The Last Football Show: Week 9 Weekend Preview

As always, make sure you check out Matt’s excellent piece on the Game of the Week, Amherst @ Williams. But that is far from the only good game here on the last weekend of the season. Middlebury @ Tufts has major championship implications, as does, of course, Trinity vs Wesleyan. And the other games feature young teams battling it out for pride and confidence, which can often produce the best games. This is how the season ends, not with a whimper, but with a bang.

Middlebury (6-2) @ Tufts (5-3), 12:30 PM, Medford, MA

It would take a good deal of help from Wesleyan and Williams for this game to have championship ramifications but it could. If Wesleyan beats Trinity, Williams beats Amherst, and Middlebury beats Tufts, then the Panthers would be one of four teams (Trinity, Wesleyan, Amherst and them) who finish at 7-2. Additionally, Middlebury would have the head to head tiebreaker over Wesleyan and Amherst. There’s a lot of moving parts to that equation, but all of them are very possible, so Middlebury has quite a bit to play for in this game. Tufts has no championship hopes, but they;d love to play spoiler and grab a win over an elite team.

As has been the case for Middlebury for the last two weeks, the big key is the play of Jack Meservy ‘19. He got knocked around by Trinity (the best secondary in the league) and did some  knocking of his own against Hamilton (arguably the worst.) Against the Continentals he flashed a nice touch on deep balls, throwing two deep touchdowns to speed merchant Jimmy Martinez ‘19. Tufts ranks somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of NESCAC secondaries (with Hamilton and Trinity as the two ends.) Tim Preston ‘18 is a threat, but he hasn’t gotten a ton of help this year, and Tufts defensive numbers are middling at best. A good showing here could cement Meservy’s spot as next year’s starter… or Lebowitz could come back. We shall see.

Ryan McDonald ’19 is made to attack the Middlebury defense.

Middlebury’s defense has been really excellent since Lebowitz went down, allowing the offense many chances to put it together. But they haven’t faced an attack quite like Tufts yet. Ryan McDonald ‘19 challenges defenses with his legs even more than Puzzo and Maimaron, two quarterbacks whom Middlebury often allowed to escape the pocket and move the chains through scrambling. And plus, the Jumbos’ run game is starting to look more like last year’s albeit without one star. In their last three weeks, which feature a win over Williams and an impressive loss to amherst (31-26,) Tufts has used a committee of talented backs to beat teams on the ground and set up play action throws on the run for McDonald. It’s hard to predict which back will be the lead, but Mike Pedrini ‘21 and Andrew Sanders have both played well. Run defense has killed Middlebury in both of their losses, particularly containing quarterbacks. I think it hurts them again this week.

Score Prediction

Tufts 20, Middlebury 15

Wesleyan (6-2) @ Trinity (7-1), 12:00 PM, Hartford, CT

This classic offense-defense matchup features Trinity fighting to keep the solo championship which was all but guaranteed for much of the season. They’ll need help from Williams, of course, but nothing happens unless they win here. And boy do they have their work cut out for them. Wesleyan may well have played the best all-around game of any team this season last week, pasting Williams 35-0. They held the Ephs to just 127 total yards, and phenom QB Bobby Maimaron to just 51, with two interceptions. And on the other side of the ball, QB Mark Piccirillo ‘18 stuck his namely firmly at the front of the POY race. He has now not thrown an interception in three games after throwing seven in the first five, and has five passing touchdowns in the last two. He also has four rushing touchdowns on the year (with no fumbles in the last five games) and is in the top five in the country in completion percentage at over 70%. With Lebowitz possibly done, Piccirillo is the best QB in the conference, and a win over the Bantams would cement his legacy and secure his hardware.

Trinity has to be pretty steamed following a pretty severe beatdown at the hands of the Mammoths. The final score of 28-20 is misleading–Amherst dominated the whole way, and the Bantams scored a touchdown with 24 seconds left to make it more respectable. Much of Trinity’s offense is created by their defense; takeaways set them up in great field position and force opposing defense back onto the field quickly tiring them out and allowing Max Chipouras ‘19 to find the holes. Amherst didn’t turn the ball over once, and as such was able to dominate time of possession 36:22 to 23:07. As I said above, Wesleyan has not been turning the ball over at all lately. Piccirillo has cleaned it up, and they have a pen of sure-handed running backs, like Sean Penney ‘21 and Glenn Smith ‘21, who hold onto the ball and can run out the clock or set up Piccirillo scrambles. Trinity has to force turnovers in this game, and they may have to look outside of Dominique Seagears ‘18, who will have his hands full with Mike Breuler ‘18. The linebacking corps of Dago Picon-Roura ‘19, Liam Kenneally ‘18 and Carty Campbell ‘18 may make the difference. If they can pick of a slant pass or force a fumble from one of those young running backs, Trinity is back in business.

Predicted Score: Trinity 27, Wesleyan 20

Bates (2-6) @ Hamilton (2-6)

The “Best of the Rest” championship could actually be a pretty thrilling game. Both teams are high octane offenses with bad defenses. That’s the recipe for a lot of points, and in a hurry. Bates’ offense is more of a recent development. QB Brendan Costa ‘21 has found the easier half of the schedule to his liking, turning into ‘08 Madden Michael Vick before our eyes. He leads all NESCAC players in rushing yards over the last four weeks, and has made some big throws as well. Bates is inverting the NESCAC offensive trend of the season, by using passes as a change of pace for a run-heavy offense. Mickey Nichol, Brian Daly and Jaason Lopez are all receivers who can make big plays out of short, dump-off passes in between Costa’s electrifying runs. Against bad defenses, this offense is very fun to watch, and tremendously successful.

Jaason Lopez ’21 is a big play threat for the Bobcats due to his incredible speed.

Hamilton is a more traditional offense, but can also light up weak defenses. QB Kenny Gray ‘20 is underrated, and he has legit set of weapons in Joe Schmidt ‘20, Christian Donohoe ‘20, and RB Mitch Bierman ‘21. Gray missed their game against Middlebury last week, and his status for this game is up in the air. If he doesn’t play, Bates should have an easy path to victory. But even if he does, the porous hamilton defense should let Costa do whatever he wants in leading the Bobcats to victory.

Predicted Score: Bates 35, Hamilton 28

Colby (0-8) @ Bowdoin (0-8), 12:30 PM, Brunswick, ME

If you remember Season Four of Friday Night Lights, the “Toilet Bowl” was a huge moment of team bonding for East Dillon Lions. It was their first win, and for a team that had to forfeit their home opener due to injury concerns, the importance of that win could not be overstated. For one of these teams, that will also be the case. Bowdoin has enjoyed some offensive success as of late. Promising first year QB Griff Stalcup played a great game against Wesleyan, but missed last week’s loss to Bates. But Noah Nelson ‘19 was able to step in against Bates and put up a very effective performance, throwing for 302 yards and two touchdowns. Bowdoin has the weapons to be an effective offense with consistent QB play. RB Nate Richam ‘18 is injured, but Gregory Olsen ‘21 looked like his NFL counterpart last week, catching two touchdowns. WR Nick Vailas ‘18 and TE Bryan Porter ‘18 have long been underrated based on playing in Bowdoin. The Polar Bears have the offense to make this a laugher.

Colby doesn’t have nearly the offensive firepower of Bowdoin, but they have real difference-makers on defense. LB Sebastian Philemon ‘19 (69 tackles) and S Don Vivian ‘19 (3 INT)  are legit All-League candidates. Against Bowdoin’s precariously good offense, the two of them should be real difference makers. Add in versatile RB Jake Schwern ‘19, who should get a ton of touches, and this really is anybody’s game. I’ll take the Polar Bears at home.

Predicted Score: Bowdoin 24, Colby 14

That’s (Almost) a Wrap: Week Nine Power Rankings

What a weekend! Here we go, headed into the first ever Week Nine with the NESCAC championship hanging in the balance. After Amherst’s 28-20 victory over the previously undefeated Trinity Bantams, the Mammoths are in first place and in control of their own destiny. However, Amherst has no easy task in their game against Williams, who surprisingly got blown out by Wesleyan 35-0. Middlebury knocked off Hamilton (41-20), and Tufts routed Colby easily (28-14), each showing a bit more fight than expected. Bates was able to defeat Bowdoin 24-17, winning the CBB for the fourth straight year. There is a lot in store for this coming weekend, with lots of potential tiebreakers on the table, but these rankings focus on where teams are now. Heading into the last week with a leapfrog at the top of the standings, this is how things shake out:

1: Amherst
I didn’t expect to see another team other than Trinity in this spot all year, let alone Amherst. When I wrote off Amherst earlier in the season, I considered only their lack of a superstar at QB, making it difficult to win the league. While Ollie Eberth is solid, teetering on elite, he is not as good as Trinity’s Sonny Puzzo. With the NESCAC being a QB centric league, a team at the top of the standings without the best QB is a bit puzzling. With their victory over Trinity, the Mammoths proved that defense can rule all as this team’s ability to stop the run puts them over the top. Andrew Yamin and John Callahan had big games on Saturday, collecting a sack and five tackles for a loss between them, limiting RB Max Chipouras to just 3.5 yards per carry. Amherst has a stellar defense, QB depth, a solid receiving group, and a top back in Jack Hickey. It’s there for the taking; bring it home, Mammoths.

2: Trinity
Let’s be clear—Trinity is not far below Amherst. A one possession loss as their only slip up as the entire season is not exactly a cause for drastic distance in these ranks. Chipouras struggled but is still the best RB in the league and won’t be stopped this weekend. Sonny Puzzo is still one of the top three QBs in the NESCAC despite an INT. Trinity’s defense is still by and large the best in the league, but matched up poorly against the deep Amherst rushing attack. Amherst has a better rush D, but Trinity still has the best secondary and has allowed the fewest points all year—the main goal for defenses. They were bested on Saturday by two Jack Hickey rushing TDs, one Eberth rushing TD, and a Reece Foy passing TD. Trinity could still win it all with a win against a hot Wesleyan team and an Amherst loss, but they are second this week. Let it sink in, folks, the winning streak is over.

3: Wesleyan
I was quite critical of Wesleyan after their poor offensive performance in their 21-10 victory against Bowdoin in week seven. They really proved me wrong. Like really, really did the opposite of what I thought. And that’s one of the reasons why college football is so great and why I don’t get paid. QB Mark Piccirillo flipped the switch in their 35-0 trouncing of a great Williams team, winning NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week and accounting for four TDs (two throwing, two rushing). The Cardinal defense also picked off Bobby Maimaron twice, big steps if they are to have a chance against Trinity this week. Sans Dario Highsmith, their offense proved that it is not to be trifled with, beating a much better defense than that of the Polar Bears who they struggled against. They made adjustments, kept the ball in Piccirillo’s hands more and trusting his decision-making. They should do the same in their finale against Trinity, he’s proven himself.

Mark Piccirillo is making a late push for the POY trophy, and could cement it with a win over Trinity in the finale.

4: Tufts
While Colby (0-8) is not good at football, Tufts (5-3) had some bright spots in their 28-14 win. Ryan McDonald looked a little bit iffy, but still ran the ball well, accumulating 65 yards, giving way to Ryan Hagfeldt later in the game. Mike Pedrini was a work horse in the game, rushing 31 times for 135 yards. His development into a more established and reliable back for the Jumbos should make 2018 very interesting. The Tufts secondary, namely Alex LaPiana (INT), Brett Phillips (INT) , and Tim Preston (two INTs) were on fire against the Mules, giving hope for a final win against Midd this weekend. They have been a bit inconsistent this season, putting up some duds, but also beating Williams—so what they bring to the table is a bit up in the air. They look to have a top tier QB, a true starting RB, decent receivers, and a good secondary—a recipe for success against the current Midd team.

5: Middlebury
You might be thinking how could a three loss team (Tufts) possibly be above a two loss team (Midd is now 6-2 after beating Hamilton)? Well for one, it’s boring to just rank teams off of their overall records—if that’s how it was then you wouldn’t need rankings and could just look at the standings. Secondly, these rankings are about where team are now not where they were earlier in the season and what their aggregate season totals are. Jack Merservy would be in the ‘Stock Up’ category if this was a stock report, but it isn’t. He is still unproven—Hamilton isn’t good—and Tufts’ Ryan McDonald is proven. The run game for the Panthers just isn’t there. Diego Meritus finally had a solid game in an injury hampered season, but they still are comparably weaker to the other top teams. Their receivers are still awesome, but their defense performed weakly against a first time Continental QB and a below average RB in Mitch Bierman. Crazily enough, they still could win a share of the NESCAC title if they beat Tufts, Trinity loses to Wesleyan, and Amherst loses to Williams. Of course, that share of the title would be based on their past successes and not how good they are right now without Jared Lebowitz.

6: Williams
This ranking wasn’t too difficult and it looks as if the Ephs are locked into their sixth place spot for the season. A 35-0 defining loss to Wesleyan surely spells the end of the magic for this young and coming team. They have dropped 2-3 games to teams that they were favorites against (Tufts and Wesleyan) and sit at 5-3 after a blistering start to the season. QB Bobby Maimaron had his first collegiate football hiccups after throwing two picks and for just 51 yards and zero points. It was bad all around for the Ephs and they looked as bad as they did last year in week eight. Let’s hope that they salvage their morale and promise for next season with a solid closing performance against Amherst.

7: Bates
The Bobcats and Hamilton are essentially tied for this seventh spot, but Bates (2-6) takes the cake with the hot hand. They really embodied their offensive style against Bowdoin, totally giving up on throwing and dominating the ground for a 24-17 win. Part of that was surely a factor of the score of the game and weakness of their opponent, but it’s cool to see such dynamic rushers getting high volumes of chances. They attempted five passes and 51 rushes, accumulating 367 yards of offense, 344 from the rush. Brendan Costa ’21, a wildcat, RB in QB form, elusive player, showed the Polar Bears what he’s made of with 170 of those yards. While they didn’t see another up and coming QB in Griff Stalcup—a huge bummer as a 2021 QB matchup would’ve been pretty sweet—they still shut down the more experienced Noah Nelson. The final week will settle this battle with Hamilton in the rankings as it will decide, truly, who is the best of the rest.

Brendan Costa and Bates ran away from the rest of the Maine teams on their way to a fourth CBB title in a row.

8: Hamilton
Another decent offensive performance against a top team and another loss, 41-20. It’s been a tough season for this team (2-6) in that they have looked like they are ready to pull off an upset but can never really get over the hump to win against a team not named Bowdoin or Colby. They were never in the game against Midd, but at least scored some garbage time points. Their defense is their biggest weakness, as 41 straight Panther points spelled a quick doom for the Continentals. Sam Foley made his first start of the year and did alright, finding Joe Schmidt and Connor Cates frequently, collecting a TD and 276 yards in the air. The second and third tiers of their defense—linebackers and DBs—stood no chance against the Midd receivers. While they beat Bowdoin and Colby just like Bates, they haven’t been able to limit opposing offenses and could easily let Costa run all over them.

9: Bowdoin
While I am uncertain about the nature of Griff Stalcup’s absence from their week eight loss, it’s easy to say even without him, the Polar Bears are better than Colby. Finally, one of these teams will get into the win column, and if Stalcup is playing, it will likely be Bowdoin. Bowdoin consistently puts up double digit points regardless of their opponent, and has manageable if not good receivers. In what is Bryan Porter’s and Nick Vailas’ last games, whoever throws the ball will throw to them. They are the playmakers putting Bowdoin over Colby and should take them into the 1-8 promise land.

10: Colby
This has been a season of despair for a team that represented a guaranteed win for all other NESCAC teams in 2017. Jack O’Brien tried to make a push towards a mid-tier QB level, but threw too many picks to do so. Jake Schwern tried to establish himself as a reliable back but lacked the efficiency. LB Sebastien Philemon and DB Don Vivian tried to tackle every single opponent and pick off every pass, but had zero help. They didn’t have depth, consistency, playmakers, or hope. Sorry, Mule fans, start hoping for a good class of 2022 and strong recoveries for the injured offensive linemen in your football futures as this program needs to rebuild.

Even Steven: Weekend Preview 11/3

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

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

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

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

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

Predicted Score: Bates 31, Bowdoin 28

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

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

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

Predicted Score: Williams 27, Wesleyan 17

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

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

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

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

Predicted Score: Middlebury 20, Hamilton 17

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

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

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

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

Predicted Score: Tufts 35, Colby 7

Two Teams Left: Week Eight Power Rankings

The Middlebury-Trinity game fell flat due to Jared Lebowitz’ injury against Bates. This has thrown the league for something of a loop, but it doesn’t really change the top that much. Trinity and Amherst play this weekend in the game that decides the league championship. If Trinity wins, no one can catch them, as they’d have the tie-breaker with Amherst even if they happened to lose in the final week of the season (unlikely.) There are several other terrific games this weekend with huge implications for the final standings. Let’s take a look at where those standings are at before those games.

1) Trinity (7-0)

The Bantams face their final challenger this weekend when they travel to Amherst to take on the Mammoths. Last weekend they easily dispatched the Lebowitz-less Panthers, forcing backup QB Jack Meservy ’19 into three turnovers (two picks and a fumble.) It was another dominant defensive performance, and LB Dago Picon-Roura ‘2 picked up the Defensive Player of the Week award on the strength of an amazing one handed interception. The run game was also dominant, as Sonny Puzzo ’18 and Max Chipouras ’19 combined for 258 yards on their own, with Puzzo scrambling in for two touchdowns. This defensive, pounding gameplan made up for a very poor effort from Puzzo through the air. He was only 9-20 throwing the ball for 120 yards, and had several throws that should have been intercepted by the Middlebury secondary. Amherst’s offense should be able to give their defense more of a rest than Middlebury’s did, so Puzzo will have to play better this weekend.

2) Amherst (6-1)

We may owe Ollie Eberth ’20 a small apology. For much of this season we’ve been talking about Amherst’s “QB uncertainty.” Eberth had been playing all year with the spectre of Reece Foy ’18 behind him. And indeed, even last week Foy threw a touchdown pass in his four attempt. But Eberth is clearly the guy, and he showed it against Tufts. He managed the game masterfully and took care of the ball, throwing for 250 yards and no interceptions. And he was dynamic with his legs, rushing for two scores. on his way to his first Offensive Player of the Week honor. Eberth will get an even bigger test against Trinity, a defense that turns people over better than anyone. He should get a lot of help from his defense. Andrew Yamin ’19 has 11.5 sacks this season and eats offensive linemen like Joey Chestnut eats hot dogs. Amherst is the team most suited to beat Trinity, and they have their chance at home.

Andrew Yamin ’19 is listed on the Amherst website as playing a position called “Buck.” I have no idea what that means but it’s very scary and so is he so maybe it does make sense.

3)  Williams (5-2)

We have yet another first year star in Williamstown. After Connor Harris ’18 went down with an injury, it was TJ Dozier ‘s (’21) time to step up. And that he has, getting more and more confident every week leading up to their game with Hamilton last Saturday. And against the Continentals (admittedly porous) defense, he broke out, rushing for 112 yards and a touchdown. The speedy back is proving he can be a workhorse, which is important for the Williams offense. They like to run a lot of play action and read plays to take advantage of Bobby Maimaron ’21 and his quick feet, but to do that you need a running back that scares the other enough to make them buy the fake. Williams has another suspect defensive matchup this weekend in Wesleyan, but the Cardinals offense should offer much more of a fight than Hamilton’s did. Dozier and the other young Ephs will get another chance to prove themselves as the future of the league.

4) Middlebury (5-2)

This ranking is based on where Middlebury is now, not where they’ll end up. The Lebowitz injury is devastating, not just to the Panthers but to the league as well. It ruined our best chance of not having to crown Amherst or Trinity as league champ, but more than that, it takes away one of the most electrifying players in recent NESCAC memory, and maybe the best of Middlebury QB dynasty. We’ll have a deeper career retrospective on Lebowitz coming out in the offseason, but we just wanted to acknowledge the impact he’s had on the league and on our hearts (okay too far, but I’m a homer.)

It’s hard to know where Middlebury will end up this season. Backup QB Jack Meservy ’19 made some impressive plays against Trinity, but he also had three turnovers and completed under 50% of his passes. And the defense made some big plays as well, despite having virtually no rest for the entire game. Middlebury still has the skeleton of an elite team. Conrado Banky ’19, Maxwell Rye ’20 and Jimmy Martinez ’19 are an enviable set of weapons for Meservy to take over, and the senior linebacking trio of Slodowitz, John Jackson and Wesley Becton is as good as any in the league. But Lebowitz was the heart, and without him, it’s hard to know how they’ll do. A matchup at home with Hamilton is winnable, but also not a guaranteed win, and they close the year at Tufts in what is now a very tough game.

5) Wesleyan (5-2) 

The Cardinals put up a fairly lackluster performance against Bowdoin, winning 21-10 and allowing 317 passing yards to Griff Stalcup ’21, who has improved every week but still has no business out throwing Mark Piccirillo ’18 by nearly 60 yards. Piccirillo-Mike Breuler ’18 is the best QB-WR connection in the league, and it accounted for all three of Wesleyan’s touchdowns (by the way, Breuler should be getting A LOT of POY hype. He’s unbelievable. More on that later.) But Wesleyan’s defense is becoming a problem. They have forced the fewest turnovers of any team in the league, and that includes the Maine teams. No one is scared of the Wesleyan defense, as Bowdoin proved, and Amherst should be licking their chops as they plan to triple team Breuler and throw the ball all over the field.

Mike Breuler ’18 is having one of the best seasons by a WR in recent NESCAC memory

6) Tufts (4-3)

What song would Tufts be playing to the top tier teams to get them to let them in? Tell us in the comments!

Tufts continues to stand outside the window looking in at the top tier teams like Lloyd in Say Anything. The biggest thing separating them from the elite is turnovers. Ryan McDonald ’19 is an unbelievable athlete, but he also has 11 giveaways all by himself this season. That is simply unacceptable. If he wants to sit at the table with Puzzo, Lebowitz, Piccirillo (and arguably Maimaron,) he has to take care of the ball. They also don’t really scare anyone on defense, giving up a middling 20 points per game and only forcing seven turnovers. They have a dominant pass rush, led by Micah Adickes ’18 and Zach Thomas ’18 (12.5 sacks between them) but once the ball leaves the quarterback’s hand it is usually completed. Luckily, they end the season with Colby and then Middlebury (probably) sans-Lebowitz. This is a golden chance to finish 6-3.

7) Hamilton (2-5)

Like Tufts, Hamilton has an unexpectedly good chance to finish the season 2-0 thanks to the Lebowitz injury. Before he got hurt, their game in Middlebury this weekend was a guaranteed blowout. But now, it’s a chance for a quality win before they close the season with Bates. To beat Middlebury they need to establish the run early and often. Marcus Gutierrez had good success against the excellent Williams front, putting up 77 yards on just 15 carries. He should have gotten 10 more carries at least in my opinion, as Kenny Gray ’20 completed under 50% of his passes with two interceptions. Hamilton should try to move to a more balanced offense, with a threatening running game setting up Gray to hook up with dynamic WR Joe Schmidt ’20. They will need to against Middlebury, who still has one of the better secondaries in the league.

8) Bates (1-6)

Brendan Costa
Brendan Costa ’21 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

The Bates Second-Half Redemption Tour reached its apex last weekend with their first win of the season, a surprisingly exciting 27-24 thriller over Colby. And as has been the case for most of their recent improvement, QB Brendan Costa deserves much of the credit. Costa had his best game of the season, throwing for 150 yards and a touchdown and rushing for another 155 yards and a TD. That’s the first game this season that a NESCAC QB has had 150 yards passing, 150 yards rushing and no turnovers. And to go along with Costa, the defense finally made some big plays, with two interceptions. Bates is having a feel-good end to the season, and they end the season with Bowdoin and Hamilton. A three game winning streak would take much of the sour taste left over from the 0-6 start out of the Bobcat’s mouths.

9) Bowdoin (0-7)

Bowdoin also got an encouraging performance from their young QB, as Griff Stalcup ’21 threw for a season high 317 yards against Wesleyan. Much of this came on an 85 yard throw to WR Nick Vailas ’18, but it’s still encouraging. Even more exciting than that is the defense. A week after giving up 63 (!!) points to Trinity, they held maybe the other best offense in the league reasonably in check, and came within 17 yards of out-gaining them in total yards (389-372.) This was mostly thanks to an impressive pass rush. They had four sacks on the day, two by DL Nat Deacon ’20. Their game with Bates this weekend may be a sneaky-exciting one.

Nat Deacon ’20 had two sacks against Wesleyan

10) Colby (0-7)

Colby has nearly tripled their season point total in the last two weeks. Coming into their game two weekends ago with Hamilton, they had only scored 27 points in five games, which is not ideal. But they have now scored 24 points in each of the last two games. Unfortunately, the teams they have played, Bates and Hamilton, have each scored 27. Colby hasn’t been able to take advantage of choice match-ups with other lower tier teams, and it’s hard to imagine them coming out of this season with a win. But they deserve a great deal of praise for continuing to work hard and improve despite an unimaginably difficult first half of the season.

New Field, Same Approach, Different Results? 2017 Bowdoin Football Preview

Editor’s Note: Connor is a new writer joining us from Bowdoin College. He is a rising senior, and just wishes that everyone in the world could just get along and have fun.

2016 Record: 0-8

2017 Projected Record: 2-7

Projected Offensive Starters: *Seven Returning

QB: Noah Nelson (‘19)*

RB: Nate Richam (‘20)*

WR: Nick Vailas (‘18)*

WR: Ejaaz Jiu (’19)*

WR: Chandler Gee (‘20)*

TE: Bryan Porter (‘18)*

OL: Elliot Borden (‘18)

OL: TBA

C: AJ Mansolillo (‘19)*

OL: TBA

OL: TBA

Projected Defensive Starters:  *Eight returning

LB: Tyler MacNeil (‘18)*

LB: Latif Armiyaw (*18)*

LB: Joe Gowetski (‘20)*

DL: Robert Caputo (‘19)*

DL: TBA

DL: TBA

DL: Jay Mobley (‘20)*

DB: Ryan Sanborn (‘18)*

DB: Nye Deskus (‘20)*

DB: Cameron Rondeau (‘19)*

DB: Henry Little (‘18)*

Projected Specialists: *Two returning

K: Andrew Sisti (‘18)*

P: Michael Chen (‘20)*

Noah Nelson
Noah Nelson ’19 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Offensive MVP: QB Noah Nelson ‘19

If the Polar Bears are going to compete for more than a few wins this season, it will largely depend on the play of Nelson. Entering preseason as the undisputed starting quarterback, Nelson will to prove that he is capable of leading this offense in high-scoring affairs. Bowdoin ranked towards the bottom of the NESCAC last year in passing effectiveness and statistical output, but Nelson showed signs of an ability to create offense and move the chains down the field. Equally as important, the Bowdoin offensive line will need to show significant improvement from last year, to allow Nelson to survey the field on offensive drives. A major staple of the receiving corps graduated last Spring (Ford ‘17), but senior Nick Vailas ‘18 figures to handle a hefty portion of the receiving workload. In addition, Chandler Gee ‘20 had some success in the slot last year. The buzz coming from preseason practice has also indicated that some first-year wideouts will figure to contribute significantly this season. The pieces are in place for Nelson to make a major step forward as the Polar Bears’ play caller.

Defensive MVP: Joe Gowetski ‘20

Joe Gowetski
Joe Gowetski ’20 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Gowetski came in and made an immediate impact for the Bowdoin defense last season. He was a beast from the linebacker position, racking up 52 tackles, as well as 1 sack. Those numbers led the league last year, and Gowetski has showed no signs of the proverbial ‘sophomore slump’ so far in practice. Gowetski figures to be a major stopper in the run defense, and his quickness and instincts make him effective in coverage as well. He has emerged as a team leader, and has put in the necessary work to be a major difference maker this season. Look for Gowetski’s name atop the NESCAC leaderboards again this season.

Biggest Game: @ Williams, September 16th

For the second year in a row, we’ve picked the first game on Bowdoin’s schedule as the most critical. After going winless last year, it is absolutely necessary that the Polar Bears show up for their first game this year. Although Bowdoin Coach JB Wells has an eye toward the future and has moved on from last year, fans of the program may not be so quick to do so. Wells has focused on improving his team day in and day out, and it must show on September 16th if Bowdoin is to rebound from a winless season. Whether or not you believe in sports momentum, the Polar Bears will certainly breathe a sigh of relief if they top Williams in week one.

Best Tweet:

So cute!

Summary:

This offseason and build-up to the first game has an air of ‘new beginnings’ for the Polar Bears. Bowdoin’s historic Whittier field is undergoing the final stages of a major renovation; it is set to open for their home opener (9/23 vs. Middlebury). Coach Wells and the rest of the football program is hopeful that this renovation will spur the team to hit the ground running this year (with the added security of the artificial turf, of course). More broadly, the team has let bygones be bygones, and has emphasized continual improvement and investment in the team’s goals. An 0-8 record last year definitely stings, but the Polar Bears are maintaining a positive outlook on their chances this year.

Bowdoin will benefit from its youth during this year’s elongated season: with a nine game schedule, durability and longevity will be key. Those are areas in which the Polar Bears are well equipped. A nice balance of experience and youth sets Bowdoin up to capitalize on the additional game, whereas some other teams might have trouble adjusting to the change.

Aside from the departure of Liam Ford ‘17 at wide receiver, the entire Bowdoin offense is returning and appear ready to capitalize on some bright spots from last year. Nate Richam ‘20 and CJ Markisz ‘20 figure to once again form a two-headed running attack, and the Bowdoin playcallers will rely on them to carry the workload. Chandler Gee ‘20 impressed with his speed and catching ability in the slot last year, and with the addition of some highly skilled freshman wideouts, the receiving corps looks ready to make a big impact. These new additions will complement consistent offensive presences WR Nick Vailas ‘18 and TE Bryan Porter ‘18.  As previously mentioned, Noah Nelson ‘19 will need to step up in big fashion if Bowdoin is to outscore opponents on a weekly basis.

On the defensive side of the ball, Bowdoin will be anchored by linebackers Latif Armiyaw ‘18 and Joe Gowetski ‘20, who, between them, have some serious athleticism and high football IQ. Similar to previous seasons, one of Bowdoin’s keys to victory will be stopping the run (Bowdoin allowed a league-worst 200.1 rushing yards per game last year). To make matters worse, Bowdoin also allowed the most passing yards per game last year with 242.9. Clearly, the returning defenders (and the incoming players) will need to show improvements if Bowdoin is to even be competitive this season.

All in all, Bowdoin has a long way to go before they are NESCAC title contenders. There were flashes of potential last year, but none of them persisted long enough for the Polar Bears to grab a win. With a brand new facility and positive outlook on the season, it would seem as though Bowdoin is poised to make some noise in the league this year. The team will need to be far more effective on defense, and capitalize on their offensive capabilities, if they are to turn their fortune around. Despite the positivity and experienced roster, Bowdoin is still in rebuilding mode. While I don’t think they go winless for the second straight year, it may be another season of woes for the Polar Bears.

Don’t Sleep, Young Bloods: The Polar Bears Might Surprise

 

Projected Record: 1-7

Projected Offensive Starters: *Seven Returning

QB: Timmy Drakely (‘17)*

RB: Nate Richam (‘20)*

WR: Nick Vailas (‘18)*

WR: Garrett Thomas (’18)

WR: Liam Blair-Ford (’17)

TE: Bryan Porter (‘18)*

OL: Kyle Losardo (‘17)*

OL: Brian Mullin (‘17)*

C: AJ Mansolillo (‘19)*

OL: Ben Jurkic (‘17)

OL: TBA

Projected Defensive Starters:  *Seven returning

OLB: Andre Joyce (‘20)

MLB: Latif Armiyaw (*18)*

OLB: Andre Jett (‘20)

DL: Steve Anderson (‘17)*

DL: Danny Wanger (‘17)*

DL: Nadeem Elhage (‘16)*

DL: Jay Mobley (‘20)

DB: Reeder Wells (‘17)*

DB: Jibrail Coy (‘16)*

DB: Cameron Rondeau (‘19)*

DB: Henry Little (‘18)

Projected Specialists: *One returning

K: Andrew Sisti (‘18)*

P: Chen (‘20)

Offensive MVP: Nate Richam ‘20

Yeah, he’s a freshman, but might as well go bold. Bowdoin was last in the league in rushing, rushing attempts, rushing touchdowns, and yards per carry, averaging 2.2 yards per carry, totaling under 500 yards, and racking up just 3 TDs in 2015.  That was partly due to Tyler Grant getting hurt (Grant has hung up the spikes, and won’t be playing this year). In 2014, Tyler Grant ran for 893 yards, and 8 TDs, as a sophomore. He got more touches than anyone in the NESCAC that year. Needless to say, his injury caused some problems.

Richam, a West Hartford, Connecticut native, has drawn rave reviews this preseason. Yes, he’s a freshman, but the Polar Bears desperately need to establish a running game this year. Richam’s quick, he’s strong, and he has that ability to make people miss that you can’t coach. Bowdoin threw the ball 177 times last year, third most in the league, but historically, Bowdoin likes to run the ball, so look for last season’s historic lows in rushing production to at least return to normal levels this year.

Defensive MVP: Reeder Wells ‘17

This is the least exciting defensive MVP pick possible. Reeder Wells hasn’t put up huge numbers in his career, but he’s as steady as they come. He’s never missed a game. He’s the captain on defense, he’s a Texan, and he makes tackles. He’s had at least 36 tackles every year. He only has 1 career interception, and he’s never had a sack, but his value and consistency will make him the most valuable defensive player for the Polar Bears this season.

Welcome Back: Liam Blair-Ford ‘17

By the numbers, Blair-Ford hasn’t done much as a Polar Bear yet. His career receiving numbers aren’t very big, and he’s only played 10 career games, missing extended time due to injury. Despite all that, the word on the street is that he’s in great shape, and he’s gonna play a big role this year.

Biggest Game: September 24th, at Middlebury

Yeah, it might be strange to pick the opener. Think about it this way. Bowdoin hasn’t finished a season above .500 since over a decade ago (2005). The Bears need to win one of the first two games, and while Amherst at home would be a huge, huge win, objectively they have a better chance taking down the Panthers, considering Amherst’s won 19 in a row, and three straight NESCAC championships. If they win one of the first two, they’ll be in a good spot.

Best Tweet:

It’s gotta be this video of a barely comprehensible Latif Armiyaw looking really, really hot. You’re looking at the owner of the Bowdoin Track & Field 60m dash record there folks. As quick a linebacker as you’re gonna find in the NESCAC.

http://https://twitter.com/jacklucy73/status/763146721664888832

Summary:

It’s hard to have an offseason more brutal than Bowdoin’s. They lost the usual seniors (but actually retain a handful 2016s, playing an extra year due to injury, like Nadim Elhage, and Jibrail Coy). After that though, things get bleak. They lost Philippe Archambault ‘19, arguably their best defensive player, a French-Canadian beast, who has returned to Canada. They’ve lost a handful to retirement, be it due to injury, or simply quitting, including former impact running back Tyler Grant ‘17. Perhaps worst of all, the team lost a handful of valuable players in a plagiarism scandal: 5 or 6 guys, most of whom figured to receive significant playing time, will miss the season.

So yeah, a rough offseason, but the freshman class shows great promise,and they return a lot of veterans with starting experience, which shouldn’t be overlooked. There’s a lot of buzz about the energy level and hunger that this team has. A duo of sophomore baseball guys, Brandon Lopez ‘19, and Ejazz Jiu ‘19 have joined the team this year, and Jiu ‘19 looks like he’s going to have an impact at wide receiver. He’s a big target. Richman ‘20 has looked great at running back, and Chandler Gee ‘20 is a really fast slot receiver who has impressed so far. On defense, a trio of freshman linebackers, Joe Gowetzski (ILB), Christian Pridgen (OLB), Sydney Guerrier (OLB), look like they could do some damage.

The group of returners is solid. In particular, the success of  WR Nick Vailas ‘18 and TE Bryan Porter ‘18 will play a big role in the team’s chances. Vailas had almost 600 receiving yards and added 6 TDs, while Porter had over 400 receiving yards with 5 TDs. Porter made 2nd team all-NESCAC last year as a sophomore, he was one of only two Bowdoin representatives, and he’s also an excellent blocker.

Two of Bowdoin’s top offensive linemen, Kyle Losardo ‘17 and Brian Mullin ‘17, return as well. When you ask Bowdoin guys about top offensive players, they often point to those two as being weapons on the line.

The keys for this team are going to be health, running the ball, and stopping the run. Healthwise, they’re already extremely thin, and if they start to lose talented veterans, they’re going to be in a tough spot. Richam and sophomore RB Andrew Tichy will need to have big seasons in order for the Polar Bears offense to work, and the defense is going to have to at least be average, as opposed to league-worst, against the run. Bowdoin won’t have much room for error, but if they can limit injuries and mistakes, they should have the pieces to put together a decent season, with a little luck.

NbN 2015 End of Year Football Awards

Big plays, big hits, and jaw-dropping performances - We love NESCAC football. (Courtesy of Michael O'Hara/Middlebury Campus)
Big plays, big hits, and jaw-dropping performances – We love NESCAC football. (Courtesy of Michael O’Hara/Middlebury Campus)

We’re very sad to see football season go. Covering all of the drama, success and disappointment this season, it’s felt at times like we were on the field ourselves, living through the ups and downs. On a grand scale, Amherst took a lot of the drama out of the season by so consistently dispatching its opponents, but let’s not downgrade the exceptional performances of so many individuals on every team across the league. Even amongst so many standout showings, a few deserve recognition above all else.

Offensive Player of the Year: Tufts RB Chance Brady ’17

Chance Brady '17 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Chance Brady ’17 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Brady was on our radar coming into the year, but we had no idea he was this good. Not only did he split carries last season with Zack Trause ’15 practically 50-50, but Tufts has historically been one of the most pass-happy offenses in the NESCAC. That completely changed this season with Brady serving as a workhorse for the Jumbos. Brady had 187 carries (two behind Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17), and led all qualified running backs in yards, yards per game and yards per carry while also tallying 11 rushing scores, two shy of the Tufts single-season record.

Honorable Mention: Middlebury QB Matt Milano ’16, Middlebury WR Matt Minno ’16, Amherst QB Reece Foy ’18, Trinity QB Sonny Puzzo ’18, Colby RB Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17

Defensive Players of the Year: Wesleyan DE Jordan Stone ’17 and Bates LB Mark Upton ’17

Mark Upton '17 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)
Mark Upton ’17 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Adam – Sheer production is the best way to describe Mark Upton’s career at Bates, and he gets my vote for DPOY because of his leadership on a young defense to go along with those gaudy stats. Bates lost a lot from their 2014 defense, including the majority of the linebackers who played besides him. Teams game planned towards Upton unlike before, and while he couldn’t quite match the 84 tackles he had last year, he came close. Upton finished with 71 tackles, four sacks, three forced fumbles, and an interception. He played best down the stretch averaging 9.8 tackles per game in his final five games.

Jordan Stone '17 (Courtesy of Wesleyan University Athletics)
Jordan Stone ’17 (Courtesy of Wesleyan University Athletics)

Joe – I went with Jordan Stone because he was a physical monster. Not only that, but Stone played alongside a bunch of freshmen on the D-line, and the Wesleyan defense as a whole was very green, so his numbers stand out that much more – and boy are they impressive. Thirty-five total tackles, 5.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Ten! When thinking about these kinds of awards, my biggest question is always, Which player would it hurt the most to lose? I think this season it was Stone.

Honorable Mention: Amherst LB Evan Boynton ’17 , Middlebury DL Gil Araujo ’16, Bowdoin LB Branden Morin ’16, Middlebury CB Nate Leedy ’17, Trinity S Paul McCarthy ’16, Tufts LB Zach Thomas ’18

Kicker/Punter of the Year: Trinity K/P Kyle Pulek ’16

K/P Kyle Pulek '16 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
K/P Kyle Pulek ’16 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Pulek was consistently great punting the football (15 inside the 20, including six against Middlebury alone, which was a huge difference in the Bantams winning that contest), but it was his proficiency once thrust into the kicking role that gives him the edge over Amherst’s Jackson McGonagle ’16. Last season, Trinity’s kicking faults more or less directly led to a pair of Trinity losses. This season, kicker Eric Sachse ’19 was doing a fine job before he went down with an injury. Pulek came on and looked like a seasoned vet, making 10-10 extra points and 5-8 field goals – two of those misses were blocks, and the other was from 39 yards out.

Honorable Mention: Amherst P Jackson McGonagle, Tufts K/P Willie Holmquist ’17, Hamilton P Pat Donahoe ’16

Return Man of the Year: Trinity KR/PR Darrien Myers ’17

KR/PR Darrien Myers '17 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
KR/PR/WR Darrien Myers ’17 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Not a ton of options on this one, and Myers is a more than deserving candidate, mostly because of his work on punt returns. He averaged 13.5 yards per return, a pretty sick number. Two of his returns went for touchdowns, and his 74-yard punt return for a touchdown against Middlebury was a huge lift in their eventual win. Myers was not as dynamic on kickoffs as he has been in the past averaging 22.3 yards per return, but he still was a clear choice for us.

Honorable Mention: Tufts KR/PR Mike Rando ’17 and Williams KR/PR Mark Pomella ’16

Rookie of the Year: Hamilton DE Tyler Hudson ’19

DE Tyler Hudson '19 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)
DE Tyler Hudson ’19 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

Hudson exploded out of the gates with as good a debut in the NESCAC as anyone has had in awhile. Against Tufts he had 15 tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss. Keep in mind that he plays defensive end! He wasn’t that productive the rest of the year, but the final stats of 47 tackles, four sacks, and 12.5 TFL (second in the NESCAC) are pretty nifty. Hudson is so good that he even was on the field for the Continentals goal line package, though he never was able to bring in a reception. Hudson will be fun to watch for the next three years.

Honorable Mention: Tufts DB Tim Preston ’19, Trinity LB Shane Libby ’19, Trinity RB Max Chipouras ’19, Bowdoin DB Cam Rondeau ’19

Coach of the Year: Tufts’ Jay Civetti

Tufts Head Coach Jay Civetti (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Tufts Head Coach Jay Civetti (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

With apologies to EJ Mills who cranks out 8-0 seasons like they can be made on an assembly line, Coach Jay Civetti deserves this one. The Jumbos went 6-2 and took another big step forward as a program. This season Tufts turned into a team that ran the ball first and forced big plays on defense. That is the EXACT opposite of what this team was just two years ago. It took Civetti a little time to have the results show up on the field, but what he is building at Tufts both on and off the field is impressive, and we were impressed with how he fit his game plan to his players’ talents.

Honorable Mention: Amherst’s EJ Mills, Wesleyan’s Dan DiCenzo

Breakout Player of the Year: Amherst QB Reece Foy ’18

QB Reece Foy '18 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
QB Reece Foy ’18 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Our biggest worry for Amherst coming into the year was that they would be plagued by subpar QB play. Foy was not perfect this year, but he was the catalyst for the Amherst offense. He played his best football in the first half putting up more than 250 yards of total offense between running and passing in each of his first three games. He didn’t surpass that mark again the rest of the way, but he still made enough plays down the stretch of games. He ranked in the top five amongst starters for passing yards, yards per attempt, completion percentage, and touchdowns, so calling him above average is a pretty easy call.

Honorable Mention: Hamilton WR Charles Ensley ’17, Tufts LB Zach Thomas ’18, Bowdoin WR Nick Vailas ’18, Trinity LB Liam Kenneally ’18, Bates CB Trevor Lyons ’17

Most Surprising Team: Tufts

Tufts took the lead by storm this season. They are for real. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Tufts took the lead by storm this season. They are for real. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Well this couldn’t have been easier. Tufts was the most surprising team a year ago, and they still managed to up their play this season. By beating one of the big dogs in Week 8, Tufts really made a statement about their ability to compete in the future. Two years removed from a 31-game losing streak, Tufts might be a title contender in 2016.

Honorable Mention: Hamilton

Best Single Unit: Amherst LBs

dd
Thomas Kleyn ’16 (#52) and Evan Boynton ’17 (#40) led Amherst’s dominant linebacking corps. (Photo by Joe MacDonald)

Given that Amherst graduated two VERY good linebackers from the 2014 team, not many would have thought this unit would end up here. But Evan Boynton ’17, Tom Kleyn ’16, Parker Chapman ’17 and Jack Drew ’16 were phenomenal. Their individual statistics are all great of course, and you can look at them here. As a group they were great tacklers, never allowing for big plays. Unlike many linebackers in the NESCAC, this group was equally good against the run and pass, making the Amherst defense able to adjust to anything.

Honorable Mention: Trinity OL, Middlebury DBs, Wesleyan RBs, Amherst K/P

Consistency Award: Middlebury LB Tim Patricia ’16

LB Tim Patricia '16 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)
LB Tim Patricia ’16 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Patricia gets this award not just for his performance in 2015, but for the entire body of work that is his stellar career. The California native came all the way to Vermont to play ball and made an impact right away. Patricia started 32 games in his career and amassed 289 tackles – the third-most in Middlebury history since 1994 when they started recording individual defensive statistics. It’s rare to see a player lead an entire defense from Day One and never miss a beat.

Honorable Mention: Amhest WR Devin Boehm ’17, Amherst DB Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn ’16, Bowdoin TE Bryan Porter ’18, Chance Brady, Jabari Hurdle-Price

The Real Championship Comes to Middlebury: Fantasy Report Week 8

Tufts QB Alex Snyder '17 teamed up with Fantasy MVP Matt Milano '16 to bring the championship to Joe's squad. (Courtesy of the Tufts Daily)
Tufts QB Alex Snyder ’17 faced Fantasy MVP Matt Milano ’16 on Saturday, but in they fantasy world they teamed up to bring the championship to Joe’s squad. (Courtesy of the Tufts Daily)

Prior to the season beginning, we picked Middlebury as our NESCAC Champions. That turned out to be just a little bit off. However, the Vegas odds also had the Fantasy trophy coming to Middlebury, and on Saturday Joe clinched the title in commanding fashion.

A year ago, Pete Lindholm won the fantasy championship on the strength of a historical performance from one Matt Milano ’16 (I think we’ve probably mentioned him in every fantasy article this season), and this year Milano once again carried a championship squad. My team finished the season 7-1 on a seven-matchup winning streak; all other teams finished 3-5, and not even Carson’s Bantam-heavy lineup could put up a fight in the Championship. It was bitter-sweet for me to watch Alex Snyder ’17 rack up the TDs on Saturday – it resulted in a loss for Middlebury, but really sealed the deal when it came to fantasy.

Joe Carson
Pos. Player Pts Pos. Player Pts
QB Matt Milano 34 QB Sonny Puzzo 5
QB Alex Snyder 27 QB Jared Lebowitz 0
RB Kenny Adinkra 15 RB Frank Williams 2
RB Jabari Hurdle-Price 17 RB Max Chipouras 14
WR Devin Boehm 6 WR Matt Minno 27
WR Charles Ensley 2 WR Mark Riley 3
TE Bryan Porter 15 TE Rob Thoma 0
FLEX Lou Stevens 2 FLEX Ian Dugger 2
FLEX LaShawn Ware 0 FLEX Jack Cooleen 12
D/ST Middlebury 3 D/ST Amherst 7
K Charlie Wall 5 K Charlie Gordon 2
BE Devon Carrillo 0   BE Neil O’Connor 0
BE Cole Freeman 5   BE LaDarius Drew 0
BE Jon Hurvitz 0   BE Nick Gaynor 9
 TOTAL 126      TOTAL 74
QB Reece Foy '18 had an up-and-down season, but in terms of fantasy, he was more consistent. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
QB Reece Foy ’18 had an up-and-down season, but in terms of fantasy, he was more consistent. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

In the consolation round, Nick continued his slide, but he had a respectable showing. After weeks of 42 and 52 points, his team was good enough to win most matchups this week, but Adam got contributions from everywhere. Bowdoin QB Tim Drakeley ’17 had far and away his best game of the season, so that was a great pickup for Nick, and Middlebury RB Diego Meritus ’19 had one of his best performances, too. In the end, though, Amherst QB Reece Foy ’18 and Bowdoin WR Nick Vailas ’18 outscored every other twosome, and at least ended Adam’s season on a high note for him.

Adam Nick
Pos. Player Pts Pos. Player Pts
QB Austin Lommen 8 QB Gabe Harrington 15
QB Reece Foy 27 QB Tim Drakeley 34
RB Nick Kelly 0 RB Jaylen Berry 3
RB Chance Brady 13 RB Diego Meritus 14
WR Darrias Sime 10 WR Darrien Myers 0
WR Mike Rando 13 WR Dan Barone 2
TE Alex Way 1 TE Trevor MIletich 5
FLEX Nick Vailas 23 FLEX Bryan Vieira 8
FLEX Jackson McGonagle 12 FLEX Matt Hirshman 0
D/ST Wesleyan 9 D/ST Trinity 11
K Ike Fuchs 1 K Kyle Pulek 5
BE Gernald Hawkins 2   BE Connor Harris 0
BE Pat Donahoe 5   BE Ben Kurtz 0
BE Shaun Carroll 0   BE Raheem Jackson 0
TOTAL  117      TOTAL 97

It’s Not Your Imagination, Passing Is Up in the NESCAC: Part One

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There was a time when we never thought we’d see statistics like those put up by Mac Foote ’14 again. Now it seems like every team is airing the ball out more than ever, but is that true? (Courtesy of the Middlebury Campus)

From 2011 to 2014, only 25 percent of teams finished the season throwing for more than 200 yards per game. If you take out Middlebury, that number becomes 16.6 percent.  This year, there has been a noticeable departure from that norm. Through six weeks of the 2015-2016 season, seven of the ten teams are averaging over 200 yards through the air, and Tufts is just off that mark with 199.7 YPG. As usual, Middlebury is pacing the league with 332.8 passing yards per game. Bowdoin, a team that finished eighth in the NESCAC in passing just one year ago, showcases a new and improved aerial attack under new Head Coach JB Wells that ranks third.

Other teams like Amherst and Williams have seen large upticks in their numbers in part because of strong quarterback play. The league’s higher passing numbers point to the possibility that the NESCAC is moving away from the ground heavy attacks they have long featured. Are defensive lines closing gaps like never before causing teams to turn to the pass? Are teams starting to envy Middlebury’s capacity to consistently throw up 300 passing yards a game? The reason is unclear, but there is no doubt that change is happening. The best way to answer this is to examine the numbers and go team-by-team to see whether the change is temporary or systematic.

2015 Passing numbers through Week 5 in below graph. All other stats are through Week 6.

overallchart  Middlebury

middleburyPeople who follow NESCAC football understand the prestige of the Middlebury Panthers passing attack. Its program employs the pass-heavy offense, which is made explicit by the impressive passing numbers it has put up in recent years. In each of the past four seasons, Middlebury has finished with a commanding lead in passing yards per game, and you would have to go back to 2007 to see Middlebury not finishing toward the top. The 2014 season marks the only time that Middlebury has dipped under 300 yards in the last five. Still, in 2014 QB Matt Milano ’16 threw for over 24 touchdowns, which was good for fourth in the last 23 years for which the NESCAC has records, with only three interceptions.

Despite graduating top WR Brendan Rankowitz ’15 (36 receptions, seven touchdowns), Milano’s offense hasn’t missed a beat in 2015. Through six games, Milano has thrown for an average of 317.3 yards per game with 17 touchdowns. He has already thrown nine interceptions, but he connects with his receivers roughly 60 percent of the time. Milano continues to connect with WR Matt Minno ’16 at an impressive rate. Last season, Minno lead the Panthers with nine receiving touchdowns, and he has remained one of Milano’s top targets. Ryan Rizzo ’17 had also picked up where he left off last season, hauling in 23 receptions and two for touchdowns, before succumbing to a season-ending knee injury on the first drive against Trinity. When Milano graduates, Jared Lebowitz ’18 will inherit the offense, and any betting man would predict that Middlebury will still rely on the pass heavily with him.

Verdict: Enduring. Middlebury will continue to throw the ball all over the place.

Bowdoin

bowdoinAfter finishing eighth in the NESCAC in passing yards per game in 2014, it may be surprising for some to see Bowdoin close to the top of the pass rankings. Under new head coach JB Wells, the Polar Bears’ new offensive approach is a complete 180 from the one it displayed last fall. Last season, Tyler Grant ’17 was a workhorse for Bowdoin, rushing the ball 226 times for 893 yards and eight touchdowns. This season, after the implementation of Wells’ offensive scheme, the Bears’ have become one of the most pass-heavy in the league. Last season, Bowdoin scored ten touchdowns, nine of which came on the ground. This season the Polar Bears have found their way into the end zone 12 times, but 10 of those scores have been through the air. Last fall, the Bears only threw the ball 244 times in eight games, and they have thrown the ball 241 times through six games.

In the three starts he has had, Week 4 POW QB Noah Nelson ’19 has done an admirable job in replacement of Tim Drakeley ’17, averaging 196.5 pass yards per game and firing seven touchdowns. WR Nick Vailas ’17 has emerged as a top threat in Bowdoin’s aerial attack, leading the team in receptions (34) and yards per game (67.2). TE Bryan Porter ’17 has become a crucial part of the offense, accounting for 26 receptions and four touchdowns. There has been a renaissance in the Bears passing offense

Verdict: Enduring. With a new coach, Bowdoin is committed to throwing the ball.

Trinity

trinityTrinity is passing the ball at a rate higher than any of its past four seasons. Having not exceeded an average of 188.5 since 2011, the Bantams are averaging 243 through the air in 2015. Due to the success of emerging RB Max Chipouras ’19, only 5 of Trinity’s 19 touchdowns on the season have been receiving, but make no mistake that the Bantams are moving the ball through the air much more. QB Sonny Puzzo ’18 has burst back onto the scene and found immediate chemistry with his receiving core.

In 2014, only four Trinity receivers reached double digits in receptions. This season, Darrien Myers ’17 (27 receptions, two TDs), Ian Dugger ’16 (22 receptions, 296 yards), and Bryan Vieira ’18 (21 receptions, three TDs) are evidence of a deep and consistent passing attack. Through eight games last season, the Bantams only threw the pigskin 173 times; through six in 2015, that number is already more with 176 attempts. The return of Puzzo is the clear catalyst of the uptick in passing, and he has two more seasons after 2015. However, the Bantams still want to be known as a smash-mouth physical team, and they are likely to retain that philosophy.

Verdict: Enduring-ish. Puzzo has two more years of eligibility, but after that…

Williams

williamsAveraging 247.2 passing yards per game, Williams’ passing game is the most prolific it has been in the last five seasons, but the Ephs have had very successful quarterbacks in the past. Coming off a season in which he threw for an average of 181.4 yards per game with seven touchdowns, QB Austin Lommen ’16 has improved upon his success through the air. This season, that average jumps up to 248.8. Going up against two top five pass defenses in the NESCAC to close out the season (Wesleyan and Amherst), it’ll be interesting to see if Lommen can maintain the numbers he has put up thus far.

Since 2011, Williams has employed a balanced offense, passing and running the ball at a similar rate. That has not been the case this year with the Ephs passing much more. Going into this Saturday, the Ephs have already almost matched their receiving touchdown count from last season with six. Williams showcases an experienced receiving arsenal which includes Darrias Sime ’16 (29 receptions, 2 TDs), converted-QB Mark Pomella ’16 (23 receptions, 1 TD), Alex Way ’16 (18 receptions), and Colin Brown ’16 (15 receptions). With the exception of Way, each of the highlighted receivers has topped their numbers from last year, and Way is three catches away from doing the same.

Verdict: Temporary. Lommen and all those receiving threats are graduating.

Hamilton

hamiltonHamilton is another team whose passing numbers are the highest they’ve been since 2011. As the above graph indicates, the passing game has steadily been on the rise. Despite an 0-5 start to this season, QB Chase Rosenberg ’17 started the season under center but has since lost the starting spot to Cole Freeman ’18. As opposed to Rosenberg’s 115.8 passing yards per game and 4:3 touchdown to interception ratio, Freeman has averaged 190.8 yards through the air with a 4:1 ratio in two fewer appearances.

Last season, Hamilton threw for only seven touchdowns; this season, 10 of their 13 scores have been via pass. RB LaShawn Ware ’18 is replicating his production from last year but the receiving core is producing at a higher level than in the past. Pat Donahoe ’16 and Charles Ensley ’17 each are enjoying great seasons. With the team’s expanding trust in its passing game, and Bates’ last place pass defense left on their schedule, Hamilton may finish with four players having 20+ catches.

Verdict: Enduring. No matter who’s playing QB next year, they will throw the ball.

Amherst

amherstAmherst’s 214.7 passing yards per game in 2015 is impressive in that the Lord Jeffs also boast the NESCAC’s best running attack (209.3). With the exception of the 2014 season, Amherst’s passing numbers have seen jumps in each of the past five seasons. In 2014, a dynamic duo made up of sophomore running backs Nick Kelly ‘17 and Raheem Jackson ‘17 gave Amherst incentive to take advantage of its success on the ground. This season, the emphasis has returned to Amherst’s passing game. Kenny Adinkra ’16 has assumed leading running back duties because of an injury to Kelly.

The offense for Amherst has morphed into one more than happy to take chances down the field. Wide receivers Devin Boehm ’17 and Jackson McGonagle ‘16 have paced the Amherst receiving core with 30 and 26 receptions respectively, both averaging nearly 70 yards a game. Foy has also connected with WR Nick Widen ’17 and TE Rob Thoma ’17 regularly, despite them being non-factors just a year ago. Amherst’s 282 passing yards through the air in Week 1 against Bates may be skewing the data, but their passing numbers are no fluke. With his arsenal of receivers, Foy is primed to terrorize Trinity and Williams.

Verdict: Enduring. Foy will be around for two more years.

Check back tomorrow for the final four teams and a conclusion about what this means for the NESCAC.