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.

The Brady(less) Bunch: 2017 Tufts Football Preview

2016 Record: 7-1

Projected Record: 9-0

Projected Offensive Starters: (*Six Returning)

QB: Ryan McDonald  ’19*

RB: Dominic Borelli ’19*

WR: Mike Miller ’18*

WR: Jack Dolan ’19

WR: Dan De Leon ’19

TE: Jack Donahue ’20

LT: Liam Thau ’18*

LG: Josh Thibeault ’19*

C: Nick Roy ’19

RG: Gian Calise ’18*

RT: Tim Reitzenstein ’19

Projected Defensive Starters: (*Nine Returning)

DE: Zach Thomas ’18*

DT: Doug Harrison ’18*

DT: Tom Baker ’20

DE: Micah Adickes ’18*

LB: Steve DiCienzo ’18*

LB: Greg Holt ’20*

LB: Caden Bevilacqua ’19/Tylor Scales ’20

CB: Tim Preston ’19*

SS: Brett Phillips ’18*

FS: JP Garcia ’18*

CB: Alex LaPiana ’19*

Projected Specialists:

K: Andrew Pettit ’20/ Matt Alswanger ’21

P: Alex Lapiana ’19/ Dan De Leon ’19

KR/PR: Jack Dolan ’19/ Tim Preston ’19

Summary:

School is back in session, and each morning as I enter the local Dunkin’ Donuts, I hear chatter about whether or not 2017 is the year Tufts Football brings home the NESCAC Championship. One local remarks, “Ah they no longah have that Brady kehd, they’ve got no chance.”, another one says, “Jim enough of ya complainin’, I haven’t seen a defense like this since the ’85 Bears”. I leave that Dunkin’ Donuts and think, You know what, they might be lacking 2 time NESCAC Player of the Year, Chance Brady, but like the New England Patriots, Tufts Football goes by the motto, “Next Man Up”. After all, Tufts Athletics have proven themselves as the top dog in the NESCAC in recent history and 2017 Tufts Football will only solidify that.

A year ago, Tufts Defense was 4th in the NESCAC in points allowed per game at 18.9. With nine returning starters, expect that number to drop. There are few holes in this defense with big guys Doug Harrison ’18 and Micah Adickes ’18 up front holding up the running game. Steve DiCienzo ’18 and reigning NESCAC leading tackler and Rookie of the Year, Greg Holt ’20 provide athleticism and power at the LB positions. Arguably the strongest part of their defense is their secondary. Any coach would be a fool to even consider throwing near Tim Preston ’19, who led the NESCAC with 5 picks as a sophomore. Preston was recently seen selling Preston Island T-shirts outside the dining hall. Returning back from injury is the hardest hitting safety in the league, Brett Phillips ’18 who is complemented by JP Garcia ’18. Finally another returner Alex LaPiana ’19 is the other CB. Expect big things from the defense.

Tufts Offense is a whole other story. Like I stated above, there is tons of doubt following Chance Brady’s departure. Tufts replaces Brady with Dominic Borelli ’19, who has 73 carries and 2 scores in his first two seasons with the Jumbos. Ryan McDonald ’19 will be the quarterback again for the Jumbos as he is an ideal dual threat QB, finding the end zone 5 times on the ground and 5 in the air last season.

Chance Brady was one of the most potent offensive forces in recent NESCAC memory. Tufts will be hard pressed to replace him this season.

Mike Miller ‘18 leads their wide out core. Miller is a deep ball threat any time he is lined out wide, as he has speed and the ability to go up and grab the football. If the Jumbos are able to put up anything close to the offensive numbers they did last season, (31.5 PPG) they are a strong favorite to win the NESCAC in 2017.

Special teams will be a lot different for Tufts in 2017. They lose, now Duke University and 1st Team Kicker/Punter Willie Holmquist. Behind Brady, Holmquist was 2nd on the team in scoring in 2016, showing the value he added to their 7-1 season.

Defensive MVP: D-Line

The Tufts D-Line returns three returners in Thomas ’18, Harrison ’18, and Adickes ’18. These men are the spark to the deep Tufts defense, all having All-Conference accolades in the past two seasons. Harrison is their go to big body in the middle, Addickes can be a hybrid of a pass rusher/run stopper, and Thomas is known for his effectiveness off the edge in passing situations. Expect these three to be big contributors to the already stacked defense.

Offensive MVP: O-Line

Yes, I know our award winning writers love singling out players for these awards, but the Tufts O-line is a major reason they have had success in recent years. Thibeault ’19 leads this group after missing pretty much all of last year after the 1st play of their night opener against Wesleyan. Tufts has a relatively inexperienced offense, putting more pressure on the O-Line to pave the way for the rest of the offense.

Biggest Game: September 23 @ Wesleyan

Everyone was probably thinking it would be Trinity or Amherst, both at Home, but Week 2 @ Wesleyan will set the tone for the rest of the season. In 2016, Tufts came back to beat Wesleyan in the 4th quarter in the first ever night game at Tufts. This destroyed Wesleyan’s NESCAC Title hopes as they eventually made a push at the title, but 1 can be detrimental in an eight/nine game schedule. Expect this game to have even more intensity than last season as both teams knows very well this could be make or break in their push to the NESCAC Championship.

Best Tweet:

Put It Over the Fireplace: The Postseason Awards Blog

Darrien Myers and Trinity ran away with the title this weekend in Hartford (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Darrien Myers and Trinity ran away with the title this weekend in Hartford (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

First of all, congratulations to Trinity on an amazing season. In a league that featured four real threats to win the NESCAC title this year, Trinity was dominant from start to finish. The Bantams had the most consistency of any team, and it was this consistency that brought the championship trophy back to Hartford. This marks Trinity’s 7th 8-0 season in the current format, with Amherst and Williams being the only two other schools to put together perfect seasons. Congrats Trinity on another phenomenal season. We’ll discuss your accomplishments in greater depth tomorrow, but for now, let’s get to the awards.

The actual awards will be coming out presently, so these are less of a blog necessity and more of an excuse for Rory and I to talk about NESCAC football all day on a Sunday instead of doing homework. The main evidence that we used to make our decisions was statistics, as our biggest weakness as bloggers is our inability to watch every game at once. However, we also tried to spread the wealth fairly evenly throughout the league. There is of course a natural bias towards more successful teams (better teams tend to have better players), but we looked to get every school represented. The toughest call was probably QB, as Middlebury’s high volume passing attack led to Jared Lebowitz having by far the highest numbers. But we couldn’t overlook Puzzo’s consistency and performances in big games.  As always, any complaints can be directed to our “Suggestion Box.”

Image result for recycling bin
We recycle our suggestions here at Nothing But NESCAC.

First Team Offense:

QB: Sonny Puzzo (Trinity)

(16 TD, 4 INT, 186.5 YD/G, 60.1)

RB: Chance Brady (Tufts)

(17 TD, 1099 YD, 137.5 YD/G, 5.4 Y/A, 0 fumbles lost)

RB: Max Chipouras (Trinity)

(7 TD, 910 YD, 113 YD/G, 5.8 Y/A)

WR: Conrado Banky (Middlebury)

(925 YDS, 115.6 YDS/G, 12 TD)

WR: Darrien Myers (Trinity)

(485 YD, 69.8 YD, 8 TD)

WR: Bo Berluti (Amherst)

(498 YD, 62.3 YD/G, 8 TD)

WR: Devon Carrillo (Wesleyan)

(349 YD, 49.3 YD/G, 13 TD *twelve rushing*)

TE: Bryan Porter (Bowdoin)

(310 YD, 14.1 Y/C, 2 TD)

OL: Chris Simmons (Trinity)

OL: Joe Wilson (Wesleyan)

OL: Beau Butler (Wesleyan)

OL: Joe Farrah (Trinity)

OL: Gian Calise (Tufts)

First Team Specialists

PK: Eric Sachse (Trinity)

(13-13 FG, 38-38 XP)

P: Justin Foley (Bates)

(81 P, 37.9 Y/P, 20 IN20)

RET: Darrien Myers (Trinity)

(9 KR, 22.7 Y/KR, 1 TD, 17 PR, 14.6 Y/PR)

First Team Defense

DL: Tyler Harrington (Bates)

(34 TKL, 6.5 SCK, 9 TFL)

DL: Micah Adickes (Tufts)

(32 TKL, 4.5 SCK, 5.5 TFL)

DL: Robert Wood (Middlebury)

(28 TKL, 5 SCK, 9.5 TFL)

DL: Patrick Fabrizio (Bowdoin)

(19 TKL, 4.5 SCK, 7.5 TFL)

DL: Jordan Stone (Wesleyan)

(26 TKL, 4.5 SCK, 7 TFL)

DL: Niyi Odewade (Amherst)

(32 TKL, 4.5 SCK, 9.5)

LB: Mark Upton (Bates)

(87 TKL, 7 SCK, 14 TFL, 1 INT)

LB: Greg Holt (Tufts)

(98 TKL, .5 SCK, 6 TFL)

LB: Parker Chapman (Amherst)

(66 TKL, 2 SCK, 2 FF, 1 INT)

LB: John Jackson (Middlebury)

(61 TKL, 7.5 SCK, 11.5 TFL, 2 FF, 1 INT)

DB: Spencer Donahue (Trinity)

(46 TKL, 3 SCK, 3 FF, 2 INT, 5 Break-ups)

DB: Tim Preston (Tufts)

(28 TKL, 5 INT, 6 Break-ups)

DB: Ian Dickey (Colby)

(52 TKL, 1 FF, 3 INT)

DB: Kevin Hopsicker (Middlebury)

(37 TKL, 1 TFL, 2 INT)

DB: Nate Taylor (Wesleyan)

(19 TKL, 1 TFL, 3 INT)

DB: Joe Frake (Bates)

(43 TKL, 2.5 TFL, 3 INT)

Offensive POY: Running Back Chance Brady ‘17  (Tufts)

Chance Brady
Chance Brady ’17 (Courtesy Tufts Athletics)

If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of picking Brady for this award, just ask any of the corpses he left strewn all over Middlebury’s field on Saturday. Middlebury and Tufts’ matchup had tremendous championship implications, but it also effectively decided the Offensive POY race. Brady and Jared Lebowitz were the two front runners heading into the game. Lebowitz struggled in the first half before mounting an impressive comeback in the second, and Brady absolutely buried the Panthers throughout afternoon. He had five total touchdowns (three rushing, two receiving), including three in the decisive second quarter that saw Tufts take a 34-7 lead into halftime. Brady eviscerated the entire league this season, and his work put him in the NESCAC history books – on Saturday, Brady set the record of most rushing touchdowns in a single season with 17. What a stud.

Defensive POY: Defensive Back Spencer Donahue ‘17 (Trinity)

Spencer Donahue
Spencer Donahue ’17 (Courtesy Trinity Athletics)

It is the mark of a truly great defensive back when they can have an impact on the activity in the backfield as well as in coverage, effectively putting their finger on the pulse of the game in all areas on the field. At times this season it seemed like there were three or four Spencer Donahues running around all over the field; that’s how dominant he was from the safety position. He was particularly effective at getting into the backfield, recording three sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss. Donahue wraps up a tremendous career with an 8-0 season, and we think he should take home some personal hardware as well.

Rookie of the Year: Greg Holt ‘20 (Tufts)

Greg Holt
Greg Holt ’20 (Courtesy Tufts Athletics)

As one great defensive player leaves in Donahue, another one rises up in Greg Holt. Holt led the entire league in tackles with 98, and was the centerpiece of a defense that helped the Jumbos surprise many in the league and finish at 7-1. Early in the season Holt didn’t really get into the backfield, recording no sacks or forced fumbles in the first four games of the season despite 14 and 20 tackles in his first two college games. However, something clicked in the second half of the year, and Holt tallied .5 sacks and six tackles for loss over the final four games. Holt gives the Jumbos a player to build a defensive dynasty around.

Image result for steve holt
There is no relation between Greg Holt and Steve Holt…that we know of.

Coach of the Year: Jeff Devanney (Trinity)

Not a very tough call here. If your team finishes 8-0 with an average margin of victory of over 24 points, your status as coach of the year is pretty hard to argue. Trinity was the best team wire to wire this season (even though it took a couple weeks for the geniuses over at NbN to put them at #1 in the power rankings), and look poised to continue their run next year.

An Update to the Defensive Player of the Year Race

Last week I gave an update on the Offensive Player of the Year Race, and now heading into our final week of NESCAC football I’m here to provide you with the final defensive player of the year update. Clearly, Rory knows little about defense as he only predicted one member of this list back in September. Rory’s stupidity, however, is beside the point. Many newcomers have emerged in 2016, and without further adieu here is the final version of the NESCAC football Defensive POY race.

Safety/Outside Linebacker Spencer Donahue ’17, Trinity

Spencer Donahue '17 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
Spencer Donahue ’17 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Trinity has dominated the NESCAC the entire season and a big part of this is due to their defense. Anchoring this defense is senior co-captain Spencer Donahue. In 7 games this season Donahue has logged 37 tackles (leading Trinity), 3 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries (2 for touchdowns), and 2 interceptions. Donahue has a knack for finding the football, and his ability to force turnovers has won games for the Bantams. Don’t be surprised if you see Donahue with the football in his possession in his final collegiate game, week 8 against Wesleyan. He already has already 3 (!!!) NESCAC Defensive Player of the Week nods this fall after all. Donahue is the frontrunner at this point.

Linebacker Greg Holt ’20, Tufts

Greg Holt '20 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Greg Holt ’20 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Watch the Tufts defense for one drive and you are likely to see number 54, Greg Holt in on pretty much every play. Only a freshman, Holt is tied for first in the NESCAC with 89 tackles. After graduating two valuable linebackers in 2015, the position was a big question mark heading into 2016 and Holt has filled that void for the 6-1 Jumbos. Though he may be at a disadvantage as a freshman in contention for the Defensive POY award, he will surely be terrorizing the dreams of NESCAC offensive coordinators for the next three years.

Linebacker Mark Upton ’17, Bates

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

An All-New England and First Team All-NESCAC selection in 2015, it is to no surprise that Mark Upton is back on this list. Upton has had a stellar career at Bates, but his senior campaign looks as though it is will be his most impressive. The stud linebacker has 78 tackles (12 TFL), 6 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 1 interception. In a 12-7 week 2 loss to Tufts, Upton totaled 17 tackles, 4 of which were behind the line of scrimmage. He will leave Bates as one of its best defensive players, totaling 263+ tackles in his four-year career, a pretty impressive feat. If Bates had a better record, it would definitely help Upton’s odds to win the Defensive POY, but by no means is he out of the running.

Linebacker John Jackson ’18, Middlebury

John Jackson '18 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)
John Jackson ’18 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Our third and final linebacker on the list is John Jackson. Starting his college football career as a running back, Jackson has come a long way, proving that he is one of the best linebackers in the NESCAC. In 2016, Jackson has compiled 47 tackles (9 TFL), and his 6 sacks leads the NESCAC. The junior has also forced 2 fumbles and tallied 1 interception. With a stellar week 8 performance against Tufts, Jackson could potentially jump ahead of fellow linebackers Holt and Upton to rival Donahue as the favorite for defensive POY. Stay tuned…

Cornerback Tim Preston ’19, Tufts

Tim Preston '17 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Tim Preston ’17 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

In 2015 Preston surged  onto the scene, leading the NESCAC with 6 interceptions. Fast forward a year and Preston is once again atop the NESCAC in interceptions with 5. And after his 99 yard pick-6 versus Colby this past weekend, the Tufts Bookstore began selling Preston Island T-shirts at halftime. Darrelle Revis even cut me in line to buy one. Tufts will rely heavily on their secondary to minimize the passing threat of Lebowitz and Middlebury this weekend, and I expect Tim Preston to be a huge part of this. At some point, you’ve gotta wonder when NESCAC quarterbacks are going to shy away from Preston as they drop back to pass.

You Got Records? I’ma Smash ‘Em: Stock Report 11/7

 

Brady has dominated all season, and he is currently the frontrunner for Offensive POY voting (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics).
Brady has dominated all season, and he is currently the frontrunner for Offensive POY voting (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics).

No upsets this weekend, and aside from Amherst and Bowdoin each hanging on through three quarters (until they both threw up goose eggs in the 4th), these games weren’t very close at all. Wesleyan did put up the highest score of the 2016 season in their 59-14 win over Williams, and both Middlebury and Tufts clung onto their title hopes with wins in their respective matchups. Alas, we are in the same position as last week in terms of determining the NESCAC Champion, so it’s all in Trinity’s hands this coming weekend.

There were lots of terrific individual performances on Saturday, so there are definitely some names not on here – Spencer Donahue ‘17 forcing a fumble and returning it for a touchdown, Jared Lebowitz ‘18 throwing for four TDs and running for one, Trinity moving to 7-0, Bates winning the CBB – don’t be mad if you didn’t get a write-up, there were just a lot of guys who had outstanding games this weekend, and who have been consistently having outstanding games throughout the season.

As for the writers’ picks this weekend, everyone went 5-0 except for Colin and I, who both went 4-1. Here’s where everyone stands as we enter the final week of action:

1.) Liam O’Neil (27-3)

2.) Rory Ziomek (25-5)

2.) Nick DiBenedetto (25-5)

4.) Sid Warrenbrand (24-6)

4.) Pete Lindholm (24-6)

6.) Colin Tiernan (23-7)

6.) Colby Morris (23-7)

The last week of action should be a great one, but that’s a long way off as of now. Let’s see who excelled and whose stock dropped this weekend.

 

Stock Up

Tufts RB Chance Brady ‘17

Brady ran for 174 yards and 3 touchdowns on Saturday, but that’s not really the highlight – the senior broke two different school touchdown records this weekend. The first, single season rushing touchdowns, was previously set at 13, but Brady now has a total of 14 rushing TDs on the year. The second record is somehow more impressive than that: career touchdowns. Brady now holds the Tufts record for career touchdowns with 30. I’ve always felt spoiled as a Boston sports fan, but being a Chance Brady fan is arguably more of a treat. He is now just 2 touchdowns away from tying the NESCAC single-season rushing touchdowns record (16), which Fred Storz set in 1998 for Williams. There’s a very real possibility that Brady ties that record on Saturday – go get ‘em Chance.

Wesleyan’s Big Three: QB Mark Piccirillo ‘19, WR Devon Carrillo ‘17, WR Mike Breuler ‘18

Holy cow, Wesleyan really worked the Ephs this weekend…I mean talk about a beatdown. The Cardinals won 59-14 on Saturday, primarily because of the incredible performances of these three guys. Piccirillo threw for 5 touchdowns and 288 yards, and also ran for 66 yards and a TD. Meanwhile, Carrillo ran for 2 touchdowns and caught one, while also racking up 95 yards, and Breuler accumulated 125 receiving yards and 3 receiving touchdowns. The highlight of the day was a 50 yard touchdown pass and catch between Piccirillo and Breuler. Poor Williams. Quite the tune-up game for Wesleyan as they head into a title match against Trinity. Coach DiCenzo is gonna need these three to bring the heat against the Bantams if they want to pull off the upset.

Trinity PK Eric Sachse ‘19

Last year it was Tufts’ Willie Holmquist ‘17 who tied the NESCAC single-season field goals record with 11, but Sachse broke that record on Saturday when he nailed his 12th field goal of the season. The sophomore kicker is still a perfect 12/12 on the year on field goals, and he has also converted every PAT that he has attempted in 2016 (31). Sachse’s consistency has been an unbelievable advantage for Trinity the entire year, and it’s no wonder that he ranks 3rd in overall points in the conference. The only potential knock on Sachse is that his longest field goal of the year is just 40 yards, but that’s not necessarily his fault either. He hasn’t attempted a field goal from outside 40, so it’s not like you can make the argument that 41+ is outside of his range. Unless he has an absolutely dreadful Week 8, Sachse should earn a First Team selection without a doubt. It’s rare you see this type of consistency in the NESCAC, and the golden boot of Sachse has truly been a spectacle week after week.

Tufts CB Tim Preston ‘19

Ya know, I really thought Preston’s league-leading 6 interceptions during his freshman year was a once-in-a-career type of season. I mean, no one is going to keep throwing the ball his way if he is that good, right? I guess I was wrong because once again, Preston is leading the NESCAC in interceptions, and his 5th pick this weekend was definitely the most impressive of his sophomore campaign. Despite the final score, this was a back and forth game early on. Down 7-0, Colby drove 81 yards down the field to set themselves up with a 1st and Goal from the 4 yard line. Quarterback Christian Sparacio dropped back to pass and tried to hit his man in the endzone, but Preston jumped the route and snagged the football at the 1 yard line. He wasn’t content with the interception, however – Preston weaved in and out of Colby’s offensive players and ended up returning the INT 99 yards for a touchdown. Though it’s a long ways off, it’s worth noting that the sophomore is currently on pace to break Tufts’ career interceptions record of 20 that was set by Evan Zupancic (1999-2003). For the NESCAC quarterbacks reading this: STOP THROWING TOWARDS PRESTON (or continue to do so, I do go to Tufts after all).

 

Stock Down

Colby Offense

In the second quarter, the Colby defense forced a punt on two consecutive drives. On each of those two punts, the Mules were able to  storm into the backfield and block the punts off of Willie Holmquist’s foot, giving them the ball on the Tufts 22, and then on the Tufts 16 to start their drives. Unfortunately, Colby couldn’t move the ball at all, and each time they had to resort to kicking a field goal, making the score 16-9 Tufts at the half. Between these two disappointing opportunities and the interception that Colby threw on the goal line in the first quarter, the Mules just simply couldn’t take advantage of the opportunities that Tufts gave them. If they score a touchdown on each of these three drives, the score is 24-9 Colby at halftime and all of a sudden, this is a completely different ballgame. The margin of error is so small in the NESCAC, so failing to convert on three prime touchdown opportunities is not quite a recipe for success.

Bottom Three Ball Control

It might not be the only reason that Hamilton, Williams, and Bowdoin are the three worst teams in the NESCAC, but it is certainly telling that they committed 6, 5 and 4 turnovers respectively on Saturday. Hamilton threw 5 picks and lost a fumble; Williams threw 1 interception and lost 4 fumbles; Bowdoin threw 3 INTs and lost 1 fumble. Unsurprisingly, all three lost their games this weekend. The fact is, you can’t just throw away possessions like this and expect to win football games. Maybe I’m being harsh, but it’s true. Hopefully they can figure out what went wrong on film and then use the knowledge gained to turn it around next weekend.

Down to the Wire: Week 7 Weekend Preview, 11/5

Alex Waugh '18 and Hamilton hope to pull off the upset as they host Middlebury this weekend in Clinton (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)
Alex Waugh ’18 and Hamilton hope to pull off the upset as they host Middlebury this weekend in Clinton (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

Honestly speaking, this has been the most exciting NESCAC season that I have witnessed in my college career. Looking over the schedule for the final two weeks of season, I am drawn to game after game after game. There are games with championship hopes on the line (both NESCAC and CBB championship hopes); there are games with endless pride at stake; there are in-state rivalry games, conference rivalry games, grudge matches…there’s even some little school in Connecticut that’s trying to finish out an undefeated season. 2016 has given us the rise of a historically less relevant team in terms of championship contention (Tufts), and it has also presented us with an epic fall from grace (Amherst). All in all, it’s hard to objectively look at the 2016 NESCAC Football season and be upset — the competition has been good, great, phenomenal…I can’t wait to see what type of upsets are in store for us over these next two weeks.

Hold your horses though, folks. Before we can get to the decisive Week 8 games, we need to get through this weekend. Good news! There are a number of very important games tomorrow, games that will set the stage for a thrilling final week. The most obvious is Amherst-Trinity, a matchup that features an undefeated group of Bantams looking to win the sole title of 2016 NESCAC champion. Amherst has been on quite the slide as of late, but if they can put together a little Western Mass magic like we remember from the good old days, then Week 8 will be VERY interesting. Elsewhere, Middlebury, Tufts, and Wesleyan all have one loss, and all need to win-out in order to have a shot at taking home at least a share of the title (I’d be unbelievably surprised if there was a sole champion that didn’t hail from Hartford, CT, but I suppose it is possible). The good news for all three of the 5-1 squads is that they play Hamilton, Colby, and Williams respectively. The bad news? Hamilton, Colby, and Williams are ALL looking to spoil some championship dreams. So check out Saturday’s action below – this should be an awesome weekend.

(Per usual, Pete and I split up this weekend’s preview. I wrote about the Colby-Tufts and Wesleyan-Williams games, while Pete wrote the Middlebury-Hamilton, Amherst-Trinity, and Bates-Bowdoin games)

Colby (2-4) at Tufts (5-1), Medford, MA, 1:00 PM

Sebastian Farrell '19 debatably leapfrogged this defender (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)
Sebastian Ferrell ’19 debatably leapfrogged this defender (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)

Well, Pete moved Tufts into the #2 slot in this week’s power rankings, so it’s time for the Jumbos to show everyone that they deserve that nod. While the Trinitys, Middleburys, and Wesleyans of the world have been able to blow out some inferior opponents by ~30 points somewhat often, Tufts has not done so, but that doesn’t mean they’re any worse of a team for it. Scoring 40 or 50 points is not their M.O. – playing solid defense and wearing down opposing defenses is. That’s why Tufts has the lowest point differential per game, an average of just +9.33 per game compared to Trinity (27.00), Middlebury (11.33), and Wesleyan (21.00). It’s also why I think that this weekend’s game could be closer than many people are anticipating. Colby is fresh off a devastating loss to Bates, but the fight they showed in the second half of that game is a testament to their willpower. The Mules are clearly not going to roll over, and whether or not Jabari Hurdle-Price ‘17 is back from injury this week, Colby is going to be ready to play. Expect Coach Michaeles to stick with what’s working – lots of plays drawn up  for Christian Sparacio ‘18 to feed Sebastian Ferrell ‘19. Lockdown Jumbo cornerback Tim Preston ‘19 is back to his old ways – once again he leads the NESCAC in interceptions (4), so expect him to line up against Ferrell. The main question, as always, will be whether the opposing D can shut down Chance Brady ‘17… I somehow doubt it.

Rory Ziomek: Colby 17, Tufts 24

Pete Lindholm: Colby 10, Tufts 13

Liam O’Neil: Colby 10, Tufts 40

Colin Tiernan: Colby 13, Tufts 31

Colby Morris: Colby 7, Tufts 35

Sid Warrenbrand: Colby 7, Tufts 41

Nick DiBenedetto: Colby 7, Tufts 21

 

Wesleyan (5-1) at Williams (0-6), Williamstown, MA, 1:00 PM

I have tried to be pretty optimistic about Williams all season long, and they have shown some instances of competitive football in 2016, but overall, I think that Williams’ defense has been their downfall. The Ephs are allowing 29.3 OPPG, largely in part because of the nearly 400 YPG that they allow (381.5). Conceding a league-worst 199.2 YPG on the ground is not a recipe for success against Wesleyan, the third-best rushing attack in the NESCAC (180.5 YPG). And it’s not that the Cardinals can’t pass either! Quarterback Mark Piccirillo ‘19 can pass, he can run, and above all else, he can facilitate offensive flow. If Williams wants to win this game, they are going to need to score the football…unfortunately, I think that could be an issue for them. Though Williams ranks 6th in scoring in the NESCAC, they are a hop, skip and a jump below Amherst’s scoring average, once again highlighting the “league of two tiers” that we have often alluded to this fall. Wesleyan still boasts the best defense in the league, allowing just 7.7 OPPG, one that has only gotten better as the season has gone on. If the rest of the 2016 season is an accurate barometer, Wesleyan should head to Trinity at 6-1.

Rory: Wesleyan 42, Williams 7

Pete: Wesleyan 35, Williams 7

Liam: Wesleyan 27, Williams 10

Colin: Wesleyan 27, Williams 10

Colby: Wesleyan 28, Williams 13

Sid: Wesleyan 38, Williams 6

Nick: Wesleyan 38, Williams 14

 

Middlebury (5-1) at Hamilton (2-4), Clinton, NY, 1:00 PM

Contrary to the apparent mismatch, this is a crucial game for the Panthers.  Last weekend, Trinity Sonny Corleone-d the Panthers to the tune of a 49-13 drubbing that may not even have been that close.  The Panthers now must win out (and get a little help from Amherst this weekend) in order to have a shot at sharing the league title.  Their biggest obstacle on paper is a home game against Tufts to close the year, but Middlebury would be wise to not discount the Continentals this weekend.  Hamilton is a long drive from Middlebury, and the Panthers have had a tendency to start slowly, particularly on the road.  Also, Hamilton is truly not that bad.  Quarterback Kenny Gray ‘20 has had some impressive connections with receiver Charles Ensley ‘18, and the defense features certified studs Mickey Keating ‘18 and Tyler Hudson ‘19, who are excellent at pressuring the quarterback.  The struggling Middlebury offensive line will have to step up their game in order to give Jared Lebowitz time to get back into POY form after a very tough week against Trinity.  This should be a tune-up game for Middlebury in preparation for Tufts, but it would be very dangerous for the Panthers to think like that.

Rory: Middlebury 20, Hamilton 23

Pete: Middlebury 23, Hamilton 14

Liam: Middlebury 34, Hamilton 10

Colin: Middlebury 27, Hamilton 10

Colby: Middlebury 38, Hamilton 14

Sid: Middlebury 24, Hamilton 6

Nick: Middlebury 42, Hamilton 0

 

Amherst (3-3) at Trinity (6-0), Hartford, CT, 12:30 PM

Look, did I expect Amherst to be 3-3 heading into Week Seven?  No.  Am I happy about it?  No, (holding back gleeful laughter) okay maybe a bit, but just because it makes for more interesting #content for us to write about here at NBN.  Amherst has lost three of their last four games, with turnovers out of quarterbacks Alex Berluti and Nick Morales being the main culprit.  Additionally, running back Jack Hickey ‘19, who was looking like a darkhorse All-League team candidate early in the season, has pretty much disappeared from the offense, posting only 97 yards and one TD over the last three games after 6 touchdowns in the first three games.  Amherst simply has no offensive firepower right now, and that doesn’t bode well for a matchup with Trinity’s vaunted defense.  However, Amherst still has one weapon left in their arsenal: pride.  This is a team that won 21 in a row just a short time ago, and the attitude that makes the rest of the league hate them is still there.  If they can summon that attitude, take care of the ball and let their still-excellent defense match up with Trinity’s dominant offense, this could be a classic.

Rory: Amherst 13, Trinity 31

Pete: Amherst 10, Trinity 28

Liam: Amherst 13, Trinity 28

Colin: Amherst 24, Trinity 33

Colby: Amherst 13, Trinity 27

Sid: Amherst 14, Trinity 21

Nick: Amherst 17, Trinity 38

 

Bates (2-4) at Bowdoin (0-6), Lewiston, ME, 12:30 PM

There’s a battle for Maine brewing in Lewiston this weekend, as well as a battle for Bates to have one of their best seasons in the last ten years.  The second game of the CBB (Colby-Bates-Bowdoin) series features Bates coming off a hard fought 21-19 win over Colby, and Bowdoin coming off a shellacking at the hands of Wesleyan. Bates has a great opportunity in the next few weeks to finish at .500, as they play Hamilton in Week Eight.  Bowdoin, on the other hand, has an opportunity against Bates or Colby to leave 2016 with a win, potentially two, which would be a tremendous moral victory in a season that was doomed from the start.  The key for the Polar Bears will be keeping Bates QB Sandy Plaschkes from breaking away for big plays.  Plaschkes 42% completion percentage looks bad on paper (and honestly is pretty bad,) but he has eight touchdowns and only four interceptions on the year, and has a knack for coming up with big throws when the team needs it.  The stakes in this game are not high rankings-wise, but they are for the teams involved, making for a hard fought game.

Rory: Bates 27, Bowdoin 21

Pete: Bates 24, Bowdoin 7

Liam: Bates 26, Bowdoin 8

Colin: Bates 17, Bowdoin 20

Colby: Bates 17, Bowdoin 13

Sid: Bates 16, Bowdoin 9

Nick: Bates 28, Bowdoin 14

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

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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 Treaty of Westphalia (and NESCAC Football): Weekend Preview 10/24

DB Cameron Rondeau '19 and the Polar Bears are flying high after a 30-20 win a week ago. (CIPhotography.com/Bowdoin Athletics)
DB Cameron Rondeau ’19 and the Polar Bears are flying high after a 30-20 win a week ago. (CIPhotography.com/Bowdoin Athletics)

On October 24 in 1648, the Treaty of Westphalia was signed, ending the 30 Years’ War. More importantly, the treaty established the principle known as Westphalian Sovereignty, which means that all countries are equal in international law and all countries have sovereignty over all affairs within their own borders. It is widely regarded as crucial in developing the system of nation-states in Europe for the rest of the millennium.

That has nothing to do with NESCAC football, but I include it in the article to remind you that nothing done on Saturday during a NESCAC football game will be remembered in 377 years like the Treaty of Westphalia. In 377 years people will look at football the same way we look at Renaissance Fairs. Not that the games don’t matter – of course they do. Enjoy them, imbibe in them, and tell all your friends at the game to read Nothing but NESCAC. Enough with the rambling, onto the actual analysis.

Four to Watch

  1. Wide Receiver Charles Ensley ’17 (Hamilton): I was able to see Ensley close up last Saturday against Bowdoin. Obviously, I came away impressed as he had eight catches for 139 yards and a touchdown. Honestly he could have had even more yards than that, but the Hamilton QBs missed him on a couple of throws down the field. Ensley regularly got behind Bowdoin’s defensive secondary. Ensley seems to be a favorite of Cole Freeman ’18,  who came on to replace Chase Rosenberg ’17, at the end of the second quarter: all of his catches came after Freeman entered the game.
  2. Cornerback Tim Preston ’19 (Tufts): Despite not playing in the opening game, Preston (whom I incorrectly called a linebacker last week) is tied for the league lead in interceptions with four. Every week his statistics and play-making has become better and better. Last week was his official coming out party with two interceptions which he returned for 55 total yards. An even 6’0″, he is taller than most NESCAC cornerbacks, and this picture shows perfectly how he uses that height to his advantage. Preston will get plenty of action against the pass-happy Ephs.
  3. Linebacker Philippe Archambault ’19 (Bowdoin): Another freshman defensive player making a big impact after a slow start is Archambault. He entered the starting lineup against Tufts in Week 3, and in the two games since he has 19 tackles. More impressive is that he has three sacks in two games. Archambault plays middle linebacker, and both of his sacks against Hamilton came on delayed stunts where he came free. Trinity’s offensive line gives the French-Canadian another new challenge to take on.
  4. Quarterback Patrick Dugan ’16 (Bates): Dugan had a game to forget against Williams two weeks ago going 1-14, but he bounced back against Wesleyan throwing for 204 yards on 14-30 passing. I would still like Bates to be more unpredictable in throwing the ball on early downs, but allowing Dugan to throw the ball 30 times is still encouraging. He is never going to be a high completion percentage type, and the offense is never going to revolve around him throwing the ball. Still, getting the ball downfield in order to gain big chunks is a must.

Game Previews

Colby (0-4) at Hamilton (0-4): 12:00 PM, Clinton, NY

Live Stats  Video

A winless team will get on the board. Assuming Freeman starts at QB, the Continentals will have their third different starting QB this season, and the running game for Hamilton has not gotten going. Against the experienced defensive line led by Ryan Ruiz ’16, that won’t change very much. I was expecting more from the Continentals last week frankly, but they were dominated for three of the four quarters by the Polar Bears.

The statistics for Colby last week against Amherst are truly shocking. The Mules outgained the Jeffs 400-307 and also had the advantage in first downs 23-15. Most unbelievable, Colby held the ball for 36:48. Even though they never seriously threatened Amherst, for the second straight week they showed that they are capable of playing quality football. Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 has cemented himself as one of the best running backs in the league. The long drive to Hamilton scares me, but I’m going with the Mules

Prediction: Colby over Hamilton 13-10

Bowdoin (1-3) at Trinity (4-0): 1:00 PM, Hartford, CT

Live Stats  Video

The Bantams looked oh so mortal last week, in large part because of their own mistakes. They had five turnovers and a crazy 13 penalties for 144 yards. They also somehow went 2-12 on third down even though they had 523 yards of total offense. Those are all fixable things, and the Bantams didn’t come into the game doing any of those things particularly poorly. Linebacker Liam Kenneally ’18 is quickly taking up the mantle of Bantam linebackers, finishing with 11 tackles last week. Even though the defense gave up 323 yards, they still held Alex Snyder ’17 to 11-30 throwing the ball. Through four games, opposing QBs have a completion percentage of 41.7 percent (53-127) and are averaging 138.5 YPG through the air.

Quarterback Noah Nelson ’19 had as fine a debut as one could have hoped for, but the sequel will have trouble matching that success. Nelson did a great job finding the open receiver and trusting his guys to make plays in one-on-one match-ups. The windows in the defense will be smaller and the jump balls might not be completed, and he won’t have as much time in the pocket as he did last week. Of course, Nelson can play loose as a daisy: nobody is expecting him to beat Trinity in the Coop in his second college start. Tim Drakeley ’17 will be back healthy next week, and the Polar Bears will reevaluate their QB situation then. Nelson could win the job permanently if he plays well, but he won’t necessarily lose it if he has a sub-par performance.

As for the game Saturday, Trinity plays better at home than they do on the road, the Bantams need to get everything working right before they begin their tough three-game final stretch. Still, remember that Bowdoin led Trinity 10-3 entering the 4th quarter last year…

Prediction: Trinity over Bowdoin 28-14

 

Middlebury (3-1) at Bates (0-4): 1:00 PM

Can Matt Minno '16 (88) keep up his current hot streak? (Photo by Joe MacDonald)
Can Matt Minno ’16 (88) keep up his current hot streak? (Photo by Joe MacDonald)

Live Stats  Video

Bates has now lost three games in a row by single digits. That sucks, plain and simple. The defense has been decent at not giving up points, but they still allowed 447 yards last week and are giving up an average of 424.5 per game. Even though some players like Brandon Williams ’17 and Sam Francis ’17 have quickly become important pieces of the puzzle, there is still enough inexperience that the defense has difficulty getting stops.

Matt Milano ’16 is going to put up big numbers this week, I can bet that, but how efficient will he be doing it? He was 20-41 against Williams, but he also was below 50 percent against Williams last year. He then used the Bates game as a springboard to his eye-popping second half. The Panthers can still grab a share of the NESCAC title. As long as their run defense, the second-worst in the league giving up an average of 171.5 YPG, isn’t completely exposed, they will pull this one out.

Prediction: Middlebury over Bates 24-13

 

Tufts (3-1) at Williams (2-2): 2:00 PM, Williamstown, MA

Live Stats  Video

These two have had three common opponents: both beat Bowdoin handily, squeaked by Bates, and lost to Trinity. Tufts obviously played the Bantams closer (Williams lost 24-0 compared to the 34-27 overtime loss for Tufts). Playing the comparative opponent’s game can be tricky, so I’m going to mostly disregard it. The Ephs defense completely ran out of a gas in the second half against Middlebury, allowing 27 straight points to finish the game after Williams went up 14-9 in the third quarter. Things get a little easier against Tufts. Not that much, though, with Chance Brady ’17, the leading rusher in the NESCAC, transforming the Jumbos into a more ground-heavy attack.

The Jumbos defense’s greatest weakness is against the pass; Williams loves to throw the ball, so advantage Ephs there. Austin Lommen ’16 just has to stop throwing bad interceptions; he has six, the second the most in the league. The Ephs defense doesn’t scare you with any player in particular, as impact players have missed time with injury. They are still a good defense though, so long as you don’t put them on the same scale as a Amherst or Trinity. This is the hardest game to predict this week. One potential difference-maker for Tufts is if they can break a long return since the Ephs have allowed two crucial returns for touchdowns. When in doubt, go with the home team.

Prediction: Williams over Tufts 22-19

NbN Last Week: 4-1
NbN on the Season: 17-3

Jumbos Want to Sit at the Grownup Table: Game of the Week

Tufts fans have become some of the most raucous in the past two season. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Tufts fans have become some of the most raucous in the past two season. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Game Information: Saturday, October 17, 1:30 PM at Zimman Field in Medford, MA

Recent history for Tufts is summed up best in one number: 31. That of course is the number of games the Jumbos lost consecutively from September 25, 2010 to September 20, 2014. Since then the Jumbos ascent to respectability has been swift. Last week’s win made them 3-0 and brought their home winning streak to five games. However, the early schedule breaks perfectly for Tufts, and the Jumbos barely escaped their first two games. This week is an entirely different challenge for Tufts.

The last time that Tufts beat the Bantams was in 2007, a 16-10 win that was another meeting of 3-0 teams entering the day. Realistically, this is the biggest game for Tufts since then. A big home crowd will be on hand, but will the Jumbos be able to handle Trinity and make this a game?

Tufts X-Factor: Offensive Tackles Justin Roberts ’16 and Akene Farmer-Michos ’16

I’ll admit it, we don’t give the big guys enough love, especially on that offensive line. We just don’t have the access or time to truly know who the best offensive lineman are. With that being said, Farmer-Michos and Roberts are both long-time quality starters along the line. Tufts has had a reputation for being soft along both lines of scrimmage, and that has been the focus of Coach Jay Civetti in recruiting for many years. The Jumbos ran for 239 yards last week, but that was against a porous Bowdoin defense. The week before Bates shut them down completely with Tufts gaining 60 yards on 34 carries. Last year the Bantams had their way with Tuft’s offensive line allowing just 69 yards. Farmer-Michos, Roberts, and company face a tall task having to slow down defensive end Lyle Baker ’16 and the rest of the front seven.

Trinity X-Factor: Wide Receiver/Returner Darrien Myers ’17

At halftime Trinity had just a 7-2 lead against Hamilton. Then Myers broke off a 65 yard kickoff return to start the half, Trinity scored a touchdown four plays later, and the Bantams cruised. This was the second straight week that Myers delivered a back-breaking return. Against Williams, he returned a punt 68 yards in the second quarter to extend Trinity’s lead to 14-0. Beyond that, in the opener against Colby he had two receiving touchdowns, one for 27 yards to open the scoring and one for 43 yards to make it 21-0. He is a nightmare to bring down in the open field. He is the most likely target for any deep balls, and Tufts looked susceptible there against Bowdoin last week, allowing the Polar Bears to throw for 381 yards.

Speed Kills. Ergo Darrien Myers '17 kills. (Courtesy of Greg Sullivan/SevenStrong Photos)
Speed Kills. Ergo Darrien Myers ’17 kills. (Courtesy of Greg Sullivan/SevenStrong Photos)

3 More Questions

  1. How good is Sonny Puzzo ’17?

This is a question that will not be answered this week, but the Bantam faithful see Puzzo as the missing link to an undefeated season, and he has given them reason to believe in him so far. He came out guns blazing against Colby, but he has slowed down the past two weeks, including last week when he was just 16-30 for 272 yards and two interceptions, both of which came in the red zone. He is still averaging 8.8 yards per attempt, the highest average for starters in the league. His statistics from 2013 were solid but not unbelievable as a freshman. A reversal to his first week performance would make Trinity tough to stop, and Puzzo remains the single biggest variable in the Bantams’ performance.

2. Can Tufts create turnovers?

The long over-matched Tufts defense was unable to force turnovers or sacks for years, and even last year they ranked near the bottom of the league in those types of plays. Suddenly that has changed with the Jumbos second in the league in sacks and tied for second in total takeaways. Linebacker Tim Preston ’19 has two interceptions, and they have already forced four fumbles. The Bantams have turned the ball over right around a league average level, but they did have three turnovers last week. For Tufts, winning the turnover battle and getting a short field is key to help out the offense.

3. Will Tufts score on offense?

This is a question I can definitely answer in one word: yes. The Bantam defense has been great obviously, but they don’t destroy offenses quite to the length their scoreless through three games statistic would suggest. It took two goal line stands for Trinity to keep Williams from scoring a touchdown. Meanwhile Tufts has enough weapons to keep Trinity off balance. If I’m the Jumbos I’m testing the young linebacking core (all of Trinity’s linebackers are freshmen or sophomores) early and often in coverage with throws into the flat and quick slants. Mike Rando ’17 and Ben Berey ’17 should find holes underneath for Tufts.

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Everything Else

Trinity has not had the same dominant running attack as in years past, but Max Chipouras ’19 broke out last week for 123 yards on the ground and three touchdowns. The Jumbos have adjusted to not having linebacker Matt McCormack ’16 in the lineup, and one of the leading tacklers for Tufts a year ago is a question mark for this weekend.  His possible absence weakens a front seven that has to be able to stop Trinity on first and second down. Patrick Williams ’16 is the leader now of the linebackers, and he has the size to take on the Bantam offensive lineman. Containing Puzzo if he tries to run the ball is also important. In last year’s game, Trinity had 276 yards on the ground. Any number above 200 spells a Trinity victory.

On the other side of the ball, Alex Snyder ’17 is not going to find big plays in the passing game against Trinity. Their secondary is simply too good. They shut down the tall wide receivers for Williams, and they will likely have similar success with Jack Cooleen ’16. Sustaining drives against Trinity is obviously hard. Look, the talent on the Trinity defense is top of the line, but they rely on a lot of young players. We have not seen yet how they will respond if a team is able to move the ball and get points on the board. The Bantams have to continue to play assignment football and not get out of position against Tufts who is capable of pulling a wrinkle or two out of the playbook.

The Bantams have the edge on special teams because of the return skills of Myers. Eric Sachse ’19 has shored up the kicking game, a recurring Achilles heel the last few years for Trinity. Tufts almost lost to Bates because of their kicking game problems, especially long-snapping issues.

At the end of the day, is Tufts a significantly different team than they were last year? No, I don’t think so. Not just that, but Trinity is better than they were last year. At least I think so. Maybe it’s close for a while, but unless Trinity commits a boatload of turnovers, the Bantams pull this one out without too much trouble.

Prediction: Trinity over Tufts 24-6