Saturday represented the last home Middlebury football game that I will watch as a student at this College. It was probably the 10th or so such game that I’ve seen (I know I missed one this year and I probably missed one in my first two years, and I missed them all when I was off campus as a junior) and I’ve gone through a transformation with regards to my feelings towards football at Middlebury.
It started out as resentment because I was cut quicker than you can say “Good bye” when I tried out as a freshman (fairly, I should add). It turned into anger that first year and sadness as the friends I made during preseason turned into strangers that I barely said hello to walking around campus. It became jealousy the next year as I watched the football team take home a shared NESCAC title. As we started up Nothing but NESCAC in the spring of my sophomore season, and as I began to mature (though not that much), my feelings became more analytical and critical, and I started keeping my ear to the ground as any good journalist ought to do. However, being on the other side of the planet in Australia during the 2014 season, I was so far removed from the actual games that my feelings were fairly indifferent. Then I returned to campus this fall and everything felt different. Not only were the players aware of our writing here on this blog, which I thought was very cool, but I also found myself deeply invested in the team for the first time since Coach Ritter laid the axe on me in The Grille freshman year. The boys that I had tried out alongside and felt comparable to three years ago have become grown men – at least physically (we’re all still college kids at some level) – and color me proud of the way these guys have played – any disappointment over the 5-2 record as we stand today be damned – and the way they’ve grown up.
There are a lot of reasons not to play football in college, especially at the D-III level. There is no scholarship money, no fans watching on TV, no promise of a future career. And then there are the reasons to play. A cool, autumn day, just your closest friends and your parents (and maybe your dog) in the stands, the smell of the charcoal grill wafting over from the now deserted tailgate, and a tight-knit group of brothers laying their bodies on the line just because they love to play the game.
Forgive the soliloquy, and allow me to proceed to the usual stock report.
Hamilton Line Play
Both sides of the ball for Hamilton were impressive against Middlebury. In the first quarter alone LaShawn Ware ’18 had 74 yards rushing on 12 carries. The Continentals defensive line had three sacks and put heavy pressure on all of the Middlebury quarterbacks all day long while also keeping the Panthers to 2.6 yards per rush. Now, it’s all relative of course. Ware ended up with 77 yards on 21 carries (you can do the math but that’s only three more yards on quite a few carries after the first quarter), and nobody else could get going running the ball, either. I thought the O-line did a good job of protecting Cole Freeman ’19, though. Middlebury racked up three sacks of its own, but otherwise Freeman had enough time to take a lot of shots deep down the field. That didn’t really pay off, as Freeman threw four picks (right after we had highlighted how well he had been taking care of the football), but nonetheless you love the gutsy calls from an up-and-coming team that just got its first win in a long time, and Freeman couldn’t have thrown those balls without time to step up.
Wesleyan QB Mark Piccirillo ’19
With starting QB Gernald Hawkins ’18 battling with an injury the past two weeks, Piccirillo has started to weasel his way into the lineup. Who knows how much of this timeshare is a result of the ailment to Hawkins and how much is a result of their respective plays. Hawkins is very physically gifted, but he hasn’t completed a high percentage of his passes and Coach Dan DiCenzo appears to be shying away from letting him throw the ball. Hawkins had only 13 attempts in Week 6 and 12 this past week, but he ran the ball 12 times against Williams. Meanwhile, Piccirillo has gone 27-35 (77.1 percent) for 269 yards, one touchdown and no picks the past two weeks, while also rushing for 54 yards on 15 attempts. This looks like a situation that will provide a great QB battle in camp next year.
Bates CB Trevor Lyons ’17
The first five weeks of the season were a struggle for the Bobcats, but it’s all worth it because Bates took home the CBB title yet again by beating up the Polar Bears 31-0 on Saturday. Lyons had maybe his best two games of the season the past two weeks, taking back a pick six in each game and breaking up two passes against Bowdoin. Against Colby, Lyons interception return for a TD came in the third quarter with Bates down 3-0. The Bobcats went on to win 10-9. Last week Lyons once again returned an interception early in the third quarter, this time 50 yards for a score that put the game out of reach. Lyons also does double duty as the team’s punt returner.
Colby WR Sebastian Ferrell ’19
In case you couldn’t tell from the intro to today’s stock report, I’m waxing a bit nostalgic and so I decided to look on the bright side of things and go for an extra stock up and one less stock down. So this brings us to first-year wideout Sebastian Ferrell, who had just four career catches before breaking out with eight grabs and 110 yards in a loss to Tufts. With that performance, Ferrell leapt to fourth on the Mules with 12 receptions on the season. His breakout has coincided with a reduced role for Mbasa Mayikana ’18. It will be interesting to see if that trend continues in Week 8.
I’m not at Williams, I don’t know this for a fact, and I haven’t heard this from any players – but from the outside it looks like this team is falling apart. This is how the last four weeks have gone for Williams: Week 4, outscored 27-7 in the second half at Middlebury in a 36-14 loss; Week 5, go down 13-0 and then 30-7 in an eventual 30-15 loss at home against Tufts; Week 6, get beat by Hamilton, a team that hadn’t won in three years, hadn’t beaten Williams in 19 years and hadn’t won in Williamstown in 29 years; Week 7, narrowly avoid a shutout by scoring a touchdown with 1:11 left in the game in a 27-7 loss to Wesleyan. We’ll leave it at that.
Sorry, folks, but the cat’s out of the bag. Amherst is the 2015 NESCAC Football Champion, barring a massive upset at the hands of Williams this week and a Trinity victory. It’s a shame that there’s no playoff in the NESCAC and that teams are not eligible for the D-III playoffs. There’s no point in whining about the structure of the NESCAC playoff system, though, so instead we’ll just whine about the fact that the league is severely lacking parity these days. Dating back to 2011, Amherst, Trinity, Middlebury and Wesleyan are a combined 124-32 (79.5 percent). The only other teams to have a winning season are Williams in 2011 (5-3), Bates in 2012 (5-3) and Tufts this year (5-2).