Trinity vs. Wesleyan: Week 8 Game of the Week

 

#22 Max Chipouras '19 was kept in check for most of last week. (Courtesy of Greg Sullivan)
#22 Max Chipouras ’19 was kept in check for most of last week against Amherst. (Courtesy of Greg Sullivan)

Game Information: Wesleyan (5-2) at Trinity (6-1) (-7.5): 12:00 PM, Hartford, CT

Wesleyan and Trinity meet this Saturday in the I-91 Rivalry (did we just make that a thing?!) with both teams boasting quality records but battling for second place (we know, we know, Amherst still has to beat Williams and it’s a rivalry game so anything is possible …). If that sounds familiar, it’s because these two were in the exact same situation last year but with the roles switched. This year Trinity is the one-loss team, and Wesleyan is the two-loss team with losses to Middlebury and Amherst.

The game Saturday will be a spirited affair as last year’s win by Wesleyan broke a 13-game winning streak in the rivalry for Trinity. Many of those games were lopsided affairs, including the 2013 game that saw the Bantams blow out Wesleyan 40-10. The game last year was a 20-19 win for Wesleyan in part because Trinity went for a two-point conversion twice (including for the win after the Bantams final touchdown with under two minutes left) and failed both times. Trinity at that point was down to Spencer Aukamp ’18 at quarterback (Aukamp is not on the Trinity roster this year). The loss was the second one-point loss in a row for Trinity and left them a somewhat shocking 5-3.

However, in our eyes, the game tomorrow is just as important for next year. I’m not a believer that winning the last game of the season will lead to a much better off-season (player leadership is the primary factor in that), but the winner of this game will enter the 2016 season as the primary challenger to Amherst. Both of these teams are young and will have most of their talent back next year. Neither the coaches nor players for either team are particularly worried about next year quite yet, though.

Trinity X-Factor: Center Matt Porter ’16

It wouldn’t be fair to say that Amherst shut down the run game for Trinity last week, the Bantams had 140 yards on 37 carries for a relatively healthy 3.8 yards per carry. You just don’t fear Trinity running the ball the same way as before, and Middlebury proved that you can stifle them completely in Week 6. Wesleyan was incredibly stout against the run to begin the year, but they’ve come way down from that lofty position to still be second in the NESCAC. Beyond the running game, Porter and his linemates have to protect Sonny Puzzo ’18 against Jordan Stone ’17 and the rest of the Wesleyan pass rush. The Bantams have allowed 17 sacks this year, even after not allowing any to Amherst.

Wesleyan X-Factor: Outside Linebacker Jon Spivey ’16

Spivey has flown under our radar pretty much the whole year in part because his contributions have been consistent but unremarkable. He is listed at 5’8″, which might be a little generous even, but he also weighs 200 pounds meaning he has enough strength to give offensive lineman trouble either on run or pass plays. From his outside position, Spivey is great at recognizing the defense quickly and adjusting. Seniors have a knack for saving their best for last, so Spivey and the other seniors in this game are all liable to have a big game.

Everything Else

These are such similar teams that it makes you think Mike Whalen was copying the Trinity blueprint when he built up the Wesleyan program (spoiler: he was). The rosters are littered with kids from Connecticut and New Jersey, there is plenty of young talent on both defenses, and their quarterbacks are both threats to run.

About that quarterback position, Mark Piccirillo ’19 and Gernald Hawkins ’18 just about split snaps against Williams. Hawkins started the game and saw all the action in the first quarter. I don’t think one of them has seized the starting role yet, something that a coaching staff hates to have. Hawkins began the year as the undisputed starter but has begun ceding snaps to his understudy. Piccirillo is the more accurate and consistent passer, Hawkins more of a threat to run the ball. Honestly though, these two are similar players. Instead of comparing apples and oranges, it’s like comparing tangerines and clementines: both are good, have varying sweetness, but carry the same essence.

The loss of Devon Carrillo ’17 has been offset by the production of Eric Meyreles ’18 at wide receiver. He backed up his 10-reception game against Bowdoin with a solid five receptions, 64 yards and a touchdown. Wesleyan has the ability to give the Bantams fits in the passing game, though they’ve been inconsistent in that regard.

It was also great to see LaDarius Drew ’15 back on field last week after it was unclear if he would be able to return because of a knee injury against Hamilton in the second game of this year. He might not make a big difference in his final game, but he has had to go through a lot to get to this point.

Even though Trinity lost last week, I came away more impressed with the defense than before. Yes, the Bantams allowed 16 points, but the two touchdown drives for Amherst had to go just 32 and 46 yards because of great field position. The only problem that Trinity had was getting off the field on third down as Amherst was 8-13 in that category. Paul McCarthy ’16 got his fifth interception vs. the Jeffs, his first in a few weeks. Frank Leyva ’16 being back healthy gives a little more experience to the linebacking corps which I like. The Bantams do have to stop Wesleyan’s run game a little bit better, though, than they did against Amherst.

I’ve been pretty snake bitten in my picks recently, so take this pick with a nice lump of salt. I give Trinity the edge because they get the Cardinals at home. This is a classic line of scrimmage game: both teams pride themselves on winning that battle. The Coop’s streak is over, but I think Trinity rallies around the idea of never allowing Wesleyan to win in Hartford, and takes this one by the slimmest of margins, meaning that Wesleyan covers the spread but loses where it counts.

Prediction: Trinity over Wesleyan 17-16

 

When the Boss Takes over the Ranks: Power Rankings 10/23

Williams is the "Best of the Rest" right now - can they get over that hump? (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Williams is the “Best of the Rest” right now – can they get over that hump? (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Usual rank-man Nick DiBenedetto is on vacation this week (probably sipping mai tais in Cabo San Lucas … just kidding, he just had mid-terms), so I, Joe MacDonald, am taking over. So after today you can stop heckling me for ranks that aren’t even mine, and can start telling me how stupid I am while actually knowing what you’re talking about.

1. Amherst Lord Jeffs (4-0; Last Week: 2)

The LJ’s are the defending champs, 4-0, looking for their 16th straight win, and are better than the 2014 title team. That’s because besides having a great defense and a great rushing attack, Amherst actually has a passing threat this season. The Lord Jeffs have averaged 7.3 yards per pass attempt, third in the NESCAC, all thanks to Reece Foy ’18 (and some talented receivers and great blocking). They’re still a rush first team (953 yards on the ground, 5.3 YPC and 10 TDs, all 1st in the NESCAC), but the aerial threat is a scary new dimension.

2. Trinity Bantams (4-0; Last Week: 1)

Tufts be damned. No team gets through a season without a scare or two. The Bantams defense still looks great, and by the way, the Bants have the No. 2 scoring offense in the league. If anything, I’m a little concerned about the run game. Maybe that’s silly for a team averaging 4.4 yards per carry, but I think there will be a lot of pressure put on Max Chipouras ’19 as he develops into a feature back, and I worry about him wearing down and about how a first-year hangs in there when Trinity meets the big boys in Middlebury, Amherst and Wesleyan.

3. Middlebury Panthers (3-1; Last Week: 3)

Is that a running game I see? Yeah, it was only one game, but we all knew that Diego Meritus ’19 had the physical ability to do what he did to Williams. He’s really good with a head of steam. It’s just hard to get going when you’re taking handoffs standing still in the shotgun next to the QB. He’s also been effective in the screen game, so more of that is in order. But defensively, what’s going on with the rush defense? The Panthers have allowed 301, 100, 190 and 95 yards rushing so far, and that’s not with teams running out the clock against them. This was the 4th-best rush defense in the ‘CAC a year ago. Time to get it together.

4. Wesleyan Cardinals (3-1; Last Week: 4)

Now it gets interesting, but I’m giving Wesleyan the slightest of edges over Tufts. Wesleyan has just been there before. And, even without LaDarius Drew ’15, the run game is scary and multi-faceted. I know they’re young, but it’s a winning culture, and that appears to have carried over. At least, that’s how I choose to look at it, rather than a team that plays down or up to the level of its competition. Can they match Amherst’s level, though? We’ll find out tomorrow.

5. Tufts Jumbos (3-1; Last Week: 6)

Another team with a few questionable close calls, but an equally eye-opening close loss. Formerly a high-flying, pass-happy team with no defense, the Jumbos are actually relying on their D to carry the load. They’ve given up a lot of yards, but only 116.8 per game on the ground (4th-best) and have 12 takeaways (1st) and 14 sacks (T-1st). The defense stalled the Continentals’ offense in the OT period in Week 1 and then forced interception, fumble recover, 4th-and-out on Bates’ final three possessions in Week 2. This week the Jumbos try to prove they are in the top half to stay.

6. Williams Ephs (2-2; Last Week: 5)

Watch out for that cliff … sorry, guys, I couldn’t resist. I know what it feels like to be looking up at something that seems to be further than the moon, but for everyone between 6-10, competing for a NESCAC title is a fantasy right now. So it goes in the NESCAC where “parity” has not been the name of the game. However, the Ephs earn this spot by virtue of their Week 1 trouncing of the Polar Bears. Aside from that, they have a close win over Bates and two uninspiring performances against Trinity and Middlebury. What do they do well? Pass defense, having only allowed 201.3 YPG. Then again, Trinity and Middlebury had big leads and they’ve also played the triple-option Bobcats. Still, they’ve got some playmakers there, and they’ll be needed this week against Tufts.

7. Bates Bobcats (0-4; Last Week: 7)

Playing close games earns the ‘Cats some respect, but they’d really prefer a W. Some head-scratching calls have directly led to a couple L’s – plays that make one look like a genius when they go right. In any case, the’ve got to move the ball better. Thirty pass attempts from Pat Dugan ’16 a week ago seems confusing, until you realize that 20 of those came in the fourth quarter with the Bobcats down big. The fact is that they aren’t tricking teams with the triple-option anymore, and opponents have started to bottle up Mark Riley ’16, the league’s leading receiver a year ago. This could quickly get ugly if the offense doesn’t start rolling.

8. Bowdoin Polar Bears (1-3; Last Week: 10)

The Polar Bears dispatched the Continentals in Week 4 thanks to the emergence of a fresh-faced frosh. (CI Photography)
The Polar Bears dispatched the Continentals in Week 4 thanks to the emergence of a fresh-faced frosh. (CI Photography)

They have a W, which is better than can be said for the teams below them in the ranks, but I so nearly put them ninth, because I just don’t buy the supernova debut from Noah Nelson ’19. I’m happy for him, but nothing about his game or practice play in the preseason or first three weeks screamed ‘immediate star.’ With a really tough second start against Trinity this week, I expect to see Bowdoin drop a spot next week. But for now, they’re on a winning streak, and so we have them eighth.

9. Colby Mules (0-4; Last Week: 9)

Not much good going on in Maine right now. The defense is playing okay for Colby, and the D-line specifically has shown me some flashes of penetration. But seven interceptions from starting QB Gabe Harrington ’17 just isn’t getting it done. He’s not getting much help, though. Top target Mark Snyder ’18 provides a lot of size and good hands, but he’s not blowing away any DBs. They don’t even have a passing TD yet … hopefully the resurgence of Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 starts opening up some throwing lanes.

10. Hamilton Continentals (0-10; Last Week: 10)

The Continentals have been competitive, so good times seem to be ahead. However, they’re not right around the corner. There’s far too much confusion at quarterback, and no rushing attack to speak of. After looking very respectable in the first two games, allowing 17 points to Tufts in regulation before surrendering a TD on the overtime drive and just 15 to points to Wesleyan, Trinity and Bowdoin have torn up the Continentals’ defense. There are some youngsters on the Hamilton defense making plays, which is encouraging, but there are still more questions than answers.

Mid-Year Report: 5 Biggest Surprises So Far

Quarterback Noah Nelson '19 came out of nowhere to win NESCAC POTW Honors. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)
Quarterback Noah Nelson ’19 came out of nowhere to win NESCAC POTW Honors. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

The NESCAC football season has brought us all of the drama and excitement that we could have asked. And while the standings are largely where we thought they’d be at season’s beginning, and many of last year’s standouts have built upon their impressive resumes, nevertheless there have been a myriad of surprises, as well.

Like the ending of the Departed – wait, maybe that’s a bad example. Like the big reveal of Darth Vader’s true identity in The Empire Strikes Back – do anyone of the younguns playing in the NESCAC today even know what I’m talking about – some things we just never see coming. And with that in mind, below are the five biggest surprises of the 2015 NESCAC football season, in order from “Oh no, someone ate the last Oreo” to “My car is gone, my girlfriend broke up with me and my house burnt down – I just saw it on Facebook”.

5. There Are Freshmen All over the Leaderboards

And that doesn’t even count last week’s Co-Offensive Player of the Week, Bowdoin QB Noah Nelson ’19, who isn’t eligible for the leaderboards despite a 328-yard, four-touchdown performance in Week 4. Amherst (Jack Hickey ’19) and Middlebury (Diego Meritus ’19) both have ball carriers in the top-10 in rushing yards per game, and Tufts’ Dom Borelli ’19 has shown some flashes of talent. On the receiving end, Middlebury’s Conrado Banky ’19 has turned a couple big plays into 64.8 YPG receiving, good for ninth in the NESCAC. On the defensive end, LB Phillippe Archambault ’19 (Bowdoin), LBs Ryan Neville ’19 (Colby) and Sam Friedman ’19 (Colby), DL Tyler Hudson ’19 (Hamilton) and DB Colby Jones ’19 (Hamilton), LBs Dagon Picon-Roura ’19 (Trinity) and Shane Libby ’19 (Trinity), and DB Alexander LaPiana ’19 (Tufts) are all making immediate impacts for their new squads. Every year some first-years make their mark right away, but it’s always impressive to see, and the number of contributors this year has been particularly large

4. The Tufts Jumbos Are 3-1, with a 34-27 OT Loss vs. Trinity

Sure, we predicted a 4-4 season for Tufts and they’ve won the games we expected them to. They also scraped by Hamilton and Bates by a total of four points. So we shouldn’t really be surprised by where Tufts stands right now. But then again, they did almost beat a 3-0 Trinity team that had yet to allow a point on defense. Maybe, just maybe, this team is getting better. And better yet, they’re starting to believe that they belong. For a team that hadn’t won a football game since Sept. 15, 2010 before last season, they seem to have arrived and become relevant at last.

3. The Wesleyan Rushing Attack

The Cardinals’ returned All-NESCAC running back Lou Stevens ’17 and brought back the formerly-injured LaDarius Drew ’15 to the backfield for this season. I would have bet my entire bank account (that probably sounds more impressive than it is) that at least one of those two would be running roughshod over the NESCAC already.

And yet, in Week 1 Jaylen Berry ’18 led the Cards’ attack with 122 rushing yards on 21 carries (5.8 YPC) and Drew and Stevens combined for just eight carries. On the season, Berry, quarterback Gernald Hawkins ’18 and slot receiver/Wildcat QB Devon Carrillo ’16 have all rushed for more yards than Stevens and Drew, and Drew has only played in two games this season, meaning that he is not recovered from his injury in 2014. Stevens finally got it going a week ago, running for 117 yards on just 12 carries including a 40-yard rumble, but it’s fairly obvious that we’re not going to see a workhorse emerge in the Cardinals’ backfield this season, with Head Coach Dan DiCenzo electing to spread out the carries.

2. The Maine Schools are a Combined 1-11

We had all three projected for either two or three wins, so the CBB was expected to be weak this season – but not this weak. If not for an offensive explosion from a newcomer at QB, Bowdoin could easily be 0-4 and the CBB would be 0-12. Something needs to change, because this kind of disparity is not good for the Maine schools or the league as a whole. Of those 11 losses, only three have really been close. Hopefully things turn around down the stretch, but that remains to be seen.

1. Passing Is up in the ‘CAC – and by a lot.

Last year, only two teams finished the season with over 200 YPG through the air – Middlebury (265.0) and Tufts (234.5). This season, through four games, EIGHT teams have at least 200 YPG passing, led by the Panthers (314.0) and capped with the Wesleyan Cardinals (200.8). From where is this difference coming? We thought, with the graduation of some top passers in Jesse Warren ’15 and Jack Doll ’15, that passing might be down this season. But on the contrary, passing is way up. The top-five passing defenses from a year ago are the same, and Trinity, Middlebury, Amherst, Williams and Wesleyan are performing similarly to a year ago. But Hamilton, Bates and Tufts, in particular, are relinquishing too many yards through the air. Even though Bates only threw for 110 yards against Tufts in Week 2, the Jumbos are allowing 290.0 YPG through the air. But it’s not just the lackluster performance of the Jumbos defense against the pass, but the arrival of some impressive QBs. Sonny Puzzo ’18 and Reece Foy ’18 are the league’s No. 2 and No. 3 passes to-date.

For awhile now the theme has been three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust in the NESCAC, but that appears to be changing.

 

 

Nick DiBenedetto is a Genius: Fantasy Report Week 3

Our season long vanity project rolls on into week three with ever improving results. Emerging studs like Jack Hickey ’19 are rapidly getting snagged off of the waiver wire, but there is still plenty of talent to be mined going forward. Let’s look at the results.

Matchup 1: Joe over Adam 114-112

Joe Adam
Pos. Player Pts Pos. Player Pts
QB Matt Milano 14 QB Austin Lommen 17
QB Alex Snyder 11 QB Reece Foy 21
RB Kenny Adinkra 13 RB Jack Hickey 11
RB LaShawn Ware 9 RB Chance Brady 30
WR Ryan Rizzo -1 WR Pat Donahoe 6
WR Devon Carrillo 27 WR Mike Rando 5
TE Bryan Porter 2 TE Alex Way 6
FLEX Jabari Hurdle-Price 26 FLEX Shaun Carroll 0
FLEX Conrado Banky 7 FLEX Jackson McGonagle 10
D/ST Middlebury 5 D/ST Wesleyan 1
K Charlie Wall 6 K Ike Fuchs 5
BE Lou Stevens 2   BE Gernald Hawkins 19
BE Pat Dugan 10   BE Ryder Arsenault 0
BE Tyler Grant 0   BE Nick Kelly 4
119 112

Feeling like George Bush after the 2000 election because of how close this one was. Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 and Chance Brady ’17 basically cancelled each other it with their big days. So Devon Carrillo ’16, who I have long had a definite soft spot for, made the difference because of his receiving ability this week. Adam should be most upset about Shaun Carroll ’16 not getting any points because he is usually good for at least a couple running the ball. More than anything, our high scores tell me that week by week we are getting a handle on the NESCAC fantasy landscape.

Matchup 2: Nick over Carson 86-70

Carson Nick
Pos. Player Pts Pos. Player Pts
QB Sonny Puzzo 9 QB Gabe Harrington 8
QB Jared Lebowitz 0 QB Tim Drakeley 13
RB Frank Williams 11 RB Diego Meritus 6
RB Nick Gaynor 1 RB Connor Harris 5
WR Matt Minno 13 WR Darrien Myers 7
WR Mark Riley 6 WR Dan Barone 19
TE Rob Thoma 5 TE Trevor MIletich 4
FLEX Ian Dugger 8 FLEX Ben Kurtz 0
FLEX Jack Cooleen 2 FLEX Jaylen Berry 7
D/ST Amherst 14 D/ST Trinity 12
K Charlie Gordon 1 K Eric Sachse 5
BE Neil O’Connor 2 BE Matt Hirshman 2
BE LaDarius Drew 0 BE Alex Berluti 0
BE Jon Hurvitz 1 BE Raheem Jackson 0
70 86

With each passing week, newcomer Nick DiBenedetto is looking smarter and smarter. His win this week moves him to 3-0, and he did so in part because of strong production from the Bowdoin duo of QB Tim Drakeley ’17 and receiver Dan Barone ’16. The key for him is that every guy is getting a little bit of production, allowing him to win close matchups. For Carson, his first pick LaDarius Drew ’15 is not healthy and didn’t play this weekend. Priority number one for him is finding a second quarterback since Jake Lebowitz ’18 is not seeing the field enough. Carson will likely also try to get Trinity running back Max Chipouras ’19 off of waivers in order to get his first win.

Standings

Nick: 3-0
Joe: 2-1
Adam: 1-2
Carson: 0-3

The Cream Will Rise: The Weekend Preview

No team impressed more last week than Jeff Devanney's Trinity squad. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)
No team impressed more last week than Jeff Devanney’s Trinity squad. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)

Well, we went 4-1 in our predictions last week, but pretty much nothing went as expected. We got the Williams-Bowdoin game wrong. It seems as if the Ephs just have the Polar Bears figured out. They’ve now outscored Bowdoin 63-7 over the past two seasons. The Bantams won pretty handily as we thought they would, but we didn’t foresee a shutout coming. Hamilton forced OT before eventually falling to Tufts and QB Chase Rosenberg ’17 went completely bananas throwing the football. We got the spread on the Amherst-Bates game fairly close, so I guess that’s a check in the win column for the NbN staff. But the kicker was really Middlebury-Wesleyan, the Week 1 Game of the Week. I went for an ambitious 35-14 prediction in favor of the Panthers, and while they were able to rack up four TDs, the final score was much closer than I thought it would be.

So let’s take another shot. Week 1 provided us with some good information that will shed some light on the coming weekend.

Four to Watch

1. Wesleyan RB LaDarius Drew ’15
If you just look at the box score, you might think that Jaylen Berry ’18 has taken over as the Cardinals’ feature back, having garnered 122 yards on 21 carries as opposed to Drew’s 35 yards on six carries. However, that Drew didn’t enter the game until the second quarter was suspicious. There must have been a reason that Drew was held out for the first quarter – and I don’t know what it is, but I think it was predetermined for Drew to sit out the first quarter. Whether that’s true or not, by the time he entered the game against Middlebury, Berry had gotten rolling and there was no reason to stop him. I think Drew gets back into the action early on this weekend, and there should be plenty of rushing yards to go around for the Wesleyan backs tomorrow against Hamilton.
2. Hamilton QB Chase Rosenberg ’17
As a freshman and sophomore, Rosenberg started nearly every game, but as a team the Continentals found very little success. He was supplanted by transfer Brandon Tobin ’18 for the start in Week 1 and saw some limited action in the game’s first half, but a leg injury sent Tobin to the sidelines for good just before halftime. Rosenberg couldn’t have capitalized on his chance any better, going 14-23 for 301 yards and three touchdowns and no picks. Rosenberg will likely be the signal-caller tomorrow, so the pressure is on to keep up this level of play.
3. Middlebury RB Jonathan Hurvitz ’17
Head Coach Bob Ritter believes that Middlebury will be able to have an effective rushing attack as the season goes on, but the Panthers showed no evidence of that in Week 1. The passing game was working for Middlebury against Wesleyan in the second half, so it made since to continue to air it out, but 0.45 yards per rush is simply not going to cut it going forward. Hurvitz is the lead back for Middlebury, but Diego Meritus ’19 will see plenty of touches, too, and Matt Cardew ’18 – though he didn’t see the field against Wesleyan – could still make an impact.
4. Williams LB Russell Monyette ’17
Where did this guy come from? Monyette barely played a year ago, but in Week 1 he led the Ephs with six tackles, one for a loss, while filling in for the injured James O’Grady ’16. No word yet on whether O’Grady will be back for Week 2, and if he is we don’t know what Monyette’s role will be. Williams’ Week 2 opponent, Trinity, will look to pound the ball on the ground with multiple weapons, so the onus will be on the Williams linebacking corps to stop this multi-faceted attack.

Game Previews

Bowdoin (0-1) at Amherst (1-0): Amherst, Massachusetts, 1:00 PM

These are two teams coming off of vastly different Week 1 performances. Going into enemy territory is going to be a big challenge for Bowdoin. However, I think both teams regress towards the mean somewhat this week. We’re just learning what Reece Foy ’18 can do as the Amherst QB, and he might turn out to be as good as he was in Week 1, but don’t expect him to look great every single time out. As for the Polar Bears, there wasn’t much to like last Saturday. Still, I think another week to learn a new system, get comfortable with a new coach and to work out some kinks will prove to make a big difference. Will it be enough, though, to surprise the LJs? Doubtful.

Prediction: Amherst 31-Bowdoin 7

Wesleyan (1-0) at Hamilton (0-1): Clinton, NY, 1:00 PM

The Continentals played some inspired football last weekend. Hamilton fans came away pleasantly surprised, I would imagine, and this week we’ve tipped our cap to Coach Dave Murray and crew. There’s reason to believe that things are be turning around in Clinton. That being said, Hamilton played what might have been its best game and still lost to a middling Tufts squad. Meanwhile, Wesleyan looked very tough against Middlebury. I’m extremely impressed by how Coach Dan DiCenzo was able to get a green group so ready to play in Week 1, and that rushing attack is simply deadly. I think the good Hamilton vibes take a big hit this weekend, unfortunately. It’s going to get better, but this game could be ugly.

One thing I can’t predict is who will lead the rushing attack for the Cardinals, but I expect it will be as potent as in Week 1. WR/Wildcat QB Devon Carrillo ’16 is looking like a staple in the Cards’ attack as a sweep/option threat. I wonder if they might try to get him the ball in space with some screens out of the slot this week, as he had zero receptions against Middlebury.

Prediction: Wesleyan 33 – Hamilton 7

Colby (0-1) at Middlebury (1-0): Middlebury, VT, 1:00 PM

At face value this looks like an easy contest for Middlebury. But wait, do I smell a trap game? The Panthers got beat up against a physical Wesleyan team, and next week is circled on their calendars as they will be traveling to Amherst. For some reason, I’ve got a feeling that Middlebury is still shaking off the cob webs a little bit. The statistics don’t necessarily suggest that (except for the aforementioned rushing problems), but the offense doesn’t look to be a full steam yet. Defensively, the nearly 300 rushing yards allowed in Week 1 was very disappointing. That should get better, but will it happen this week? And for Colby, the questions are endless. Nothing went right against Trinity. What happened to that two-headed monster at tailback? And how was Trinity able to rip through the Mules’ D so easily? Perhaps they’ll do better against an aerial attack than they fared against Trinity’s ground game. But I don’t think they do well enough to overcome the home team.

Prediction: Middlebury 28 – Colby 17

Williams (1-0) at Trinity (1-0): Hartford, CT, 1:30 PM

The Ephs surprised us with a beatdown of the Polar Bears last week, but they did the same thing in Week 1 a year ago and ended up 2-6. Will this be a repeat of Williams’ 2014 campaign, or was the 27-7 win in Week 1 truly a statement of a new and improved Ephs squad?

I tend to lean towards the former. Maybe this team is better than a year ago, but I also think Trinity is elite. The cream is going to continue to rise to the top in the NESCAC, and I think that divide will become a lot clearer this week with Trinity, Middlebury, Wesleyan and Amherst all picking up wins. Oops, I guess I just spoiled my prediction…

Prediction: Trinity 38 – Williams 7

Road Teams Rule Week One: Football Stock Report 9/28

After what seemed like an eternity, NESCAC football returned in triumphant glory on Saturday, and a lot of what we anticipated came to fruition, but there were many surprises, as well.

Today we give you the risers and fallers in our estimation, as well as a few game notes from each contest.

Stock Up:

Hamilton Offense

Tufts isn’t the most stout defense in the NESCAC, but you still have to be impressed with how the Continentals moved the ball and the play of QB Chase Rosenberg ’17 and WR Charles Ensley ’17. After starter Brandon Tobin ’18 succumbed to an injury early in the first half, Rosenberg (the starter for the past two seasons) came on and proceeded to go 14-23 (69.9%) for 301 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. Ensley was on the opposite end of 107 of those yards, and displayed some top-notch athleticism with some of his grabs. His teammate, Pat Donahoe ’16, actually tallied even more yards – 174, to lead the NESCAC – so there may yet be some life in this Continental offense. We’ll wait and see whether or not Tobin returns, and how that might shake up the QB situation.

Connecticut Schools

Despite the loss, the Cardinals proved on Saturday that they still belong to the league’s upper echelon. The Cards ran all over Middlebury, and newly-minted QB Gernald Hawkins ’18 flashed potential throwing the ball, though the results were subpar on Saturday. The defense looks like it barely dropped off, and when you can control the clock and move the ball on the ground as effectively as Wesleyan, you always have a chance to win. Panthers players returned from this one bearing rave reviews of the Wesleyan team as a whole.

Meanwhile, the Bantams looked like they were playing a Pop Warner team on Saturday. A 34-0 win on the road, 439 yards of total offense and only 159 yards allowed. Enough said.

Williams QB Austin Lommen ’16

Expectations are great for former D-I players that transfer down to D-III, and that was true for Lommen last year. The BC transfer was about average last year, completing 60.1 percent of his passes and racking up seven touchdowns against nine picks, but it might be time to buy in on the righty. Lommen went 20-30 (66.7%) for 288 yards, two touchdowns and one pick. Lommen managed the offense well, and the Ephs went 6-8 on third downs in the first half, most of them courtesy of throws by Lommen.

Stock Down:

Bates O-line

Yes, the Bobcats were matched up against an elite D-line from Amherst, but still, their performance in the trenches does not bode well for the rest of the season. Bates needs to churn up yards on the ground in order to win (with the occasional shot downfield to Mark Riley ’16). The Bobcats’ backs gathered 199 yards on the ground on Saturday, but 80 of those came on one Shaun Carroll ’16 scamper. Take that out, and the Bobcats rushed for 119 yards on 45 attempts – a 2.6 YPC average.

Colby Backs

Along the same lines as the above, the Mules were unable to consistently move the ball on the ground. QB Christian Sparacio ’18 had the most success of any ball carrier, racking up 30 yards on seven carries. We are still expecting big things from classmates Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 and Carl Lipani ’17, but it looked like Colby just ran headfirst into a brick wall against Trinity.

Bowdoin

Just to complete the Maine college trifecta, Bowdoin has to go in this spot. The offense was stagnant, and Tyler Grant ’16 didn’t get many opportunities with the Polar Bears trailing for much of their game against Williams. The loss of RB Trey Brown ’16 to injury will prove to be costly, as the Bowdoin coaches were hoping to be able to spell Grant far more this year than last – but alas, it was not to be. It was not a good opener for anyone in the black and white.

Game Notes:

Middlebury 28 at Wesleyan 25

Well, it wasn’t easy, but the Panthers hung on to go 1-0. Matt Milano ’16 wasn’t at his best early on, but was still very, very good. It was interesting that Jared Lebowitz ’18 got just one series. His entry into the game was pre-determined, but we don’t know what went into the decision to not use him for the rest of the game. Regardless, the passing game wasn’t the issue for Middlebury. The running game, however, was not effective. Somehow, the Panthers need to figure out a way to become a multi-dimensional team. They like to use screens to substitute for old-fashioned hand offs, but you still have to be able to give it to your back and let him work once in awhile.

On the other side of the field, Wesleyan competed until the very last. Hawkins has loads of potential at QB, despite his struggles throwing. He’s a fantastic athlete, and when he took off for one 17-yard dash up the gut my jaw physically dropped. Obviously, he’ll need to work on throwing the ball – sort of important for a quarterback. As for the running game, I was really shocked that Jaylen Berry ’18 was used as the feature back, carrying the ball 21 times to LaDarius Drew’s ’15 six carries and Lou Stevens’ ’17 two – not because I doubt the youngster’s ability, but because he supplanted two former All-NESCAC First Teamers as the go-to guy on Saturday. That being said, I would not be surprised if next week Drew ran the ball 25 times for 150 yards, and the same can be said about Stevens. Furthermore, Devon Carrillo ’16 continues to be a threat with his legs in many ways – out of the Wildcat, multiple back sets and on sweeps. Defensively, I have to give a shout out to DE Jordan Stone ’16. He’s a physical beast and had a great game and it showed on the stat sheet as Stone gathered 2.5 sacks.

Amherst 37 at Bates 14

Amherst WR Nick Widen '17 and the LJs took care of Bates with ease. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics/Phyllis Graber Jensen)
Amherst WR Nick Widen ’17 and the LJs took care of Bates with ease. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics/Phyllis Graber Jensen)

I didn’t watch any game as closely as I did Middlebury-Wesleyan, but nonetheless there was much to be learned from every contest. Reece Foy ’18 got the start for Amherst, and – this is the surprising part – played every snap at QB. Last season Foy and Alex Berluti ’17 opened the season in a time-share until Max Lippe ’15 came back from an injury. That Foy was able to do enough in camp to completely takeover the gig says something in and of itself. Also of note, Kenny Adinkra ’16 got the lion’s share of the carries and was more productive than Nick Kelly ’17. Will that last, or will Kelly return to 2014 form and takeover the feature role as he was expected to do. OR, will the super-talented Jack Hickey ’19 start stealing away more carries?

For Bates, I know that the triple-option is the staple of their offense, but Mark Riley is just incredible. The Bobcats completed 11 passes for 117 yards, and seven of those catches went to Riley for 87 yards. I don’t think that if you put a prime-age Randy Moss on any team in the NESCAC he would take as large of a proportion of the catches as Riley does.

Williams 27 at Bowdoin 7

For the second straight year the Ephs stomped on the Polar Bears. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics/CIPhotography.com)
For the second straight year the Ephs stomped on the Polar Bears. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics/CIPhotography.com)

Not much went right for the Polar Bears in Week 1. I don’t know whether to credit Lommen or crucify the Bowdoin secondary for the Ephs’ success through the air. Overall, I’m reserving judgement on the Polar Bears.

For Williams, though, you have to feel good about this start. Maybe they’ve put something together in Williamstown right under our noses. Although, I vaguely remember writing something to the same effect one year ago after Williams’ 36-0 beatdown of Bowdoin in Week 1. Maybe Coach Aaron Kelton just has the Polar Bears’ numbers. Maybe he’s taping opposing coaches’ signals with a cell phone camera, and 15 years from now, when Coach is getting fitted for his fourth NESCAC Championship ring, and the twilight is setting on a decorated career, NESCAC officials will bust down the door and point a finger at him and call him a cheater for doing exactly what every other team in the league was doing…

I’m sorry, I wasn’t planning that. (And there’s definitely no illegal filming going on anywhere in the NESCAC.)

Trinity 34 at Colby 0

With Joe Moreno ’19, sadly, out yet again with a torn ACL, Nick Gaynor ’17 has become the team’s top back. From a fantasy perspective though, this is a tricky situation, as Gaynor, Ethan Suraci ’18 or QB Sonny Puzzo ’18 could be the team’s leading rusher any given week. I particularly don’t think Gaynor will see many goal line touches. Gaynor is a converted wideout, and Suraci is a much bigger body. Max Chipouras ’19 – who had just two touches – got a goal line TD on Saturday instead of Gaynor. No matter who’s behind him, the return of Puzzo under center is going to be huge for Trinity. Henry Foye ’16 did a great job when healthy last year, but I think that Puzzo brings elite talent to the QB position.

Tufts 24 at Hamilton 21

The best game of the day came between two perennial doormats that look to be rising from the ashes. Tufts already took the first step a year ago by going 4-4, but with the Jumbos still 0-infinity in their last infinity chances on the road, the Continentals were feeling really good about their chances. And with newly-transferred QB Tobin at the helm, it appeared that Chapter 1 of the fairytale was under way.

Then Tobin left the game with an ankle injury, and everything fell into the hands of Rosenberg, the beleaguered vet. And boy, did he respond.

Rosenberg matched a career-high with his 301 passing yards, the program’s fifth-highest single-game mark. His 21.5 yards per completion and 13.1 yards per attempt were Hamilton records. He threw three TD passes, all in the span of 12 plays in the second half. His receivers, namely Donahoe and Ensley, made some spectacular plays, but let’s give all the credit in the world to Rosenberg for his stellar performance.

Alas, the Hamilton offense could not punch it in with the first possession of overtime. K Zach Altneu ’18 boomed his field goal attempt through the uprights, but Tufts Head Coach Jay Civetti was able to call a timeout just in time, forcing Altneu to kick again, and this time he pushed it wide left.

The Jumbos were conservative on their possession, moving the ball to the six-yard line before Snyder took a five-yard loss to position the football right in the middle of the field. K Willie Holmquist ’17 came up clutch for the Jumbos, who celebrated their first road victory since Oct. 3, 2009.

Aside from Rosenberg, CB Jimmy Giattino ’17 was a beast defensively for Hamilton and DL Tyler Hudson ’19 had an impressive debut. Last year’s tackle-leader John Phelan ’16 saw limited action, rotating with Mickey Keating ’17 at linebacker. We believe Head Coach Dave Murray is trying to protect Phelan who was banged up considerably during camp, but only time will tell if this timeshare continues. And lastly, Tobin’s ankle injury appears to be minor, which keeps the QB conversation in Clinton very intriguing. However, after a performance like that, how Rosenberg could not get the keys to the car for at least one more week is a mystery to me.

And in case you missed it, every road team won! Can you believe it? I don’t know how long it’s been since that happened in the NESCAC. Maybe between the 47 assignments I have this week and the job search I’ll try to procure that information.

It’s good to be back.

Week 1 Game of the Week: Middlebury at Wesleyan

The Panthers are prepared for a title run. (Photo by Joe MacDonald)
The Panthers are prepared for a title run. But nothing comes easy in the NESCAC. (Photo by Joe MacDonald)

Game Info: Saturday, Sept. 26, 12:30 PM at historic Andrus Field in Corwin Stadium

Both teams probably feel like title contenders right now, but around this time tomorrow one team will be in the driver’s seat and the other will be facing a steep uphill climb. If we consider the NESCAC crown a four-team race – which, barring a major surprise, it is right now – between Middlebury, Amherst, Wesleyan and Trinity, this matchup will push one team to the front of the pack.

The Wesleyan team presents a great unknown. As we’ve said time and time again, the roster turnover has been great, but we still expect there to be a lot of talent on the field for the Cards. Things have changed since current Athletic Director Mike Whalen came over from Williams, and one has to believe that he was able to accrue some talent in the classes that followed the incredible 2015 group.

As always, the Cards’ strength will be the running game, but the Panthers were very good against the run last season, allowing just under 104 YPG, and most of the talent in the front seven is back and should be better than ever. Granted, a lot of teams were forced to throw in the second half because they faced big deficits against the Panthers, but nonetheless running the ball won’t be easy for the Cards.

For Middlebury, the passing game is as potent as ever. Can Matt Milano ’16 have improved from his Co-Offensive Player of the Year form a year ago? We’ll find out soon enough, but with all of the weapons around him, I’m betting yes. And with two of the league’s best defensive backs having graduated from Wesleyan in Jake Bussani ’14 and Donnie Cimino ’15, Milano might just be able to find some openings deep down the field.

Last Meeting:

Wesleyan rolled into the Panthers’ home pad and stole a 22-14 victory in the 2014 season opener. The difference was a third quarter 41-yard INT return for a TD by Wesleyan’s dynamic safety Justin Sanchez ’17. Milano threw two interceptions in this one, and questions were swirling about whether the days of the great Middlebury QBs were over. After this game, Milano went 22-1 TD-INT over the rest of the season, so expect a more confident passing attack from Middlebury in this one.

On the flip side, Wesleyan struggled to run the ball, something that they rarely do. Kyle Gibson ’15 racked up 60 yards but on 25 carries (2.4 YPC). Lou Stevens ’17 wasn’t much better (2.8 YPC). However, the frightening LaDarius Drew ’15 is back this time around, and I think the entire league is excited to see what this powerhouse back can do. With Drew, Stevens and Jaylen Berry ’18 coming at the Panthers, stopping the run has to be priority No. 1. Middlebury’s Tim Patricia ’16 spoke to that effect, saying:

“We know that the run game is the staple of the Wesleyan offense. … With that in mind, this [week] we’ve been really focused on gap responsibility and swarming to the ball in the run game. It’s important that we stay conscious of our individual assignments so we can eliminate any threat of giving up a big play. Their backs do have big play ability, but we feel we can mitigate that ability.”

Middlebury X-factors: D-linemen Gil Araujo ’16 and Kyle Ashley ’16

We know about Jake Clapp ’16, Middlebury’s strong, furious pass-rusher, but Ashley and Araujo, who made the 2014 All-NESCAC Second Team, haven’t gotten much press this season (our bad). While the Panthers will cycle d-linemen in and out all game, these two are expected to get the lion’s share of snaps, and it will be on them to eat up blockers and create opportunities for the linebackers and safeties to make tackles. It’s an inglorious job, the d-line. But this pair is up to the task.

Wesleyan X-factor: QB Gernald Hawkins ’18

Gernald Hawkins '18 (Photo Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)
Gernald Hawkins ’18 (Photo Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

I’d like to go a little under-the-radar with my x-factor pick, but the potential of Hawkins is just so intriguing. We don’t know for sure that Hawkins will see every snap in this one under center, but for now he is the team’s QB1 and has the chance to solidify that position this weekend.

Hawkins presents the rare (in the NESCAC) dual-threat option. The moves he shows off on film are nifty, and having a cadre of backs to hand the ball off to takes much of the pressure off of his shoulders.

Patricia wouldn’t give away any secrets in reference to Hawkins, saying only, “We’re aware of Hawkins’s ability to run the ball, and we’re well prepared for it.”

Prediction: Middlebury 35 – Wesleyan 17

Wesleyan fans and players are going to be offended by this prediction, but let me make my case. The Cardinals are, to some extent, are where Middlebury was last year in Week 1 – breaking in a lot of new players, particularly at the QB position, and while there is talent there, it will take time.

I still think Wesleyan will run the ball effectively, but as Milano and the Panthers roll up and down the field in the second and third quarters, the Cards will have to start abandoning the run game, which will spell disaster for Coach DiCenzo’s squad. No team can be successful when it becomes one-dimensional.

Is 35 points too high of a projection against the Wesleyan D, even with all the new faces? Maybe. And if I were a gambling man, I’d take the under if the line were set at 35 for Middlebury, but let’s face it, I’m a Panther myself, I’m excited for tomorrow, and sure, maybe I’m drinking the Kool-Aid a little bit. I’m seeing three TDs through the air for Milano, a goal line plunge from rookie RB Diego Meritus ’19, and a late-game scamper off a rollout from QB Jared Lebowitz ’18, just like I watched him do last week in Middlebury’s Blue-White scrimmage.

Patricia didn’t necessarily predict that the Panthers will go 8-0. But he came pretty close (0:57):

Bring on some football!

Final Preseason Power Rankings

The Panthers - as expected - top our 2015 Preseason Power Rankings. (Photo by Joe MacDonald
The Panthers – as expected – top our 2015 Preseason Power Rankings. (Photo by Joe MacDonald

Editor’s Note:

Below Contributor Nick DiBendetto gives us the first of our weekly installments of our Power Rankings. DiBo will be our Power Ranker, if you will, for the remainder of the 2015 football season. These rankings are as up-to-the-minute as you get, and could reflect the newest information available and any discussions had among the editors and contributors. Admittedly, though, these preseason ranks do follow our projected records (included in parentheses) fairly closely. Check back weekly to see how each team has moved through the ranks.

1. Middlebury (8-0)

We have projected Middlebury to be the outright NESCAC Champions, something they have not done since 2007. The team looks strong with plenty of returners on both sides of the ball. They will be a very good, physical team. UNLV transfer Jared Lebowitz ’18, a 6’4″ Vermont native, will compete and push an already great senior quarterback in Matt Milano ’16. The Panthers are the safest bet at this point for a NESCAC title.

2. Amherst (7-1)

Amherst is coming off their fifth NESCAC Championship season, and is going to give the title another run. They boast running back Nick Kelly ’17, but they don’t seem to have a go-to guy at quarterback, which should make for two very difficult games against Trinity and Middlebury. Their typically strong offensive line looks nimble as ever this season, which could be big for Kelly.

3. Trinity (6-2)

The Bantams have a refined team this season with the addition of two serious offensive threats in quarterback Sonny Puzzo ’18, and 21 year-old rookie running back Joe Moreno ’19. The All-Time NESCAC Championship tally still belongs to Trinity with six titles, but they are planning to make it seven. This will be no easy task with Middlebury and Amherst right in the way, two teams that Trinity so badly wants redemption against. If Trinity’s anticipative offense can make some magic happen, the defense will grind out games – and the Coop may find itself basked in glory for one last time before Jessee/Miller Field is torn down for a renovation project.

4. Wesleyan (5-3)

This team was runner-up last year, but they are not returning many starters. Running back LaDarius Drew ’15 poses a lethal threat to opposing defenses. The quarterback race is not over, but there seems to be looming promise in quarterback Gernald Hawkins ’18, who comes from a football-rich area in West Park, FL which borders Miami. They kick the season off against Middlebury – which feels like a loss already, but don’t count them out too soon because Hawkins is a wild card and may have the Panthers biting their nails.

5. Tufts (4-4)

Tufts is coming off a .500 season, and does not seem to have any answers for becoming a winning team. There is reason to lack confidence in their quarterback, Alex Snyder ’17, who was average in limited play last season. If he is able to find some mojo within him Tufts could potentially get five wins this season. The defense looks solid, and look for Chance Brady ’17 to be leading the offensive rush. Don’t count the Jumbos completely out, but it does not look like they will display much improvement this season.

6. Colby (2-6)

The only real surprise in this week’s Power Ranks, the Mules are projected for a 2-6 record but could rise to greater heights. QB Gabe Harrington ’17 has potential to make big strides this season, the two-headed monster at running back should be one of the league’s best, and a few of the returners on defense are real difference-makers.

7. Bates (3-5)

The Bobcats have some playmakers this year, but it is a matter of if they can pull it together in time. Quarterback Pat Dugan ’16 hopes to stay healthy this season, and he will have some good receivers to throw to and experience behind him in his running backs. This team has talented players, but it is unlikely they will find themselves with a winning record come the end of November. I think they will give teams a real run for their money and even give a scare to some of the top dogs in the conference, but Bates is likely to crumble in the big moments due to their inexperience.

8. Williams (2-6)

The Williams offense looks solid this season with some weapons at TE, in particular, and a solid O-line to protect Austin Lommen ’16, the Boston College transfer. Their defense is going to be young, so that will really hurt them and their offense is unlikely to put up enough points to cope with the raw defense.

9. Bowdoin (3-5) 

The Polar Bears are hoping for Trey Brown ’16 to come out of hibernation and make a big impact at running back. After three ACL injuries in three years and then spending a year as a student trainer, Brown could spell Tyler Grant ’17 for significant portions of time. Beyond their Boobie Miles project there are many spots up for grabs. The Polar Bears do feature a lot of depth on the O-line, which could allow for Brown and quarterback Tim Drakeley ’17 to do some damage. Bowdoin’s new coach JB Wells is looking to turn this program around, but it will be no walk in the park.

10. Hamilton (0-8)

Last in the ‘CAC a year ago, Hamilton is determined to not go all season without winning a game again. They may be looking at QB Brandon Tobin ’18 to switch up the offensive gears and make gallant decisions. LaShawn Ware ’18 will come back as running back and is expected to have a very good season. In general, the team is more focused than ever and may actually upset a few teams, and a realistic goal for them would to get to .500.

 

Dreams Never Die: NESCAC Fantasy Football is Back!

 

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

But we did it anyway.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

ROUND 1:

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

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

ROUND 2

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

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

ROUND 3

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

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

ROUND 4

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

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

ROUND 5

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

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

ROUND 6

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

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

ROUND 7

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

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

ROUND 8

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

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

ROUND 9

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

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

ROUND 10

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

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

ROUND 11

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

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

ROUND 12

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

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

ROUND 13

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

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

ROUND 14

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

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

The Replacements (But Talented): Wesleyan Season Preview

Having Ike Fuchs back in the kicking game is one of the few constants for Wesleyan. (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)
Having Ike Fuchs ’17 back in the kicking game is one of the few constants for Wesleyan. (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Projected Record: 5-3

Projected Offensive Starters (*Two Returning)

QB: Gernald Hawkins ’18
RB: LaDarius Drew ’15
WR: Neil O’Connor ’17
WR: Mike Breuler ’18
TE: Ben Kurtz ’17*
TE: Dan Laorenza ’16
LT: Blake Cunningham ’16*
LG: Matt Polacek ’16
C: Matt Kuhn ’17
RG: Beau Butler ’18
RT: Shane Jenkins ’17

Projected Defensive Starters (*Two Returning)

DE: Jordan Stone ’17
DT: Shane Donovan ’16
DT: Jason Yu ’18
DE: Greg Blaize ’16
LB: Alex Daversa-Russo ’16*
LB: Shayne Kaminski ’17
LB: Jon Spivey ’16
DB: Justin Sanchez ’17*
DB: Elias Camacho ’18
DB: Zac Cuzner ’17
DB: Rob Manning ’16

Projected Specialists (*Returning)

K/P: Ike Fuchs ’17*

Offensive MVP: RB LaDarius Drew ’15

Drew is an elite talent in the NESCAC, and his return to the lineup after missing 2o14 with a foot injury might just be a Godsend. Running back is actually the Cardinals’ deepest position, with All-NESCAC First Teamer Lou Stevens ’17 and Jaylen Berry ’18 (5.6 YPC) backing up Drew – which means that this three-headed monster will be expected to carry a heavy load. A lot of responsibility will lie on the shoulders of captain and left tackle Blake Cunningham ’16 and his unit to create some holes for Drew and Co.

Defensive MVP: DB Justin Sanchez ’17

Sanchez and LB Alex Daversa-Russo ’16 were both Second-Team All-NESCAC last season and are the undisputed leaders of this defensive unit. Sanchez was the team’s leading tackler a year ago and picked off one pass. There is a bit more experience in Wesleyan’s defensive front than in the secondary, which might mean more chances for Sanchez to make plays and rack up big tackle numbers. Therefore I think he edges out Daversa-Russo as the team’s defensive MVP.

Biggest Game: September 26 vs. Middlebury

There are so many unknowns with this year’s team given the mass exodus (AKA graduation) from last year’s squad. For that reason, Week 1 will be a huge benchmark game for the Cards and first-year head coach Dan DiCenzo. Wesleyan will need to grind it out and shorten the game, not allowing the Panthers offense to get the ball too often. Look for Wesleyan to go right at the Middlebury front seven and try to overpower the Panthers while rotating all three of their running backs into the game. Sanchez and the rest of the inexperienced secondary might have difficulty slowing down the Middlebury passing attack, but they could force some errors and create turnovers for Wesleyan.

Best Tweet of the Offseason:

Are you kidding me, Justin Sanchez?

Summary:

There’s not much that’s known about the 2015 Wesleyan Cardinals. The returning starters are beasts, we know that. Drew, Stevens, Cunningham, Daversa-Russo and Sanchez will be counted on to produce big seasons this year. Matt Polacek ’16 and Shane Jenkins ’17 have experience on the O-line, so that unit shouldn’t miss too much of a beat and the running game will remain strong. Replacing Jesse Warren’s ’15 unparalleled efficiency at QB will be very difficult for the green Gernald Hawkins ’18, but he beat out three other talented players to win the job so clearly he’s shown that he can compete at this level. Hawkins went to Miramar High School in Florida, a big time program that won a state title in 2009. That was also the year AFTER  Jets quarterback Geno Smith graduated from Miramar High. Anyway, Hawkins is a threat both running and passing the ball, and his highlight tape shows him making really smart decisions against high level talent in Florida.

Among the newly-minted starters on the defensive side, DE Jordan Stone ’17 saw the most snaps in 2014. If this unit learned anything from the dominant 2015 class, which produced the very best YPG against average in all of D-III last season, they should still be an above average defense. The team’s overall MVP, however, might be K/P Ike Fuchs ’17, probably the league’s best kicker. Fuchs led all NESCAC kickers with 54 points last year. He hit 10 out of 13 of his field goals, and his misses came from 33, 34 and 43 – no gimmes at this level. He will take over the punting duties this year, as well, which were formerly handled by Warren.

Former Head Coach Mike Whalen, now the Wesleyan Athletic Director, has an amazing resume when it comes to building football programs in the NESCAC – first at Williams and now at Wesleyan. Now he hands over the reins to his former assistant DiCenzo, but only time will tell how this group will compare to the decorated 2015 class. Week 1 will – hopefully – answer a lot of our questions about the new wave of Cardinals.