Six Down, Three To Go: Football Weekend Preview 10/20

We’re still sorting through the wreckage of Williams’ comeback, last-second, upset win in Middlebury last Saturday, and I mean that both in a “how does it affect the league” sense and a “how does Pete recover from it emotionally” sense. What we do know is this; two losses will not earn you any share of the league championship. Middlebury, and any other team hoping to earn that coveted co-title (as always, terrific to not have any playoffs to sort this out) will need to win out. For the Panthers, Cardinals and Mammoths, that means beating Trinity. I don’t see more than one team potentially doing that, so the biggest story the rest of the way will be who has the best shot. The title is, now more than ever, Trinity’s to lose.

Colby (0-5) @ Hamilton (1-4), Clinton, NY, 1:00 PM

Hamilton stuck their flag in the ground last week as the Best of the Bad Teams, demolishing Bowdoin 28-7. As always, it was the offense that carried the Continentals to this strong performance. They gained 448 total yards, including 208 on the ground. 158 of those yards came on the back of first year RB Mitch Bierman. Bierman is making a delayed push for Rookie of the Year (Non Williams-division,) with touchdowns in 2 of his last three games and this dominant performance. More promising for their future, however, was the strong play of the defense. They held Bowdoin to 275 total yards, only 60 of which came from Nate Richam, and totaled five sacks. This matchup with Colby is another choice matchup for the Continentals, who would love to get another win under their belts before they play Middlebury and Williams.

The good news is that Colby tied their season high in points last week. The bad news is that their season high in points is 7. They simply do not have any offensive players who scare anyone, and by the end of the first quarter their defense is too tired to make much of a difference. If the offense could sustain some drives and give the defense a break, defensive back Don Vivian ’18 is a menace to quarterback who could give turnover-prone Kenny Gray ’20 fits. Hamilton’s offense might not allow this to happen, however.

Predicted Score: Hamilton 24, Colby 10 

Middlebury (4-1) @ Bates (0-5), Lewiston, ME, 1:00 PM

I can’t go quite as far as calling this a “trap game” for the Panthers, but it is important. Middlebury suffered one of the most demoralizing losses possible last weekend; the feeling at Alumni Field as Williams celebrated reminded me of when _________ died in Game of Thrones (no spoilers here.) And next weekend, Trinity looms. Middlebury not only needs to win this game (which they will,) they need to dominate and carry momentum into the game that may well decide the season. It would help if Jared Lebowitz ’18 could get his full compliment of weapons. Although he still played well against Williams (304 yards, three touchdowns,) by the end of the game Williams had figured out how to stop Maxwell Rye ’20, Frank Cosolito ’20 and Jimmy Martinez ’19. With star receiver Conrado Banky ’19 out with an injury, Williams was able to eventually key in on the receivers and get stops.

Brendan Costa ’21 ran for 170 yards against Wesleyan, and will look to do the same against Middlebury.

Another thing Middlebury should take this game to work on is rush defense. Bates got the moral victory trophy last weekend in their 41-23 loss to Wesleyan. This was by far their best performance of the season, and the reason for this is that they discovered an offensive identity. The Bobcats put up an impossible 287 rushing yards, 170 of which came from QB Brendan Costa ’20. Bates biggest problem all season has been choosing a QB, and it seems that Costa has won the job. This is actually bad news for Middlebury, as it was an inability to contain Bobby Maimaron ’21 (15 rushes for 93 yards) that helped spell their doom against Williams. Middlebury should work on stopping the run this game, because they know it’s coming against the Bobcats, and even more so against Trinity in two weeks. I think Bates comes out and runs the down the Panthers throats at first, but Middlebury’s offense versus the Bates defense is a perfect storm for Middlebury.

Predicted Score: Middlebury 51, Bates 17

Wesleyan (4-1) @ Amherst (4-1), Amherst, MA, 1:00 PM

That Bates rushing explosion came at the hands of Wesleyan’s defense, which has been pedestrian all season. They are the only top team to not have a defensive touchdown all season, and they still haven’t forced a fumble. This lack of dynamism from the defense hurt them against Bates. Mark Piccirillo ’18 had to throw them to victory, as he has done all season. But against Amherst on the road, this is not so easy a proposition. Amherst has the most dangerous running game in the league. Jack Hickey ’19 and Hasani Figueroa ’18 combine to average over 120 yards per game, and the team has a whole averages 195. If Wesleyan couldn’t stop Bates rushing attack, which is excellent but is not nearly as polished as Amherst’s, the Cardinals are in trouble. The key to this game will be the Wesleyan D-Line. Shane Kaminski ’18 is excellent at getting into the backfield (3 sacks,) and he will be busy this game.

Shane Kaminski ’18 will have to dominate for Wesleyan to win.

The other thing that Amherst has going for them is a stingy defense. They only give up 242 total yards per game, which is the best in the league. It is their rush defense that is most impressive, but in generally they do an excellent job breaking up opposing offenses. Andrew Yamin ’19 is the league leader in sacks with 5, and will be coming at Piccirillo all night. And their defensive backs, especially John Rak ’19, are all adept tacklers. Wesleyan’s offense is already not particularly diverse, and Amherst will excacerbate that problem. I see them forcing the turnover prone Piccirillo into trouble, and running the ball to victory.

Predicted Score: Amherst 28, Wesleyan 24

Bowdoin (0-5) @ Trinity (5-0), Hartford, CT, 1:00 PM

Not a lot to say about this one. Bowdoin has given up the most yards per game in the league, and Trinity has gained the third most (477 and 438, respectively.) Max Chipouras ’18 might have 200 yards in this game. But, as Tufts found out, Trinity’s offense is not even the most dangerous part of their game. It’s the defense that has won them the two games they’ve played against upper level opponents. In their wins against Williams and Tufts, Trinity has only averaged 20 points and around 385 yards gained, well below their season averages. But in both those games, they have locked down excellent offenses, and the defense has made huge, return touchdown type plays to give them the win. Last week against Tufts it was CB Dominique Seagears ’18 who returned his second pick of the year for a 100 yard touchdown, which ended up being the difference in the game. Trinity won’t have to make any of those big plays this week to win, but the will anyway, and they definitely will next week against Middlebury.

Predicted Score: Trinity 40, Bowdoin 0

GAME OF THE WEEK: Tufts (3-2) @ Williams (4-1), Williamstown, MA, 1:30 PM

As Matt pointed out in the Power Rankings, this is a really fascinating game. Williams has catapulted themselves into title consideration with their upset of Middlebury, but they can easily fall back out of it with another loss. And Tufts just unseated Williams as the team that played the best against Trinity, but that still counts as a loss. If Williams loses, they will be effectively out of title contention, as Tufts already is. The Jumbos should love the chance to play spoiler.

The Tufts defense subscribed to a “Bend don’t Break” approach against Trinity. They gave up 402 total yards, including 165 to Max Chipouras. But they were able to stand strong in the red zone several times, only giving up two offensive touchdowns, including the game winner to Chipouras in the fourth quarter. Indeed, what really did the Bantams in was inconsistency on offense. QB Ryan McDonald ’19 threw three interceptions, one of which was returned for a 100 yard touchdown. He will need to control the ball better against the powerful Williams pass rush and secondary, which have combined to hold QB’s to the lowest YPG average in the league.

Williams will need to keep McDonald inside the pocket. Their pass rush eventually affected Lebowitz, but even he (not known as a burner) was able to hurt them on scrambles. That is McDonald’s game. He is adept at moving the chains with his legs, and on individual plays he gives Jack Dolan ’19 and his other receivers ample time to get open. This is how Tufts will have to win; McDonald will have to carry them. On the road against a confident Williams teams, however, I don’t think he will.

Predicted Score: Williams 28, Tufts 17

 

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.

 

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

Camels and Bobcats, Oh My: Bates @ Connecticut College Women’s Soccer Game of the Week

Bates (5-2-1, 2-1-1) vs. Connecticut College (7-1-1, 4-1-1), New London, CT, 11:30 AM

It takes a big man to admit failure. Well, I can say that I’m five times a big man because I went 0-5 in my predictions last week. Each game proved to be a nail-bitter with a single goal being the difference maker in both games. This is why we love sports. On any given weekend, a team can put on a spectacle for avid sports fan, and pull off a shocker. Without Williams playing this weekend, the spotlight can be put on other games.

Once again, the game of the week features the Conn College Camels. After a devastating goal against on an Eph corner kick in overtime last weekend, the Camels lost their undefeated season bid. The Camels came ever so close to upsetting the Ephs on their homecoming weekend, and becoming the only undefeated team left in the ‘Cac. They might have a shot of redemption against Williams in the NESCAC playoffs. Nevertheless, the Camels can’t dwell on the loss, and must turn the page because a very strong Bates team is traveling to New London on Saturday. This weekend is also homecoming for the Camels, so they have to show that they’re one of the league’s best to make the alumni proud. After last weekend, the Camels still rank second in the conference in GF (goals for). This statistic illustrates the wealth of offense the Camels possess. Their diversified offense helps them against stellar defensive teams because when one player gets shutdown, it’s next woman up.

Bryanna Montalvo
Bryanna Montalvo ’18

However, Conn really showed its defensive potential against the high-powered Ephs last weekend. Williams normally scores two to three goals per game in conference play. The Camels held them to only one goal including an overtime period. G Bryanna Montalvo ‘18 has shown veteran leadership and steady play in net; she’s a rock back there— ranking in the top five in save percentage and leading the league in wins. Before the Williams game, I thought Conn’s only chance of beating Williams was outscoring them. The Camels proved to me and the world that they have as much fire-power on defense as they do on offense.

The Bobcats come into Saturday with a loss as well against Trinity, respectively. This loss shocked me because Bates has played so well, and has won tight games. Their defense and opportune offense led them to a road-win win against Wesleyan, but Trinity’s offense last weekend proved to be too much for them. Olivia Amdur ‘19 ranks third in the ‘Cac in points, but she seems like one of the only offensive inputs for the Bobcats. The rest of the offensive needs to step up and rally behind Amdur if they want to compete with the well-rounded Camels. G Sarah McCarthy ‘18 leads goalies in the NESCAC in all major statistical categories, but we saw against Trinity that if the opposing teams build a lead against the Bobcats, they have trouble coming back. The squad does, however, have a game against one-third of the CBB rivalry tonight (10/4) in the form of Bowdoin. A win here could give a much needed boost to the Bobcats offense against a mediocre Bowdoin defense.

UPDATE: The Bobcats defense fell flat against Bowdoin, surrendering too many shots and too many goals in a 3-2 loss. If they play like the against Conn, it will be a blowout, but I’m banking on them coming back hungry and ready to get back on track.

Sarah McCarthy struggled against Bowdoin last night, and will need to play better against Conn College.

I picked this game as the game of the week because of the potential both teams show to knock off presumptive favorite Williams. If I were the Ephs come playoff time, I would be very nervous facing either of these two teams. Bates has already tied the Ephs, while the Camels were edged on a ‘soft’ Eph goal in overtime. Like we saw last weekend, anything can happen on any given Saturday in the NESCAC. A win in this came will be a shot of confidence for both teams, and keep them in the upper-echelon of the league with Williams. Even though I really like Bates’ road play and defensive game, the Camels’ consistency will be too much for them.

Score prediction: 1-0 O.T. Connecticut College

Two (Undefeated) Teams Enter: Amherst-Middlebury Game of the Week Preview

Game Time: 2:00 PM EST, Amherst, MA.

After a week of rather dull and predictable results, its refreshing to see this game set on the schedule as one of the remaining undefeated teams will fall. Two 3-0 records will enter and one will exit the weekend with a blemish, however, each will likely have different starting lineups at the end of the season. Both the Panthers and Mammoths lack totally healthy rosters like most teams at this point in the college football season, but they both miss key players. Coming off of easy wins for both teams, this will be Middlebury’s first real test since week one against Wesleyan and Amherst’s first test of the season.

Middlebury X-Factor: WR Jimmy Martinez ’19

Jimmy Martinez plays football a whole lot better than he takes photos

Martinez is not just another one of the many pieces that QB Jared Lebowitz ’18 has to choose from, he is also the best return man in the NESCAC. With two special teams TDs already, he is a hidden gem and potential game changer in an area that Amherst hasn’t seen much talent this season. With 11 receptions this season, his is six shy from his career total, all accumulated last season. He is averaging 51.7 yards per game in the air, including a score, and isn’t tasked with increasing his volume of catches due to the deep nature of the Midd receivers. The sky is the limit for Martinez as his unmatched speed as an All-American in the 400 meter dash gives him a big edge on both punts and kickoffs. He has only had one punt return thus far but took it to the house against Colby and is also averaging over 40 yards per return on kickoffs. He could be the one thing that Amherst won’t be able to match on Saturday and if he scores on a kick then it could be the turning point of the game.

Amherst X-Factor: Secondary

Matt Durborow ’21 leads Amherst DBs with 13 tackles

The Amherst secondary will have its hands full on Saturday as all of Middlebury’s offense will be geared towards an air assault. With youngster Charlie Ferguson ’20 and injured Diego Meritus ’19 the two tailbacks for the Panthers, they likely will stick to their specialties; namely, Jared Lebowitz and his army of young receivers. Since Lebowitz has had his way with defenses thus far, the key to stopping them will be in the hands of the Amherst secondary. John Ballard ‘20, Zach Allen ‘19, and Matt Durborow ’21 will need to be on their A game to subdue the Middlebury offense as this game is likely headed to high scores on both sides. So far, Ballard is the only one with a pick of the three, but Nate Tyrell ’19 and John Rak ’19 should also be able to help out against the Midd receivers. The secondary should have a more significant role than the linebackers as Lebowitz has deep threats as targets in Banky and Martinez. Should they be able to keep Lebowitz to under three passing TDs they should be able to score enough to overcome the visiting squad.

Everything Else:

Going to Amherst and taking on the Mammoths is a daunting task for Middlebury, but nobody is hotter than them right now. They have a win against a solid opponent already and have coasted to wins the past two weeks, not rushing Meritus back into action, and holding off on playing those with nagging injuries. Amherst, on the other hand, hasn’t seen any real challenges and have more uncertainty heading into week four. Reece Foy has been getting eased back into action for Amherst in his return from injury, and while Ollie Eberth is playing solid football in his stead, he is no POY candidate. For the Panthers, WR Maxim Bochman ’20 was a late scratch with a hamstring pull, RB Diego Meritus ‘19, the 2016 starter, is yet to play in 2017 but is eyeing a return this week, and Matt Cardew ’17 sprained his MCL against Bowdoin. Luckily for Midd, Charlie Ferguson ’21 has performed well in his extensive action lately and could share the workload with Meritus as he is eased back into action.

Regardless of who plays tailback for the Panthers, Amherst will have the edge on the ground as Jack Hickey has been off to the races so far this season. Especially interesting will be seeing how Ollie Eberth ’20 plays against a solid Midd defense and if Foy increases his work load from the last two weeks. Not to be forgotten also are Amherst’s stand out receivers James O’Reagan ’20, Bo Berluti ’19, and Craig Carmelani ’18. Berluti is off to a slow start but has talent and could have a breakout game, especially if his familiar signal caller Foy gets more snaps this week. Due to Hickey’s 8.4 yards per carry, Berluti hasn’t been needed nearly as much and neither has a significant aerial attack in the first three weeks. Essentially, Amherst has been playing with their eyes closed up to this point. It was a nice warm up for them, although that doesn’t mean they aren’t ready for this game. A home game against a team with a number of injuries is a great time to play their first tough competition. If Foy was back to 100%, I would probably take Amherst just due to their depth in all aspects of the game, but Middlebury’s big play ability gives them an edge and they won’t need to run the ball if Lebowitz turns it on. Each team has their own advantages heading into this game, but with a stronger leader under center in what looks to be a shoot out, Midd has a slight edge.

Projected Score: Middlebury 31 Amherst 28

The NESCAC Gap: Football Stock Report 10/2

Similar to last week, week 3 produced results that continue to show the polarized hierarchy that is NESCAC football. Four teams won via the blowout (Middlebury, Amherst, Tufts, Wesleyan), so only one game had any semblance of competition (Trinity toppled Williams 17-9). The abundance of blowouts, however, means that some players put up some eye-popping statistics. Jared Lebowitz ’18 continued his impressive season (28-52, 389 yards, 3 touchdowns), Amherst’s Jack Hickey ’19 rushed 13 times for 118 yards, and Hamilton’s Cole Burchill ’19 racked up 16 total tackles against a prolific Wesleyan offense. This weekend did very little to affect the NESCAC standings, but the Williams-Trinity game was low-key fascinating. Let’s get into some of the emerging storylines.

Stock Up

The ‘Rebounding’ Middlebury Offense

This seems like a storyline as old as time. Earlier this season, we wrote on how the Middlebury receiving corps had a long way to come after graduating 2 perennial studs. In the past two weeks, the Panthers have silenced those doubts in a dramatic fashion. Against Bowdoin last week, junior wideout Conrado Banky ‘19 torched the Polar Bears for 101 yards on 5 receptions, averaging 20.2 yards per catch. Tanner Contois ‘18 also added 3 deep catches that exposed the Bowdoin secondary. On Saturday against Colby, Middlebury put up 34 unanswered points, thanks in large part to 6 Panthers hauling in at least 40 receiving yards. This offensive explosion was led by Banky, who tallied 136 yards on 9 receptions, and Jimmy Martinez ’19, who ran back another punt 61 yards for a touchdown, his second of the season already. He has become the most dangerous return man in recent NESCAC memory, and also added three catches for 48 yards. Middlebury has proved that it still has plenty of weapons, and are the most dangerous offense in the league.

Conrado Banky ’19 finally exploded last week, catching 9 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns.

Williams’s Resurgence

Despite the loss on Saturday, the Williams team had a lot of positive takeaways. The Ephs were able to put up 9 points against a daunting Trinity defense that had yet to allow a point in its first two games this season. The offense had 19 first downs, 9 more than what Trinity could muster. The Williams defense was solid too: the only points it let up were the result of turnovers, and a 46-yard field goal by one of the best kickers in NESCAC history. Though this loss was the first blemish on an otherwise perfect start to a season, I believe this game further proves that Williams is on the rise. This game, maybe more so than their two wins, should send a message to future opponents. Look for Williams to take care of business next week against a struggling Bates team.

Stock Down

Amherst Doubters

In the first three weeks of the season, Amherst has silenced all skeptics that have claimed that the Mammoths no longer belongs atop the NESCAC leaderboards. It is unclear what Reece Foy’s ‘18 role will be going forward, as he is returning from a knee injury but playing very few snaps. Regardless, QB Ollie Eberth ‘20 has filled in nicely, and he lit up Bowdoin for 254 yards on Saturday, That said, Amherst’s three impressive wins have come against the dredges of the NESCAC (Bates, Hamilton, Bowdoin). Amherst will be tested in the next few weeks, and a win next weekend against the formidable Middlebury team will further prove that the Mammoths are still a force to be reckoned with.

Ollie Eberth’20 has grabbed the reins at Amherst and will not let them go.

Competitive Games

The objective of any professional league should be to create competitive balance among its teams, so as to keep all fans engaged and to grow the league’s brand. That being said, it’s a good thing the NESCAC isn’t a professional league. None of the games in week 3 were particularly close, and, as a desperate fan of Bowdoin football, this season has been a struggle. The prevalent storyline this season has been Amherst, Middlebury, and Trinity beating up on the rest of the league, while Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, and Hamilton have fruitlessly tried to get into the win column. As a fan of the sport, it would be nice to see some weekly unpredictability in these games, but that just hasn’t happened yet. It’s been most interesting to follow Williams’s strong start to the season, and to watch some individual players put on showcases week after week. Going forward, though, I hope to see a little less polarization, and a little more parity.

Special Editor’s Stock Down: Trinity’s Undefeated Chances

I know this is one of the needlessly alarmist “hot takes” that has made sports talk shows totally unlistenable (except for Shannon Sharpe on Undisputed.) But I didn’t think I’d get to write anything about Trinity other than “they’re the best” all season, so hear me out. Trinity had nine fewer first downs than Williams that weekend, and couldn’t generate any offense that didn’t come off of turnovers by a jittery, young Eph offense. Williams stuffed the running game, keeping Max Chipouras ’19 to 2.8 yards per carry, and locked up the receivers, keeping Sonny Puzzo ’18 to 163 yards. This says a great deal about Williams’ defense; it may well be the best in the league, and they have a real chance of finishing 6-2 or even 7-1. And of course, the Bantams still won, and used their own elite defense to make huge plays at the right time. But the Ephs laid down a formula to slay Trinity. Stuff the run and force Puzzo to make tough throws to a depleted receiving core (that is Trinity’s greatest weakness, they don’t have an elite weapon in the passing game.) If a team with a more consistent offense (like Middlebury or Wesleyan) can follow this defensive formula, this season could get a lot more interesting.

Charging On: Men’s Soccer Weekend Preview 9/29

As we move into the fourth weekend of NESCAC play, the teams start to recognize the significance of each game. There is room to rise, but even more room to fall. Here are my thoughts about the upcoming games, most of which have potential playoff significance.

Standings as of 9/28
(Courtesy of NESCAC.com)

Colby (3-3-1, 1-2-1) at Middlebury (2-2-0, 5-2-0)

Statistically up to this point, the Mules and the Panthers boast similar figures. They each have a positive goals to goals against ratio and sit in the middle of the pack in the conference standings, respectively. Middlebury, on one hand, opened up ‘Cac play with a tough draw against Conn., Amherst, and Bowdoin; all of whom look to be formidable opponents in the first half of this season. The Panthers, at times, have shown that they can muster up tenacious play, as exhibited against Amherst, but their defeats against the Camels and the Polar Bears leaves definite questions about their ability to find success in the future. Middlebury currently relies on a balanced attack led by Drew Goulart ’20 and Daniel O’Grady ’19, who are able to both score and dish out an assist when called upon. Their backs Peter Davis ’19 and Aidan Robinson ’20 continue to help out senior keeper Jeremy Yeager ’18; all three will need to maintain their focus against a Mules team that has struggled to manufacture to this point.

Speaking of the Mules, this Colby team has surprised followers and continues to battle against intimidating competition. They took the defending national champion Jumbos into OT, tied the current conference leading Camels, and shutout Trinity in a decisive 2-0 victory. That being said, that amounts to only one victory, and in this league, you need points to be successful. Yes, they have faced very tough competition (their other game was a 1-0 loss to 4th-in-conference Williams), so they should not hit the panic button just quite yet. I expect this game will be a closely contested match all the way through. Asa Berolzheimer ’20 and Jansen Aoyama ’19 lead this Mules offense, and will look to get on the other end of a Kyle Douglas ’19 pass (Douglas leads team with 3 assists). At the end of it all, the result from this match will help paint a much clearer picture of each team’s capabilities.

Prediction: Colby 1 – Middlebury 2

Wesleyan (1-2-0) at Hamilton (5-2-0)

The struggle for the Cardinals up to this point has been maintaining their great level of play against out-of-conference teams in their NESCAC matches. They have shown they have the talent and the pieces needed to develop a quality season, but they need to show more flair and play with less hesitancy. In their two conference losses, they failed to score a goal against both Bowdoin and Tufts. Only against Bates were they able to net 4, but this is coming against a Bobcats squad that is less than stellar defensively. The Cardinals depend on recent conference Player of the Week (Harold and) Komar Martinez-Paiz ’19 to preserve their inconsistent offense. Additionally, the team has a constantly reliable backfield composed of Teddy Lyons ’19, Nick Jackson ’18, and keeper Brian Harnett ’18. Wesleyan cannot keep relying on their defense to win these games, as they can only do so much work before the opposing pressure breaks through.

Wesleyan will need to attack more on offense if they want to win this weekend.
(Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Hamilton, similarly, comes into this game looking to turn their season around. The Continentals have definitely not given their best performances, as they suffered stinging losses to Bates, Middlebury, and Conn. College. The main focus for Hamilton this weekend will be their offense, as they have scored only two goals in their four conference games. They need their strikers Jefri Schmidt ’20 and Matt Casadei ’19 to tally up some points against the Cardinals, but that gets a lot harder when looking at the strength of the Wesleyan defense. Playing at home, the Continentals look to give their fans something to cheer about as each team fights to jump up the conference table.

Prediction: Wesleyan 3 – Hamilton 1

Trinity (0-5-0, 1-6-0) at Bates (1-1-1, 3-1-1)

The Bantams head up to Lewiston this upcoming Saturday as both teams seek to redirect the path of their seasons. For Trinity, they simply need to find a way to score in conference games. They have netted only 1 goal in five conference games (just taaaap it in). In those five games, they have also conceded 9 goals, which must seem like a giant mountain to climb over every time they give up a goal considering they cannot really find a way to score. The Bantams have managed to score out of conference, placing 7 goals in the back of the net in seven non-conference games, so they have shown they have the ability to score. Hoping to tally some goals this weekend for Trinity is Bantams points leader Cody Savonen ’18, who has scored half of the team’s goals this season.

Defensively, Trinity will need Henry Belt ’21 and Mateo Zabala ’18 to be on top of their game to thwart the Bobcats. Hosting the Bantams this weekend is Bates, who, unlike its opponent, maintains a solid goals to goals against ratio. The Bobcats have scored 5 goals and let up 6 in conference. I would not necessarily say that these are favorable numbers, but the goals-for stat shows some merit when comparing it to the Bantams’. Leading the charge for Bates is senior Nate Merchant ’18, who has scored 5 of the team’s eleven goals for the season. He will be backed by senior Max Watson, sophomore Julien Williamson, and juniors Sam Huebschmann ’19 and Robbie Montanaro ’19. I have got to give the edge to this Bates squad, as they have shown they can manufacture goals in the heat of conference competition.

Prediction: Trinity 0 – Bates 2

Connecticut College (3-0-2, 6-0-2)  at Williams (2-1-2, 4-1-2)

As the current leaders of the conference, Conn must continue to prove their worth. The Camels have a very young roster, which will get only better the more they play together. Freshman Liam Noonan ’21 and junior Ben Manoogian ’19 lead this Conn. offense, an attack that is currently averaging close to 3 goals per game; however, this statistic decreases to just over 1 goal per game against conference opponents. The Camel defense has been extremely solid, averaging 0.59 goals against per game, which is easy to believe considering they have stalwart and lone starting-senior Nate Summers ’18 defending for the team. Conn. College’s only real test up to this point has been the Tufts Jumbos, which ended in a 0-0 draw.

Williams will be looking to place the first loss in the Camel’s season as they play host this weekend. The Ephs crew has enjoyed quite a lot of success so far in their campaign, with their only stint coming from a loss at Bowdoin. Despite their adequate offensive numbers, they truly excel on the defensive side of the ball. Senior Tobias Muellers ‘18 and Bobby Schneiderman ‘18 have been locking down offenses throughout the 2017 season. The Ephs boast 0.54 goals against per game, and will hope to shutdown this pesky Camels attack. Look for this matchup to be closely contested until the final whistle.

Prediction: Conn. College 2 – Williams 1

GAME OF THE WEEK: Tufts (3-0-1, 6-0-1) at Amherst (1-1-1, 2-1-1)

If you looked at this matchup a year ago, or even at the beginning of this season for that matter, it would have appeared to be one of the best collegiate games all year in Division III. However, Amherst has gotten off to a slow start, at least to their typical standards. They have shown that they can compete with the best, (see: their victory against Bowdoin)St but they have also shown that they can let the game get away from them, as seen when they hosted and lost to Middlebury. The Mammoths need a turning point to their season, a jolt that can propel them atop the ‘Cac standings. This game is their chance. Luckily for Amherst, the team has shown that they do not have to rely on a single player to score goals. In fact, 7 Mammoths have found the back of the net this season for Amherst, but they have scored only 2 goals in 3 three conference games. Their defense has been very trustworthy, with help from Sean Fitzgerald ’19, Cutler Coleman ’20, and freshman Bryce Johnson ’21. Together, this backline averages less than half a goal per game. Considering that this team is going up against the penetrating Jumbo offense, the defense will need to stick together.

Tufts has been a dominant unit this year, and will hope to continue that against Amherst.
(Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

The Jumbos, on the other side of the ticket, have been relatively unstoppable. They have not lost a game to this point and, more impressively, have not even given up a goal. Their defense has yet to falter thanks to seniors Conor Coleman ’18 and Matt Zinner ‘18, and junior Sterling Weatherbie ’19 (fantastic name). These three must continue their focus if they want their clean sheets to keep rolling in. Despite the Mammoths’ struggles to this point, I expect them to unnerve Tufts with their home field advantage, and actually sneak one past that unyielding Tufts defense.

Prediction: Tufts 1 – Amherst 1 (Double OT)

Here Come the Camels: Women’s Soccer Weekend Preview 9/29

Friday, 9/29

Wesleyan vs Hamilton (Clinton, N.Y., 4:15 PM)

Following 1-0 defeats this past weekend, both Wesleyan and Hamilton look to get off the snide this Friday. Against Bates on Saturday, Wesleyan still exhibited signs of great defense, but limited execution on the offensive end. As I predicted last weekend, the game was determined by a bounce one way or another. Unsuccessful Wesleyan corners in the first-half opened the door for Bates to put one into the back of the net later on in the game. Similarly, Hamilton’s loss to the undefeated Camels proved to be a tightly competitive game, but a bounce here and there led to the Continental’s defeat. Cat Gambino ‘18 leads the team in goals thus far, and will be the difference maker if Hamilton wants to ascend in the NESCAC standings. However, look for a sense of assertiveness in the eyes of the Cards as they look for their first league win. This will be a defensive-minded game, but I think Wes will be playing for their lives.

Predicted Score: Wesleyan 1-0.

Saturday, 9/30

Olivia Greif
Olivia Greif ’21 (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)

Colby vs Middlebury (Middlebury, VT, 11:00)

The Mules will leave Waterville with some desperation in their eyes as they look to pick up that ever elusive first conference win. Olivia Greif ‘21 still stands tall in all three of the NESCAC major statistical offensive categories. She is in the top five in goals, assists and points. Mostly because of Greif, the Mules have proven that they can generate some offense with an above average GFA, but also have a less than stellar GAA. Middlebury, in contrast, plays a defensive-minded game. Keeper Ursula Alwang ‘20 has done a solid job between the pipes, and the Panthers have several strong defenders. Like Wesleyan, I think Colby will go on the road with a similar mentality with the goal to pick up their first conference win. Look for Greif to be a difference maker on the offensive end on the pitch.

Predicted Score: 1-0 Colby

Bates plays a gritty, defensive game that allows them to win close games.
(Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Trinity vs Bates (Lewiston, ME, 11:00 AM)

The Bantams and Bobcats are riding high after squeaking out 1-0 victories, respectively, this past weekend. In any sport, the strength of a team is measured in its mental toughness. Grinding out a 1-0 win illustrates this mental toughness. Bates made that long drive to Middletown to defeat the Cardinals in a nail-bitter. Caroline Bogue’s (‘21) goal provided the offense, while clutch defense against some dangerous Wesleyan corner-kicks sealed the game. In even bigger news, the Bobcats tied the undefeated Ephs on Sunday. It’s not just Williams and Amherst at the top of the pack this year; Bates has shown that they can truly compete with anybody. The Bantams look to stay hot coming off a 1-0 win against Colby. Like Bates, Trinity won a close game on the road–the sign of a good team. Led to victory by a goal from Tricia Pollock ‘20, Trinity looks to seize another road win. However, Bates will ride the momentum from the Wesleyan win and the Williams tie to victory. I’m taking Bates.

Predicted Score: 2-0 Bates

Tufts vs Amherst (Amherst, MA, 12:00 PM)

Hannah Guzzi
Hannah Guzzi ’18 has seven goals already this season. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Amherst has to be kicking themselves after how close its defeat was to Williams. A win at a Williams homecoming would’ve proved to be incredibly sweet in front of all the Eph alumni. As an eighth seed right now in the NESCAC, this game is almost a must-win for Amherst. Hannah Guzzi ‘18 leads the entire league in goals; she’s the best offensive weapon in the league, and needs to put the team on her back like Greg Jennings did. Coming into the season with high expectations, a win here would push the Mammoths in the right direction. The Jumbos are undefeated–albeit with two ties. Emily Bowers ’19 has come into her own, and she has shown the league that she’s one of its best keepers. The Needham, MA, native (the best town in the country– no prejudice), ranks second in save percentage. Even though she’s a rock in net, Amherst will come out on top in this must-win game:

Predicted Score: 2-1 Amherst.

GAME OF THE WEEK: Connecticut College vs Williams (Williamstown, MA, 12:00 PM)

Williams dominant offense has been a true team effort this season.

Alas, we’ve finally come to the best game of the week: the Conn Camels vs the Williams Ephs. Conn’s performance this year has been incredible. A sleeper to begin the year, the Camels simply keep winning games. Much of their success can be attributed to their wealth of assets. Kat Norton ‘21 and Mackenzie Kingston ‘18 cannot be stopped on the offensive end. Norton is top three in the league in goals, and Kingston is top five in assists. Tieing Bates after a great win against Amherst has to be a wakeup call for the Ephs that there are many competitive teams in the NESCAC. Alison Lu ‘20 leads the Ephs offense. She is one of the best players in Division III soccer–ranking third in the NESCAC in goals. However, the most impressive Eph feat is that they rank first in all of the offensive major metrical categories. And by all I mean ALL; points, goals, assists, GFA, they’re dominant. However, the Camels have opened eyes all season and won’t stop here. Look for Conn to pull off the shocker:

Predicted Score: Camels 3-2.

Standings as of 9/26
(Courtesy of NESCAC.com)

The Rich Get Richer: Week Two Stock Report

This was not the greatest week for NESCAC parity. There was only one game that was ever in doubt, the Wesleyan-Tufts classic, and all the other games featured elite teams beating up on the lower tier like Godzilla on Tokyo. But what there were this week were several incredible performances. Jared Lebowtiz ‘18 (20-26, 316 yards, 4 touchdowns) continued his incredible start, Jack Hickey ‘19 of Amherst (113 yards, 2 touchdowns) had a very effective game out of the backfield, and the entire Trinity team looked like the Monstars in Space Jam against Bates, winning 51-0. So there wasn’t a lot of excitement, but there were still several compelling threads to trace through Week Two. Here are some of them.

Stock Up

Wesleyan QB Mark Piccirillo ‘18

Mark Piccirillo
Mark Piccirillo ’19 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

At the beginning of the season, the First Team QB spot (and probably Offensive Player of the Year as well) looked to be a two man race between Jared Lebowitz ‘18 of Middlebury and Sonny Puzzo ‘18 of Trinity. And those two have certainly done nothing to take themselves out of that discussion; indeed, they both threw four touchdown passes. But by leading comebacks against high level opponents in the first two weeks, Piccirillo has catapulted himself right into that conversation. After throwing for 432 yards (4 touchdowns) and nearly leading a miraculous comeback against Middlebury, he followed it up with 279 yards and 3 touchdowns against Tufts in the biggest game of the year thus far. And furthermore, he did his best Tom Brady impression against the Jumbos, leading a game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter, and a game winning drive in overtime. He accounted for 345 of their 385 total yards in one of the most impressive performances of the young season. Quarterback play this season is at its highest level in years, and Piccirillo is a large part of that.

Trinity’s Streak(s)

As we all know, the Bantams are currently on a 13 game winning streak spanning over the last two years. But this season has spawned another streak for Trinity, one that is even more impressive. Trinity is currently on an eight quarter scoreless streak. Put more simply, they have not allowed a point yet this year. For all you non-football fans, that’s pretty good. And although Trinity hasn’t played the elite in the league yet, they didn’t have a shutout for all of last season despite being 8-0, signifying an improvement in their already-excellent defense. It has been a true team effort for the Bantams. They don’t have a player in the top 20 in tackles or sacks, but the whole unit has just been incredible. We’ll be keeping an eye on this streak as the season goes on.

Stock Down

Hamilton’s Ascendence

The experts here at NbN were perhaps a little premature in predicting Hamilton’s rise to the top. Of course, Amherst is a very good team, but many were expecting a better performance from the Continentals than we saw on Saturday. Amherst focused in on WR Joe Schmidt ‘20, holding him to 54 yards and no touchdowns after he destroyed Tufts in Week One. And without his greatest weapon, QB Kenny Gray ‘20 struggled, throwing a pick and struggling before garbage time. The defense was perhaps more concerning, however. The Mammoths had 257 rushing yards and four touchdowns, and simply dominated the game all the way through. Hamilton may not be as ready as we thought.

Football Blanks Hamilton in First Half, Powers to 36-6 Victory
Amherst put a damper on Hamilton’s improvement, smoking the Continentals 36-6. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Tufts Defense

Tufts has been involved in easily the two best games of the season thus far, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. In both games, the Tufts offense has played fairly well (although QB Ryan McDonald struggled throwing the ball this week,) only to have the defense rendered unable to get a key stop. The secondary has been the main culprit. They gave up a legendary performance to Joe Schmidt in Week One, and Mike Breuler ‘18 roasted them in a similar way on Saturday. Breuler was Piccirillo’s main target, hauling in 13 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown. Incidentally, this gives Breuler 28 catches over the first two games. This is a ridiculous statistic that I would think has to be some kind of record. Tufts paid the price this week for their shaky defense, and one more loss would sink them in the league. The secondary will have to improve immensely if they want to stay afloat.

 

The Beat Goes On: Football Weekend Preview 9/23

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

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

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

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

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

Predicted Score: Middlebury 38, Bowdoin 6

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

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

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

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

Predicted Score: Williams 21, Colby 9

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

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

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

Predicted Score: Hamilton 35, Amherst 31

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

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

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

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

Predicted Score: Trinity 49, Bates 3

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

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

Overview:

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

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

Key for Tufts: Establishing the Run

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

Key for Wesleyan: Controlling the Pace

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

Predicted Score: Wesleyan 27, Tufts 24