Change is a Good Thing: Football Power Rankings Week 6

As the top half of the league spent the first half of this NESCAC season collectively pounding the state of Maine week after week, we were finally treated with a slate of games with legitimate championship implications, and it certainly lived up to the hype. With Trinity visiting Tufts and Middlebury welcoming Williams, as well as a pair of 0-4 teams in Hamilton and Bowdoin squaring off, Saturday was sure to make this rookie blogger’s Power Rankings debut a whole lot easier.

  1. Trinity
Dominque Seagears
Dominique Seagears ’18 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

There is one team in this conference that is undefeated and as long as that holds true, Trinity will remain at the top of these rankings. Max Chipouras ’18 logged a season high 165 rushing yards on 29 attempts and the Bantams defense was able to turn Tufts over 4 times, 3 of those being interceptions off of Ryan McDonald ’18. They once again had a new defensive MVP, this time in the form of defensive back Dominique Seagears ’18 whose 100 yard interception return for a touchdown surely flipped this game on its head. It’s hard to imagine Trinity sliding out of this spot after next week’s matchup at home against Bowdoin, but Middlebury the following weekend will be their biggest test to date.

2. Williams

What a week for the Ephs and again what a week for Bobby Maimaron ’21. Maimaron connected with classmate Frank Stola with 0 seconds left on the clock to stun previously undefeated Middlebury 27-26. Maimaron impressed again, racking up 288 total yards of offense and 3 TDs, earning his second consecutive NESCAC offensive player of the week honor. But I think the most impressive part about this Williams win was how they got it done. They were outgained 432-378, they didn’t force any turnovers on defense, and they found themselves down two scores with 9 minutes left in the game, but still managed a way to win. Despite the fact that Jared Lebowitz ’18 made perhaps his strongest case for being the best quarterback in the league and a continued recipient of compliments from this blog, it was once again the first year QB on the other side of the ball who shone the brightest, leading his team on a 12 play, 80 yard drive in just over two minutes to win what was the biggest game for Williams football in a long time. While Wesleyan and Amherst also sit at 4-1, it’s the Ephs who earn the top spot for one-loss teams with a resume that features a win on the road against a title contender in Middlebury and a single loss to undefeated Trinity in Hartford. Until Wesleyan and Amherst show that they can hang with the big boys, it’s Williams who will hold onto this spot. A lot of things need to fall their way for them to have a chance to win this thing, and while I don’t have the metrics in front of me, I would imagine that still having Tufts, Wesleyan, and Amherst remaining puts them towards the front of toughest remaining schedules, but there is no reason this team should have anything less than championship aspirations, especially after this week.

3. Middlebury

The Panthers were one play away from firmly planting themselves as the second horse in what looked as if could be a two horse race for the NESCAC, and this space would’ve been taken up with a discussion about 6-0 Middlebury vs. 6-0 Trinity in Week 7 after both teams steamroll Bates and Bowdoin respectively, but the defense couldn’t get a stop against Williams in the waning seconds on Saturday and instead find themselves amongst the rest of the one loss teams rooting for a Trinity loss (although aren’t we all rooting for a Trinity loss?). Unlike Amherst, whose loss against Middlebury a few weeks back raised as many questions about the actual quality of their team as much as it did their chances to get fitted for rings in November, this loss didn’t really do anything to make me feel that Middlebury can’t still sit atop the standings after 9 games. As I mentioned above, Middlebury still played great, Lebowitz ’18 was dynamite again, but Williams simply made more plays and won the game. This team is still a legitimate title contender, and although they can no longer go undefeated, their season was always going to boil down to Week 7 at Trinity. Win or lose against Williams, that was still going be the case. Beat the Bantams and they immediately become title favorites, lose to Trinity and start thinking about next year. This is still a very dangerous team.

4. Wesleyan

Wesleyan and Middlebury have the same record but Middlebury beat Wesleyan so they go ahead of them, nothing complicated about that. As much as it pains me to admit, I think this Wesleyan team is going to sneak up on someone in the next few weeks and be a serious spoiler in the title race. Yet the simple fact that I’m talking about a team that is tied for second as a potential spoiler and not a contender should tell you how much they’re flying under the radar. Their lone loss was a 30-27 Week 1 defeat to Middlebury in Middlebury, they beat Tufts at home, and they’ve taken care of their business against the bottom half of the league to find themselves at 4-1. Mark Piccirillo ’19 is probably the best player that no one is talking about, as his 388 passing yards against Bates kept him comfortably at the top of the passing charts, his 333.2 YPG first in the league. Piccirillo, however, also leads the league with 7 interceptions, and he is yet to have a game without one. If he can find a way to limit the turnovers, then this team is talented offensively to outscore any one team for 60 minutes. Mike Brueler ’18 has comfortably been the best WR in the league this year, running away with the gold medal for receptions and receiving yards, and still leading in touchdowns as well. If Piccirillo and Brueler bring their A game they can throw a wrench in someone’s title plans. While I don’t think they quite have it defensively this year to make a serious splash, I’m confident enough to know that they are going to play a crucial role in the outcome of this season.

Mark Piccirillo ’18 leads the league in passing yards per game with 332, and makes the Cardinals offense dangerous to anyone.

5. Amherst

This team gives me a headache. I simply don’t know what to make of them. They’ve scored no less than 31 points in a game all season, and they lead the league in scoring offense with 35.8 points per game. But these guys don’t seem to scare anybody this year. Maybe it’s because of the fact that there isn’t one guy on the offensive side of the ball that scares anybody. Jack Hickey ’19 leads the top rushing offense in the NESCAC, but only averages 79.4 yards a game as he is simply half of their two-pronged attack alongside Hasani Figueroa ’18. Maybe it’s because at this point in the year I don’t think there are a lot of people who have much hope for Reece Foy ’18 to return to the POY caliber player he was before his injury, and Ollie Eberth ’20’s name is not going to be one of the first to come up in a debate over who the best quarterback in the NESCAC is. Maybe it’s because they have 4 wins over the 4 worst teams in the league and lost to the only good team they played in Middlebury. Regardless of what it is, I don’t think there is a team in this league with more to prove than the Purple and White. Their four remaining opponents are a combined 16-4, with the “worst” of those teams being Tufts, and Ellis Oval is never a fun place to play. The matchup I’m most looking forward to this week is Wesleyan @ Amherst because I think it’s the matchup we will learn the most from. Amherst’s performance this week will be the strongest indicator yet of what kind team they’re shaping up to be, which is anywhere from a 4-5 team to an 8-1 team.

6. Tufts

Ahead of the Jumbos are 5 teams with better records, and below them are 4 teams with worse records, so slotting them in 6 was as easy as it gets this week. Tufts probably isn’t the 6th best team in this league, if I had to guess I think they’ll finish somewhere in the top 4, but as a product of some close games and outrageously lopsided scheduling to begin the season, this is where they stand. A loss to Wesleyan in Middletown in overtime, and a one possession loss to Trinity, a game in which they more than likely would’ve won if not for Dominque Seagears ’18’s 100 yard interception return for a touchdown, a play that turned what would’ve been a 14-7 score line in favor of Tufts into 13-7 the other way. But if we’re counting Williams’ 17-9 loss to Trinity as an impressive showing, then I suppose we have to feel this way about Tufts as well, who were able to put up more points on Trinity than any other team this year.

I know I sound like a broken record here, but this Tufts team’s deal isn’t different than any of the other teams chasing after the top. They have weapons on offense, and some guys on defense, but neither side is really dominant enough to put a scare in you. Ryan McDonald ’18 has proven his ability has a dual threat QB and Jack Dolan ’19 is as dangerous a big play threat as there is in the league, but they have yet to find a way to fill the Chance Brady sized hole in their ground game. McDonald carries for 76.4 yards a game, but it’s hard to really set the tone with a quarterback as your main rushing threat. Defensively, it seems like they have some talented guys, but it just hasn’t come together. The senior trio of monsters in Zach Thomas, Micah Adickes, and Doug Harrison all rank in the top 5 in the league in sacks, and the team itself is 1st with 21, but their ability to get to the quarterback hasn’t really amounted to much as they rank 5th in run defense and 6th against the pass. The Jumbos, like everybody else, have a remaining schedule that could go either way, as they are definitely capable of beating any of Williams, Amherst, Colby, and Middlebury. We will know a lot more about how good this team is after they visit Williams on Saturday.

7. Hamilton

Mitch Bierman
Mitch Bierman ’21 wins both the “Breakout Star of the Week” award and the “Looks Most Like Landry Clarke from FNL” Award. (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

Someone had to win this game Hamilton-Bowdoin game and it was the Continentals who escaped from the pack of winless teams to go to 1-4. Kenny Gray ’20 continued his strong individual season going 20-34 for 240 yards and 3 TDs, but the real story on offense for Hamilton was the breakout game of first year running back Mitch Bierman who ran for a career high 158 yards on 22 carries, providing a balanced attack for their first win of the season. Although by all accounts it has been a disappointing season for Hamilton, they still have a really good chance to finish 3-6 and end the season on a high note. They have Colby and Bates at home, both matchups in which they are the better team, and then they travel to both Williams and Middlebury. I’m fairly confident in counting both of these games as losses, but if the Conts want to turn that into bulletin board material and maybe catch one of those two looking past them at other obstacles in their race to a title, then I’m sure that would also be a tremendous moment for them as a program, and Pete could hop right back on as the conductor of the “Hamilton is Good” train for the 2018 campaign.

8. Bates

As long as these three teams remain winless, which unfortunately looks like it might carry on for another week, the moral victory trophy is going to be handed out on a relative week by week basis. Colby got pasted at home by Amherst, Bowdoin lost to previously winless Hamilton at home, and Bates went to Wesleyan and scored 23 points in a loss, losing by the least. So they will occupy the highly coveted 8th spot for this week.

On a more serious football note, Bates did impress in their trip to Wesleyan. Their option attack showed signs of life as they logged 287 yards rushing. Brendan Costa ’21 had his best game as the Bates QB1 with 170 rushing yards, but most importantly didn’t turn the ball over once, a significant improvement from his 4 interceptions in Williamstown the week before. No one’s asking Costa to look like Cam Newton, but if they’re going to prioritize the run then they need to take better care of the ball in passing situations. The defense continues to get smoked, as they allowed 41 more points this week, which actually brings their average DOWN to 43.4 points allowed a week. I don’t have a spin zone for that, the defense is just downright bad, but the offense trended in the right direction this week. Their run of pain should come to an end after they host Middlebury this week (don’t get your hopes up folks), and we’ll see how they can finish up against Colby, Bowdoin, and Hamilton.

 9. Bowdoin

Nate Richam ’20 is hidden on an otherwise weak offense, but is one of the best running backs in the league.

Bowdoin lost to a previously winless team in Hamilton, and Colby got smoked by a quite decent team in Amherst, but the Polar Bears are going to occupy the 9 spot this week. I know I said that the moral victory trophy and 8th spot would be the decided on a relative week by week basis, but that’s not going to be the case at 9. Neither Bowdoin or Colby are any good, but Colby’s offense is so downright poor (5.4 points/184.2 yards a game), that it’s hard to justify putting them over anyone. We are at the point in the year for these bottom tier teams that you just have to find a couple of silver linings and focus on those. Nate Richam ’20 had some flashes of production, and first year quarterback Griff Stalcup ’21 played turnover free football. They are both obviously still young and hopefully can be two pillars to build on moving forward.

10. Colby

I really don’t have a whole to say here. Colby vs. the top offense in the NESCAC was always going to be ugly and Amherst didn’t disappoint, hanging 40 on the Mules. Just as Bates’ “holding” Wesleyan to 41 points lowered their points allowed average, Colby’s scoring 7 raised their offensive to a whopping 5.4 scored a game. This goes without saying but the biggest problem, among many, for this team is that they simply don’t have any weapons. Jake Schwern ’19 is both their leading rusher and their leading receiver, which is more of an indication that they have no one who can make plays downfield or a quarterback that can get it to them.

Luckily for Colby and Bowdoin, and Bates I guess, although my Maine sources tell me they are the third wheel in this whole Maine rivalry (just like Wesleyan in the Little Three even if they don’t realize it), is that they still have each other to look forward to, and any team with an archrival can tell you that having that game (or games) at the end of the season is like having your own championship or bowl game to play for. If Williams or Bowdoin went 1-7 last year but beat Amherst or Colby, respectively, in Week 8, it sure wouldn’t have felt like they went 1-7, and the same will go for these teams this year. They still have something to play for.

 

It’s Finally Getting Interesting: Weekend Preview 10/15

This week features not one, but two sure-fire nail-biter contests between the league’s top teams. Not only this, but some of the less successful teams up to this point (four 0-4 teams) will get the chance to find the win column as they square off against one another. Hamilton or Bowdoin will end their winless streaks and Williams @ Middlebury and Trinity @ Tufts are games that could either put one undefeated over the other on a quest for a ring, or bring all the one loss teams closer together. Regardless of how this week plays out, it’s nice to see that the majority of results won’t be easy to predict, a refreshing sight compared to the majority of the first four weeks.

Hamilton (0-4) @ Bowdoin (0-4), 12:00 PM, Brunswick, ME

It must be nice to look across the field and not see a powerhouse on the other side for these two teams. After brutal starts to the season in terms of strength of schedule, the Continentals and Polar Bears will square off in what is sure to be a competitive matchup. Bowdoin had a dud of an offensive performance last week, scoring just three points, but the previous three weeks saw them in the end zone 2x per contest. QB Griff Stalcup ‘21 should have a good chance to breakout against his first weak defense while RB Nate Richam ’20 looks to continue his ground

Nate RIcham ’20 is the lone bright spot in Bowdoin’s season thus far.

dominance after a 109 yard performance against Tufts. Richam averaged 5.7 yards per carry against a Jumbo defense that held the Bowdoin team to just three points, and Richam has improved in some way every week. Stalcup has been remarkably consistent in terms of completions as he is either 12/21 or 12/22 in each of his three starts this year, the best of which came against Amherst. If both these two players can get it going, they might just have the scoring capability to set them over the edge.

Hamilton, like Bowdoin, hasn’t had much luck so far this season. If they started playing some of the NESCAC’s weaker teams immediately following their near win over Tufts, then their record might look drastically different. However, after failing to improve on that performance, and falling back into the abyss of the losing column the last three weeks without much resistance, they are desperate for a win against Bowdoin. Kenny Gray ’20 has played better than his team’s 0-4 record would indicate and he has the experience that could lead his team to victory. Also, a stellar secondary performance against perennial All-NESCAC Sonny Puzzo ’18 would suggest that Griff Stalcup will have his hands full. I mean, if they can intercept Trinity’s QB twice, why not four against Bowdoin? They look to be the favorite here due to their defense from last week and Gray’s relative consistency thus far, but Richam could control the Bowdoin offense if he plays like he did last week.

Predicted Score: Hamilton 20, Bowdoin 17

Bates (0-4) @ Wesleyan (3-1), 1:00 PM, Middletown, CT

While the outcome of this game isn’t necessarily hard to predict in terms of who will win (sorry, Bobcat fans, this won’t be your week), it will still be a good opportunity for Bates do develop their offense in preparation for games that they will compete in. Brendan Costa ’21 looked really bad last weekend against Williams, like really bad. Yes, I recognize that it’s only his second career start, and his second career game, but four INTs is a lot. Sandy Plashkes ’19 showed flashes of greatness with some huge runs last year, and Costa looked good in his opening contest, but until Bates figures out who is going to lead their team, they won’t have a chance to win. Here’s the good news: Matt Golden ’20 looked really good against Williams with a huge 62 yard rush, both Costa and Plashkes can run the ball, and Bates plays with tons of slot receivers and slot backs that are part of a run oriented offense. They should run the ball on offense. Obviously with only 14 pass attempts as a unit last game, they know what their strengths are, but they need to limit the turnovers and let their ground game take control. Jason Lopez should be nearly the only receiver they throw too. They won’t win this game, but hopefully they can get enough offense going to show that they can find the win column eventually.

Again, for Wesleyan this shouldn’t be a difficult win. If nothing else it should be an opportunity to QB Mark Piccirillo ’18 to work on his turnover issue as well. He threw the ball well against Colby, going for four TDs and 324 yards. His play isn’t an issue right now, but he has turned the ball over in 4/4 contests so far and with Amherst and Trinity still left on the Cardinals’ schedule, he will need to be perfect for Wesleyan to win out. The Wesleyan defensive line looked great last weekend too, accumulating three sacks and 10 tackles for losses, and they should get to the Bates QBs all day.

Predicted Score: Wesleyan 35, Bates 10

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

I am seriously doubting Amherst’s potential to make a run at the league title after their lacklustre play at QB against Middlebury. As everybody knows, the NESCAC is a QB league, and while Ollie Eberth ’20 is solid, he isn’t the same as Piccirillo, Lebowitz, McDonald, or Puzzo. Even young Bobby Maimaron ’21 looks to have an edge over Eberth. With that said, they shouldn’t have much issue against the Mules. Eberth is going to have to start making strides to be more diverse in his passing game as Bo Berluti has been under utilized up to this point in the season. Amherst’s secondary looked weak against Midd too and will use this game as an opportunity to get some turnovers and work out the kinks before tougher games.

Ollie Eberth ’20 has had moments of greatness, but hasn’t been consistent enough to compete with the elite QB class above him.

This probably isn’t a game that the Mules circled on their schedule in the preseason. Amherst has looked nearly unstoppable against the other 0-4 teams this year, and while they lost to Midd, Colby is not even close to on that level. They really didn’t get anything going against Wesleyan, and their only highlight was having a lead through the first quarter. They proceeded to let up 41 unanswered points to finish off the contest. They don’t have much of an offensive game as Jack O’Brien, Jake Schwern, and the receivers haven’t made many big plays this year. They were able to force two turnovers against the Cardinals though and defense should be their goal against the Mammoths who turned the ball over three times against the Panthers. Their defensive line hasn’t done much recently, but they could limit Eberth significantly in his passing game. The bad news for the Mules is that Jack Hickey is the star of the Amherst offense and stopping the ground game isn’t the Colby specialty.

Predicted Score: Amherst 38, Colby 7

GAME OF THE WEEK: Trinity (4-0) @ Tufts (3-1), 1:30 PM, Medford, MA

Another marquee matchup brings excitement to my heart. Tufts has already lost, but have displayed enough offensive talent worth of a challenge for the mighty Bantams, who’s only notable win thus far was a nail-biter against Williams. The key to this game for Tufts will be stopping RB Max Chipouras ’18 who had a dud of a performance against the Ephs but rebounded nicely against Hamilton. Ryan McDonald ’19 has been running the ball convincingly lately and could be the spark that puts the Jumbos over the edge on Saturday. His dual threat ability is just what an opponent needs against Trinity, who’s defense has been nearly unstoppable up to this point. Unfortunately for Tufts, Bowdoin RB Nate Richam ran all over them last week, and if they are vulnerable like that again, Chipouras could control the game. Rush defense is the only hope for the Jumbos.

Ryan McDonald’s speed makes him a dangerous weapon, and is the key to Tufts’ upset chances.

I mentioned above how Chipouras had a tough day against Williams, averaging under three yards per carry for the first time in his career, but his silenced his doubters (were there any?) with two TDs and 97 yards against Hamilton. Puzzo showed he was vulnerable to the interception too, and he will need to take better care of the ball as to not give Tufts additional scoring opportunities. With the way Trinity’s defense has played so far this year, they shouldn’t need more than 21 points to win this game, but the question is, how many opportunities will they give Tufts to find the end zone.

Predicted Score: Trinity 24, Tufts 14

Williams (3-1) @ Middlebury (4-0), 2:00 PM, Middlebury, VT

 334 yards of offense and four TDs from Bobby Maimeron led him to his first Player of the Week honors after a clobbering of Bates (check out Matt’s excellent profile of Bobby here). Good special teams play, a balanced offensive attack, and a breakout day from their secondary lead to a decent amount of hope heading into this game. Rashad Morrison ’21 and Connor Harris ’18 combined for over 160 yards against Bates and looked nearly unstoppable. TJ Rothman (21)’s two picks, along with another from Jameson DeMarco ’19 and Jack Kastenhuber ’21 should worry Lebowitz, who has had issues with turnovers in the past. DeMarco has been great to start the season, adding the INT in his only game without a sack this year. Williams should put up a fight, Maimeron is about to face the music with Midd’s secondary showing up in a big way against Amherst.

 Zoning in on Maimeron all day though will be Midd’s Kevin Hopsicker who had a career game against Amherst with eight tackles and a pick-6 against Amherst. Wesley Becton also added a pick-6 and Maimeron should have his hands full with this secondary. Lebowitz won’t be slowed down by Williams’ defense despite their solid play against Bates. The Middlebury receiving core should be able to overcome much of the challenge from the Ephs, and while Williams could intercept one or two passes, Lebowitz should still find the end zone upwards of three times. The rush defense looks to be the only question heading into this one as they allowed almost 200 yards on the ground to the Mammoths.

 Predicted Score: Middlebury 28, Williams 21

The Best of the Rest: Week Four Football Weekend Preview

The marquee game of the season thus far is in Amherst, as Middlebury travels to the Mammoths in a game that starts the process of deciding the league champion. Amherst and Middlebury are the two teams with the best chance of supplanting Trinity, but staying undefeated will be crucial in that noble quest. Check out Colby’s breakdown of that game here.  Other than that game this week is pretty pedestrian, with mostly lower tier teams taking on better opponents. It will be interesting to see if Williams can build off their performance against Trinity last weekend, or if they are let down after a tough loss. And Trinity is worth watching as well, to see if their offense can rebound against a Hamilton team that can be sneaky-dangerous (ask Tufts.)

Colby (0-3) @ Wesleyan (2-1), 1:00 PM, Middletown, CT

As their Twitter page is very fond of pointing out, Wesleyan has one of the most potent passing offenses in the country thus far. However, they are not built to be a high volume aerial attack like, say, Middlebury is. Mark Piccirillo ‘18 doesn’t have the bevy of receiving weapons that Lebowitz does, nor is he as deadly accurate, as shown by his two picks against Hamilton. This is why it was so encouraging to see the Cardinal rushing attack get going in a big way against the Continentals. Sophomore Dario Highsmith ‘20 had the breakout game we’ve been waiting for, rushing for 95 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries. Wesleyan is at their best when their offense is multi-faceted, and after a one-dimensional first three weeks, they’re finally figuring it out. Look for them to continue to establish the run in a mismatch against Colby.

Dario Highsmith ’20 might be making a star turn before our very eyes.

Speaking of the Mules, their offense has continued to be anemic, putting too much pressure on an actually fairly good defense. QB Jack O’ Brian ‘21 has not thrown a pick since becoming the starter, but he also has completed just around 50% of his passes and really struggles throwing it downfield. The passing game can’t keep the ball on the field well enough to run it with Jake Schwern ’19, an underrated back who is averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Colby will try to run the ball on the Cardinals, but they really need to get some sort of threatening passing attack going. Unfortunately, Wesleyan is not a team offenses get “well” against.

Predicted Score: Wesleyan 31, Colby 9

Bates (0-3) @ Williams (2-1), 1:00 PM, Williamstown, MA

At the beginning of the season, we would have thought this game would be close, as these two teams would be battling it out for the “Best of the Rest” spot that we’ve written about in the past. But with Williams’ shocking improvement and Bates’ equally shocking struggles, it now looks like it could be a blowout. But, it also might not be. This is a very important game for both teams. Williams has impressed the league with their terrific defensive performance against Trinity. They had two sacks, a category in which they sit a second in the league, and nine tackles for loss in a pressure-filled performance that helped hold Max Chipouras ’19 to his worst performance on the season (just 2.8 yards per carry.) Unfortunately for them, Trinity’s defense was just as good, forcing the young Williams offense into four turnovers. Williams brought a lot of passion in that game, and they can’t afford to take a break against the Bobcats if they want to keep a legit chance at finishing in the top four (which I think they have.) The offense should rebound against a porous Bates defense, but the youth factor might make it harder to come back from a frustrating loss last weekend

Brendan Costa
Brendan Costa ’21 is the latest on the carousel of Bates starting QB’s.

Luckily for the Williams offense, Bates has made pretty much every team they play look like the ‘07 Patriots. To be fair, they have played three of the best offenses in the league (Trinity, Amherst and Tufts.) And also to be fair, their own offense has struggled so much that their defense can’t get a break. The Bobcats are on their their third QB of the year in Brendan Costa ‘21, and he looked impressive on the ground against Tufts (91 yards and a TD.) But he still completed only 42% of his passes. Even if Williams’ offense isn’t as dominant as the others Bates has faced, their defense should be enough to get them the win.

Predicted Score: Williams 24, Bates 10

Hamilton (0-3) @ Trinity (3-0), 1:00 PM, Hartford, CT

Trinity had some weaknesses exposed last weekend against Williams, namely on the offensive line and in the receiving game. Sonny Puzzo ‘18 and Max Chipouras ‘19 might be the best at their positions in the league, but Trinity doesn’t have a stud receiver. Koby Schafer ’20 is a great player, but he’d be better suited as a second option behind a Mike Breuler ’18 or a Conrado Banky ’19. This puts more pressure on Puzzo to make perfect throws, and on Chipouras to set up the offense in good spots. Therefore, if either of them are struggling, Trinity’s offense can sputter. And the way to make them struggle is to pack the box and stop Chipouras. Williams did that very effectively until a fourth quarter turnover gave the Bantams excellent field position. That’s when Puzzo ended the game with a TD strike to Schafer, keeping Trinity from suffering a huge upset. Also, it should be noted that Trinity’s defense still looked impenetrable despite finally giving up points. They dominated the Ephs inexperienced attack, with LB and Player of the Week Carty Campbell ’18 returning an interception 34 yards. They should to the same to Hamilton.

Hamilton has definitely seen the game plan that Williams used to limit Trinity. However, they probably do not have the personnel to repeat it. They have two solid linebackers in Cole Burchill ’19 and Tyler Hudson ’19, but neither of them are intimidating backfield presence, preferring to work in the secondary. And their D-Line has been roasted all season to the tune of 204 rushing yards per game (!!) Add in another inexperienced offense (despite a bevy of weapons that might make Puzzo fairly jealous) and Trinity should get back on their blowout grind this week.

Predicted Score: Trinity 42, Hamilton 6

Bowdoin (0-3) @ Tufts (2-1), 1:30 PM, Medford, MA

One of the most versatile offenses in the league takes on the worst defense in the league. Not exactly a recipe for a tight game. Tufts can beat you in a lot of different ways on the offensive end, but they all start with QB Ryan McDonald ‘19. McDonald has had a couple huge passing games (and one very bad one against Wesleyan,) and has six touchdowns and two interceptions on the year. But his greatest weapons is his legs. He has 295 yards and two touchdowns on 5.1 yards per carry. He does have an unfortunate fumbling habit (3 on the year) but he is undoubtedly one of the deadliest offensive forces in the league, and has been chiefly responsible for Tufts’s offense thriving even without Chance Brady.

Ryan McDonald ’19 is the key to Tufts’ offense.

Bowdoin’s defense is allowing an incomprehensible 477 yards per game this season. They seem to have found some modicum of consistency at QB in Griff Stalcup ‘21, but they simply cannot stay in games long enough for him to really get into a rhythm. If they could find some way to disrupt McDonald’s throwing, Tufts RB Dom Borelli ‘19 is battling an injury and may not play, limiting their rushing attack. They could play contain on McDonald and force him to make downfield throws. However, I don’t see their secondary being good enough to stop those throws even if they do that.

Predicted Score: Tufts 40, Bowdoin 10

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.

Amherst Who?: Week 5 Stock Report 10/24

Week 5 was an interesting week of football in the ‘CAC. While it was exciting for the fans who got to see one of the bigger surprises of the year in Middletown, Connecticut with Wesleyan blowing out Amherst 20-0, there really wasn’t a close game. Every game was a blowout, and the other four outcomes were all relatively predictable, aside from maybe Colby beating Hamilton since they were both one-win teams coming into the weekend. Trinity kept up their streak of scoring between 36 and 38 points (which they have done every week this season), Middlebury kept up their streak of passing for a million yards, and Tufts maintained their undefeated record at home against Williams. Look below to see who performed exceptionally well and whose stock fell this weekend.

 

Stock Up:

Wesleyan Defense

Put on a show for us, Wes! The Cardinal defense leads the league with just 7.2 PPG allowed, making them the only team in the conference holding teams to single digits. This is in large part due to the play of the Wesleyan secondary, as the Cards are tied with Middlebury (another top team – shocker) with a league-high 8 interceptions so far. If you asked me to pick one standout player on the defensive side of the ball, I honestly don’t think I could. This defense is clearly a cohesive unit, and these kids have been absolutely phenomenal for 19 of the 20 quarters of football they’ve played this year (the one standout quarter being the 4th quarter against Tufts). If their defense maintains this high level of play, Wesleyan will find themselves in a position to win the league when they face off with Trinity in Week 8.

 

Tufts RB Chance Brady ‘17

Well, well, well, Week 6 is upon us and Chance Brady is in the discussion for offensive player of the year. Weird, right? Brady dominated Williams this weekend, rushing for 157 yards and 4 touchdownss. Not only did the workhorse back run away with the NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week award, but he also cleaned up on Tufts accolades as well: Chance tied the Tufts record for touchdowns in a single game and also broke the career rushing touchdowns record for the Jumbos, with his current total sitting at 25 TDs. He leads the league in rushing and rushing touchdowns, amassing 119.2 YPG on the ground for a total of 9 trips to the endzone so far. If he keeps this up, Brady may have a chance to win some more hardware at the end of the season…

tweet-on-jumbocast

 

Colby DB Patrick Yale ’19

Patrick Yale was a spark plug for the Mules this weekend (Courtesy of Colby Athletics).
Patrick Yale ’19 was a spark plug for the Mules this weekend (Courtesy of Colby Athletics).

Yale wasn’t named NESCAC defensive player of the week for nothing – he broke up 4 passes and had 4 tackles in Colby’s win over Hamilton this weekend. He had an interception and returned it 40 yards back to the 50 yard line. Later in the game, Yale recovered a fumble and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown. He fought hard all game long for the Mules, and boy did it show in the results. I mean, there’s leaving everything out on the field, and then there’s literally leaving everything out there on the field – Yale chose the latter. He didn’t even have time to celebrate his first quarter touchdown…after running in for the score, Yale headed straight to the sideline to puke. Electric stuff Pat, absolutely electric.

 

Me

I thought about trying to find a way to humle brag about this, but I figured I’d just be very blatant with my brag instead. Following the results from Week 5, the writers’ standings look like this:

1.) Rory (18-2)

2.) Pete (17-3)

2.) Liam (17-3)

2.) Colin (17-3)

2.) Nick (17-3)

6.) Colby (16-4)

7.) Sid (15-5)

 

Try to keep up fellas.

 

Stock Down:

Amherst

It feels like just yesterday that Amherst won their third straight championship. They were on top of the world, and honestly, it didn’t look like anyone in the league knew how to beat them. Well, here we are almost a year later – Amherst is 3-2 and has lost 2 of their last 3 games. They’ve had to deal with injuries of course, but the once feared Lord Jeffs are now just another solid football team that happens to lack a mascot. Are they still one of the better teams in the league? Absolutely. But for a team that has the number of talented runningbacks that Amherst does, putting up 11 rush yards against Wesleyan this weekend is a pretty glaring deficiency. Amherst has a chance to bounce back against a solid Tufts team this coming weekend, but they have yet to beat a top half team in 2016. Saturday’s contest will prove to us just how good the 2016 Amherst Football team really is.

 

Colby RB Jabari Hurdle-Price ‘17

Hurdle-Price was first team All-NESCAC last year and was a preseason all-american coming into the season. Unfortunately, the senior just  hasn’t carried over his production to 2016. After ranking 2nd in rushing last season, Hurdle-Price is currently 12th in the NESCAC in rushing yards. This weekend’s game against Hamilton was pretty telling: sophomore running back Jake Schwern had more carries than Hurdle-Price (11 vs. 10), and Schwern also ran for 40 yards compared to Hurdle-Price’s 13 yards. We have seen Jabari put on an absolute show plenty of times, so I would not be surprised if he has a breakout game or two over the next three weeks, but so far he has just not been able to match last year’s production.

 

Competitiveness in NESCAC Football

The closest results this weekend were a tie between the Tufts-Williams and Bates-Middlebury games. The margin of victory for Tufts and Middlebury in these games was 19 points. This has been a trend all year, especially when we see matchups featuring a battle between one top half and one bottom half team. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that these games are pretty boring to watch. I’m considering writing a letter to NESCAC HQ to suggest some sort of playoff system so that we can watch the best teams play each other multiple times. Anything to increase the quantity of competitive games across the league. If you want to cosign, let me know…

 

Writer Sid Warrenbrand ‘18

Refer to the standings above.