaunted home winning streak of 53 games finally came to a stunning finish on Saturday. Like any streak of such length, the Bantams endured many close calls before Saturday, but the Panthers sucked out any potential drama long before the final whistle. Middlebury scored the first 20 points of the game, and a Brendan Rankowitz ’15 touchdown catch with 6:07 left made it 27-7, essentially ending the game.

So just how did Middlebury manage to take down the unbeatable Bantams? Well, considering the margin of victory, the simple answer is that Middlebury just outplayed Trinity. From a more philosophical point of view, this was speed beating size. The Trinity starting offensive line averages 280 pounds while the three down lineman for Middlebury average 247 pounds. That didn’t matter as Middlebury was still able to get to the ball.

Trinity finished the game with 85 yards rushing on 38 attempts, a 2.2 yards per carry average. The last time Trinity was held to under 100 yards rushing was October 2, 2010 when Williams held the Bantams to 87 yards rushing. Not coincidentally that was also a loss for Trinity. The 85 yards was the lowest total in a game since October 11, 2008 when Tufts (yes, Tufts) held the Bantams to 50 yards rushing. (Of course in that game Trinity threw for 470 as well to win a wild overtime game 28-27.)

The fact that the two top tacklers for Middlebury were defensive backs tells us that while the Panthers won the line of scrimmage, they didn’t do it conventionally. Waves of defenders threw themselves at the point of attack on running plays without exposing any lanes for cutbacks. Trinity’s longest run in the game was 19 yards.

Matt Minno '16 hauls down one of his three touchdowns in the Panthers' victory. Courtesy of Greg Sullivan (http://www.sevenstrong.net/TrinityFootball)
Matt Minno ’16 hauls down one of his three touchdowns in the Panthers’ victory. Courtesy of Greg Sullivan (http://www.sevenstrong.net/TrinityFootball)

Not having Sonny Puzzo on the roster for Trinity hurt the Bantams because Foye is not a runner. Puzzo gave the Trinity offense a little more diversity and defenses had more difficulty keying on one player. Spencer Aukamp ’18 has the running capabilities to replicate Puzzo, but Aukamp is not as polished of a passer. Henry Foye ’15 was able to come back from a touchdown deficit last week against Bowdoin, but he is not a quarterback capable of leading a team back from the hole Trinity found themselves in early in the second half.

Meanwhile, Matt Milano ’16 played a nearly perfect game. He went 25-36 for 286 yards. Though he threw one interception, he made up for it with four touchdowns. Matt Minno ’16 reemerged from the shadows last week against Bates, and he confirmed that he is back with his best game of the season: a three touchdown, 90 yard day. Milano actually played better than Mac Foote ’14 did last year when Middlebury beat Trinity in Vermont. Throw out the debacle against Amherst, and Milano has been stellar.

The running game led by Drew Jacobs ’18 was nothing special, but it did enough to keep Trinity honest. The Bantams could not load up on 3rd and long and come after Milano, especially because the Middlebury offense is designed to get the ball out quickly.

Finally, credit should be given to the Middlebury special teams which had two big plays early in the second half. The first was a gutsy on-side kick call coming out of the half. Rather than giving Trinity the ball back with the score 13-0 Middlebury, the Panthers dialed up an onside kick that they recovered. Two plays later, Milano hit hit Minno for his third touchdown of the game. The next drive Trinity tried a fake punt on 4th and 2 from their own 43-yard line, but Middlebury was not fooled at all. Michael Budness ’15 gained only one yard and the Trinity gambled failed.

The last time Trinity lost at home was to Williams in September of 2001. Every Trinity football player starting with the class of 2006 until the class of 2014 was undefeated at home. The thing for Trinity is that their path to a NESCAC championship remains unchanged. If they can rally and beat Amherst and then Wesleyan, they will at least earn a share of the NESCAC title. With only two weeks to still go, both Connecticut schools have now lost when before the season it looked possible that both would go undefeated until they faced each other.

Stock Up

Safety Dan Pierce ’16 (Middlebury): Seems like every week we highlight another Panther defensive player that has emerged as a cog in a defense that has become the strength of Middlebury. Pierce had a great all around game totaling 12 tackles and two interceptions. He had the play of the game midway through the second quarter. With Middlebury up 7-0, the Bantams drove the ball down to the five yard line. Then Pierce picked off Henry Foye ’15 in the end zone and returned it 71 yards to the Trinity 29-yard line. Four plays later, Middlebury punched it in to go up by two touchdowns forcing Trinity out of their comfort zone. Pierce now leads the Panthers in tackles on the season and is fourth overall in the NESCAC. We know it is early, but given that players like Pierce, Tim Patricia ’16,  and Nate Leedy ’17 will all be back on defense along with Milano leading an offense that will return all of its playmakers with the exception of Rankowitz, Middlebury should be the favorite entering next year.

Wide Receiver Steven Kiesel ’15 (Williams): Saturday was just another ho-hum day for the senior receiver as he finished with five catches, 62 yards, and a touchdown that ended up being the difference in Williams’ 21-14 victory. Kiesel’s performance was notable because of how normal it has become. He has had at least five receptions in all but one of Williams’ games and now leads the NESCAC in receptions for the year. With the Ephs backed up on their own one, Austin Lommen ’16 went to his favorite target and hit Kiesel for a 32-yard gain that ended with Kiesel’s touchdown catch. The Williams running game has struggled for long stretches of this season, and Kiesel has been the most reliable source of offense for the Ephs. It might be a longshot given they are only 2-4, but Williams can salvage their season starting Saturday with a big upset over Wesleyan.

Quarterback Matt Cannone ’15 (Bates): The CBB picked up right where it left off last year in terms of excitement. The Bobcats QB returned just in time to get the Bates offense moving. He was still bothered by his ankle so that he was not much of a threat out of the pocket, but Cannone still played admirably. He went 18-32 for 203 yards and four touchdowns. His main target was Mark Riley ’16, but with the game on the line he used Riley as a diversion and went to Frank Williams ’18. On 4th and goal, Cannone found Williams for the game tying touchdown with under a minute left. Then in overtime the same connection worked again for a 25 yard touchdown and the victory. The win gives Bates the early lead in the CBB with the Bobcats visiting Bowdoin this week. Now Cannone will look to seal the CBB.

Running back LaShawn Ware ’17 (Hamilton): Sometimes, you have to admit that you’ve made a mistake. At the beginning of the season, in our Breakout Players of 2014 article, we highlighted Hamilton backs Rico Gonzalez ’16 and converted safety Jeff Hopsicker ’15. Gonzalez hasn’t been much of a factor all year, and had two carries against Williams. Hopsicker started out as the team’s primary back, but has seen his carries total dwindle ever since Week 2. When we spoke with head coach Dave Murray at the beginning of the year, he highlighted the speedy Ware as someone who could make an impact, but we just saw too much competition in the backfield. Well, Ware now leads the team in rushing yards and yards per carry, and racked up a career-high 115 yards against Williams. It looks like Murray has settled into a two-headed attack, with Ware moving the ball down the field and Amman Weaver ’18 getting the chances to punch it in near the goal line. It’s another lost season for the Continentals, but there will be weapons back in 2015.

Stock Down

Tufts Offensive Execution: A few stats from the Tufts-Amherst game: Tufts first downs – 11, Amherst first downs – 12. Tufts total yards – 249, Amherst total yards – 244. Tufts return yards – 78, Amherst return yards – 93. So how was this game 30-3 in favor of the Jeffs? As the Tufts website notes, every single Amherst scoring drive started in Tufts territory. Seventy-nine of those return yards came on interceptions for Amherst, with Chris Gow ’16 returning one Alex Snyder ’17 pass to the house. The Lord Jeff defense is very good and known for their takeaways, but this was another level. A big reason for that was because Jack Doll ’15 did not start and only threw the ball six times. It would have been extremely difficult for the Jumbos to upset Amherst at home with the Jeffs smelling a conference championship, but the offense let down a defense that played much better than the score indicated.

Bowdoin Secondary: One week after allowing Henry Foye to enjoy his best game of the season, Jesse Warren ’15 threw for five touchdowns against the Bowdoin secondary. Early in the game Bowdoin was getting pressure, but Warren converted two third downs of more than 12 yards on the first touchdown drive. For the game Wesleyan was 10-17 on third down. The Polar Bears have had problems slowing down the opposition’s passing attack all year with teams finding ways of making big plays consistently. Though Jay Fabien ’15 was slowed, Josh Hurwitz ’15 stepped up and had three touchdown catches. The Bowdoin secondary will have to rise to the occasion and stop Bates’ Riley on Saturday.

Colby’s Depth: The brutal opening schedule robbed Colby of a good deal of their players, and in an effort to get their best talent on the field, wide receivers Luke Duncklee ’15 and Nick Joseph ’15 have started playing on defense as well. Many NESCAC players went both ways in high school so they are somewhat used to it, but doing it in college is especially hard because it is much harder to take any plays off. The duo played well Saturday totaling 14 tackles between them, but it was not enough for Colby to hold off Bates. Advocates for expanding the current roster to more than 75 players might point to Colby’s issues as evidence. It is possible that the issue comes up again in conversations between coaches and administrators, but schools are unlikely to look at this one instance and consider it enough reason to change a longstanding rule.