All Eyes are Focused at the Top: Week 2 Power Rankings 10/4

(Courtesy of Amherst Athletics).
(Courtesy of Amherst Athletics).

“The crickets still sing in October. And lilly, she’s trying to bloom. Tho she’s resting her head on the shoulder of death, she still shines by the light of the moon.”

― Kevin Dalton

This typically describes NESCAC football this time of year. Its week three and every game is crucial at this point. You’re either undefeated, 1-1, or a goose egg, and you don’t want a goose egg. The undefeated will be the likely candidates of becoming NESCAC Champions. Two undefeated teams face off this week in Amherst and Middlebury, arguably the two best teams in the NESCAC, and one will walk away with the upper edge to being Champions. Remember, both of these teams still have to pass through the Coop, and that’ll be tough considering Trinity’s ability and depth this year. It’s a long season fellas, put the shorts and tank tops away, pull out your sweaters and gear up for the haul of the season. Whether you’re playing for the CBB Title or the NESCAC Title, remember its gonna be cold, so lets enjoy these last few weeks of good weather and tailgating. With that being said, theres really nothing like a super chilly November game with the Title on the line, maybe some hot cocoa in hand… anyways I’m just dreaming ahead, it’s gonna be some kind of season. 

1. Amherst (2-0)

Alex Berluti ’17 has stepped up in place of injured Amherst starting quarterback, and seemingly excelled in Garoppolo-esque ways. The win over Bowdoin is nothing to get hot and heavy over as the Polar Bears are now 0-2 being outscored 71 to 13 in their first two games, but Amherst still looks pretty damn good. At this point, however, Amherst still has a lot to prove, and a better testament to their overall ability will be made Saturday against Middlebury. Berluti will need to continue to play mistake-free football as he will face off against Jared Lebowitz ’18 and the Panthers this week in what will decide the top spot in Week Three’s Power Rankings. Amherst has kept it real clean on defense allowing just 10 points and 150 yd/g, so they deserve to carry the torch again this week.

2. Middlebury (2-0)

The Panthers have been led this season by the horse from Burlington, Jared Lebowitz ’18, who has tossed the most touchdowns in the ‘CAC so far with 10. With that being said, the Panthers are a pass heavy team this year, and on any given Saturday it may take grinding through the trenches, something that Middlebury may not have in their repertoire. They have done nothing to disprove their 2 spot on the list thus far, but this week’s jostle with the Lord Jeffs looks promising as Amherst’s defense is a run-stopping defense. We will get to see how Amherst’s secondary handles a real marksman in Lebowitz. On the other side of the ball, the Panthers’ ability to pressure the quarterback (9 sacks) may be too much for the inexperienced Berluti to handle. Middlebury could easily “take the candy from the baby” Saturday, but Amherst could also easily show Leibowitz why they have been the best for the past three years. This could be an all-time classic this weekend, folks.

3. Trinity (2-0)

Trinity always seems to be creeping behind Amherst and Middlebury at this point in the season. We all know its not about how you start, but rather how you finish. Another Bantams slaughter vs Hamilton Saturday will likely keep them in the 3 spot, with potential to move up to number 2. It comes down to Trinity not capitalizing on all of their opportunities so far. The competition has been weak, as the defense held Williams to -10 rushing yards this week. It’s men amongst boys in these games. They could have easily put up another 20 points on Bates in week 1, but that is neither here nor there. The Bantams need to continue to play quality football behind the veteran, Sonny Puzzo ’18, who has demonstrated some flawless connections with wide-out Darrien Myers ’17 so far resulting in 5 touchdowns. Safety/linebacker Spencer Donahue ’17 picked up his 2nd interception of the season and Archi Jerome ’17 got his hands wet with a pick as well. Coach Devanney’s team has a bright future this season.

4. Wesleyan (1-1)

The Cardinals take the 4 spot right from the Jumbos trunk as Tufts just scathed by Bates. Wesleyan did enough to move up a spot this week by putting up 511 total offensive yards on Hamilton. Wesleyan did a fine job controlling the game with possession over 37 minutes, and Mark Piccirillo ’19 had a nice weekend with a few touchdowns, running one in. The cardinals have an interesting test ahead of them as they travel to Waterville, ME and take on the Colby Mules, a team that has shown some grit.

5. Tufts (2-0)

Ryan McDonald, son of Ronald McDonald (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics).
Ryan McDonald, son of Ronald McDonald (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics).

The Jumbos are sitting in cool water right now after their win against Bates. Sheriff Willie Holmquist ’17 laid down the law hitting two field goals, one being 48 yards, before the half to put his team up 6-0. He played a big role as the punter as well. It was really a sloppy game where they ran the ball a lot and Ryan McDonald ’19 scored the lone Jumbo touchdown. Happy to get by Bates with a 12-7 win, they take on Bowdoin this week, in a game they should win. Still undefeated, Tufts’ season is in the stars. Assuming they get by Bowdoin as they should, the Jumbos will face their toughest test yet when they head to the Coop to take on Trinity.


6. Colby (1-1)

The Mules have done enough to be 1-1 after the first two weeks, but they’re still last of the winners in the power rankings. While they were way overmatched by Middlebury. they showed some heart putting up 14 points in the 4th quarter to escape the shutout. Colby has a grand opportunity this weekend to host a beatable team in Wesleyan, but they will definitely need to play four quarters of quality football to do so. Look for Colby to ride Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 this weekend, as Wesleyan allowed Chance Brady ’17 to run for 151 yards in week one. For the Mules, the moon still shines bright.

7. Williams (0-2)

Williams has the upper hand in their game against Bates as they have proved they can put a few points on the board (10.0 PPG). However, they also allow the 2nd most rushing yards per game (221.5). The good news? Bates is the only team that allows more, giving up 250 YPG. Williams is tied for the most forced turnovers in the league, having intercepted 2 passes and recovered 4 fumbles. If Williams can get their offense going a little bit, they should remain in the 7 spot come next week’s power rankings.

8. Bates (0-2)

Bates has some serious trouble on offense. They will need to figure out a way to incorporate some passing into their game strategy after only passing the ball 10 times, for just a single completion this past weekend. I know they run the triple option, but their game plan is just a bit too predictable at this point. Sandy Plashkes ’19 is their QB1 and could definitely help open up their running game by mixing in a few completions. Will he come through for the Bobcats in this big game to put a W on the board?

9. Bowdoin (0-2)

The Polar Bears put up a very respectable performance against top ranked Amherst this weekend, losing by just 21 points. Bowdoin will not be lifting the NESCAC Title in 2016, but they are ferociously hunting for the CBB Title. The Polar Bears have a winnable game at home this week against Tufts, and it’s only a matter of time before they find the win column. I would never bet on Bowdoin winning, but any given Saturday could be a win in the CAC, especially when you’re playing at home. Week 4 will feature the bottom of the barrel Continentals against the Polar Bears, which should cause some serious stir if both teams are still winless.

10. Hamilton (0-2)

Winning football games isn’t easy folks. Heck, Hamilton suffered two goose egg seasons in 2013 and 2014. Unfortunately for the Continentals, they likely have another beating ahead of them this week as they welcome Trinity to Clinton, NY. It will be good preparation as they take on Bowdoin, Colby, and Williams weeks 4,5, and 6. Any decent game on Saturday will give high hopes to the Continental faithfuls. For Hamilton, the title they are working towards is purely a victory.

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

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

More than the Main Course: Weekend Preview 10/9


The Bantams hope to keep their sparkling record and scoreless streak alive. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)
The Bantams hope to keep their sparkling record and scoreless streak alive. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)

Amherst and Middlebury is the main attraction this weekend, and Joe broke that down in detail yesterday, but the other four games still offer plenty to chew on. Trinity and Wesleyan are heavy home favorites against Hamilton and Colby respectively, but those games are still important measuring sticks. Bowdoin has beaten Tufts five straight times, and it would certainly behoove the Polar Bears to extend that streak to six in order to get their first win of the year. Bates and Williams meet in Western Massachusetts as both teams are in need of a win.

Four to Watch

1. Defensive End Zach Thomas ’18 (Tufts):

Zach Thomas
Tufts Athletics

Last year Thomas saw the field mostly as a kicker filling in for the injured Willie Holmquist ’16, and he has played great through two games at DE after playing there sparingly in 2014. He had 2.5 sacks against Bates, two of which came on third down to end Bates’ drives. Bowdoin allowed six sacks last week (admittedly Amherst is a different animal than most), and Thomas will get plenty of chances to rush the QB if Tufts gets up early. Along with Shane Thomas ’17 (no relation), the sophomore is part of a young group who are emerging for Tufts as difference makers, something that the Jumbos have lacked for a long time.

Shane Thomas '17 (56) is emerging as a force, leading the Jumbos in tackles. (Courtesy of Josh Kuckens/Bates College)
LB Shane Thomas ’17 (56) is emerging as a force and nice complement to DE Zach, leading the Jumbos in tackles. (Courtesy of Josh Kuckens/Bates College)

2. Wide Receiver Colin Brown ’16 (Williams):

Colin Brown
Williams Athletics

Brown and fellow wide out Darrias Sime ’16 probably spent much of the week drooling at the tape of Jack Cooleen ’16 ripping up the Bates secondary. Brown is 6’5″, but he was shut down last week against Trinity. A year ago he had by far his best game of the season against Bates hauling in eight catches for 96 yards. The young Bates secondary has to figure some way of forcing Brown and Sime to be physical, not just when the ball is in the air but also at the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately, that lies outside of how Bates usually plays, meaning that Brown should get a lot of clean breaks off of the line. Once he gets moving, he is much more difficult to stop.

3. Running Back Nick Gaynor ’17 (Trinity):

Nick Gaynor
Trinity Athletics

Hats off to Gaynor who has transitioned to running back almost as smoothly as one could hope. Given the long history of Trinity backs, nobody expected the Bantams to have to turn to a wide receiver. He has answered the call averaging 4.5 yards per carry so far. He still retains some of his receiver instincts to cut outside and only try to run through arm tackles, but that is also playing to his strengths as a shifty runner. The one concern for Gaynor is his three fumbles so far. Those are the only turnovers that Trinity has had all year. Freshman Max Chipouras ’19 could take carries away from Gaynor as the year goes along, but for now Gaynor is the signature back for the Bantams.

4. Defensive Lineman Tyler Hudson ’19 (Hamilton):

Hamilton Athletics

The Continental defense has looked much better in 2015, and Hudson has been a stud for them already as a freshman. He was everywhere against Tufts with 4.5 TFLs, and he proved that it wasn’t a fluke against Wesleyan with a sack and pass batted down. His 5.5 TFL are the most in the league. Hudson is from Whitesboro, New York which is a 15-minute drive away from Hamilton. Coach Dave Murray is a longtime coach and recruiter in Central New York, and Hudson is exactly the type of football player that Murray is trying to convince to stay close to home. Already……….

Game Previews

Bowdoin (0-2) at Tufts (2-0): Medford, Massachusetts, 1:00 PM

These two met last year with the same records, and the result was Bowdoin’s first win of the year. The Jumbos have found a way to take that magic oil that helped them win all four home games on the road the first two weeks, eeking out an overtime win and a one-point win. They are still not a great football team, but they are coming close to good and that’s enough to beat the lower half of the league. Chance Brady ’17 might not play because of a concussion, but Dom Borelli ’19 has looked good as the backup running back so far.

Bowdoin has looked pretty listless in their first two games. QB Tim Drakeley ’17 has thrown the ball well, but the Polar Bears have been forced to get away from running the ball with Tyler Grant ’17 because they have fallen behind so quickly. The defense, especially that secondary, has to play better as a unit. Until Bowdoin wins a game, you have to pick against them.

Prediction: Tufts over Bowdoin 19-13

Hamilton (0-2) at Trinity (2-0): Hartford, Connecticut. 1:00 PM

The easy opening schedule for Trinity continues, though the Bantams beat Hamilton by just 12 points last year. That game was at Hamilton, and the Bantams don’t have to worry about a long bus ride this year. Sonny Puzzo ’18 is playing great, attacking the defense downfield and not making any mistakes.

Hamilton is going to struggle unless Trinity suddenly catches the turnover bug. They don’t have the athletes to match up with Trinity in the open field, and they can’t sell out against the run like they did against Wesleyan. Charles Ensley ’17 and Pat Donahoe ’16 are underrated receivers, but even they will have trouble against the Trinity secondary. The scoreless streak ends, but the Bantams still cruise.

Prediction: Trinity over Hamilton 28-6

Bates (0-2) at Williams (1-1): Williamstown, Massachusetts. 1:00 PM

QB Austin Lommen '16 and the Ephs could find no room to operate against the Bantams last weekend. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)
QB Austin Lommen ’16 and the Ephs could find no room to operate against the Bantams last weekend. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)

On the surface this is the same Williams team we saw last year: an easy win over Bowdoin before a shutout loss to Trinity. However, I think the Ephs have more going for them this year. Much of that rests on the shoulders of Austin Lommen ’16, and despite subpar statistics from him last week, I think he bounces back against Bates. Mark Pomella ’16 is there as a change of pace quarterback, but the Ephs will win or lose because of Lommen. The running game has not improved much, and the Ephs can be made one-dimensional. That might not be a terrible thing against Bates.

Williams’ biggest worry is that their young defense wilts against the triple option, though the Bobcats haven’t been very successful moving the ball so far this year. Shaun Carroll’s ’16 statistics are inflated by one 80-yard run, and the Bobcats have not sustained enough drives. After their tough loss last week, this game is a test of the Bobcats leadership and resilience. Bottom line for me is I see the Williams offense capitalizing at points a week after Trinity gave them chances to make plays and the Ephs failed every time.

Prediction: Williams 27 – Bates 20

Colby (0-2) at Wesleyan (1-1): Middletown, Connecticut. 1:00 PM

Colby has struggled to run the ball and is going up against a Wesleyan team that suffocates teams when they run. Gabe Harrington ’17 might throw the ball 30 times in this game, and he needs receivers like Ryder Arsenault ’17 to get open much more consistently than they have. Last week against Middlebury the only success that Colby had in the passing game was a few go-up-and-get-’ems from young wideout Mark Snyder ’18.

If Wesleyan’s talent is going to coalesce into a very good football team, this is the week for them to do it. A big victory would give the team a huge boost in confidence. Justin Sanchez ’17 has been relatively quiet, and tomorrow would be a great time for him to intercept Harrington once or twice. The front seven has already proven that it is up to snuff with Shayne Kaminski ’18 and Jordan Stone ’17 helping to lead the way. The Mules don’t have the horses (bad pun intended) to hang for four quarters.

Prediction: Wesleyan 30 – Colby 10

Total Dominance near the Top: Power Rankings 10/7

NESCAC Defensive Player of the Week Safety Spencer Donahue '17 celebrates the Bantams' continued dominance. (Courtesy of Greg Sullivan)
NESCAC Defensive Player of the Week Safety Spencer Donahue ’17 celebrates the Bantams’ continued dominance. (Courtesy of Greg Sullivan)

1. Trinity (2-0; Last week: 1)

Another shutout for the Bantams as they rolled over Williams scoring 24 points. Trinity is likely to dominate the NESCAC for the rest of the season, with their only potential scares to be against Middlebury, Amherst, and Wesleyan. They will be back in “The Coop” Saturday to take on Hamilton, which should be a cake walk for them. We will see if they can keep the Continentals’ offense scoreless and become the first NESCAC team to not allow a point through three games.

2. Middlebury (2-0; Last week: 3)

The Panthers shook off their nerve-wracking opener at Wesleyan and put up 28 points on Colby fairly easily. Middlebury’s weakness still falls on their running game as they only accumulated 52 rushing yards last week. Each team picked up a safety in this game, and Colby scored their lone touchdown with 30 seconds left in the game to scrap nine points on the board. Middlebury has a lot of work to do as they take on Amherst this week. Quarterback Matt Milano ’16 will need to be on his A-game if they want to stay undefeated.

3. Amherst (2-0; Last week: 2)

Bowdoin fans, avert your eyes…

This was a tune-up game for the Lord Jeffreys as Bowdoin posed no real threat. Amherst has continued to put points on the board, and I think that is exactly what they will do to Middlebury this week. Amherst will likely run the ball all over Middlebury, proving they belong in the Middlebury’s spot.

4. Wesleyan (1-1; Last week: 4) 

The Cardinals were on the other side of a close game this week as they scored the winning TD to beat Hamilton on a 19-yard run with just over three minutes left in the game. Wesleyan should get another victory this Saturday as they take on a struggling Colby team.

5. Williams (1-1; Last week: 5)

The Ephs were outmatched against the Bantams last weekend. Williams had little to be disappointed about in this game. They take on Bates this week which is a team not to take lightly, and that can always pose some issues because of its unique offense.

6. Tufts (2-0; Last week: 7) 

Tufts will move up a spot as they are the worst of the best – the only undefeated team that has zero shot of winning a NESCAC title this year. Tufts won a thriller against Bates in Maine last Saturday. Tufts kicker Wille Holmquist ’17 saved the day again with a 34-yard field goal that gave the Jumbos a 17-14 lead in what was eventually a one-point victory. Tufts will take on Bowdoin this week.

7. Bates (0-2; Last week: 6)

Another week, another loss - this one a heartbreaker - for slotback Shaun Carroll '16 and the Bobcats. (Courtesy of Josh Kuckens and Bates College)
Another week, another loss – this one a heartbreaker – for slotback Shaun Carroll ’16 and the Bobcats. (Courtesy of Josh Kuckens and Bates College Athletics)

The Bobcats lost a tough one to Tufts so naturally they swapped rankings. Bates will try to get it’s first win of 2015 this week at Williams. The Ephs have actually been solid against the run (104.5 YPG allowed), which could mean a 0-3 start is in the cards for the Bobcats.

8. Hamilton (0-2; Last week: 8)

Hamilton has put together a competitive team that has scrapped in their first two games – a five-point loss to Wesleyan really raised some eyebrows – but they are still plagued by a losing streak that dates back to Oct. 13, 2012. Sadly, Hamilton will more than likely make it three calendar years without a win as they take on Trinity this weekend. At least they’ve climbed out of the cellar of the power rankings, probably for good.

9. Colby (0-2; Last week: 9)

The Mules suffered their second loss of the season, and but for a lucky break on a poorly-snapped punt and a garbage time rushing TD against third-stringers, Colby would still be scoreless. We will see if they can use the momentum from their last touch in the Middlebury game to pose a threat to Wesleyan on Saturday.

10. Bowdoin (0-2; Last week: 10) 

Tim Drakeley ’17 was unable to carry the Polar Bears past Amherst, or really to even compete. Bowdoin was simply overpowered by Amherst who outgained the Bears’ total offense by 369 yards. Within 12 minutes of the opening kick the score was 24-0 Amherst. That’s back-to-back blowouts that have not gone Bowdoin’s way. Bowdoin will play Tufts on Saturday for a chance to move up the ranks.

Flex Those Muscles: Stock Report 10/5

#11 Reece Foy '18 has been a revelation through two weeks for Amherst. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
#11 Reece Foy ’18 has been a revelation through two weeks for Amherst. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

When Amherst scored with 3:43 left in the first quarter to go up 24-0 against Bowdoin, the message was clear: the champions are still on top. They were simply on a different level than the Polar Bears. The Jeffs took their foot off the gas pedal and cruised to a 37-6 win. Elsewhere, Trinity went out and pitched their second consecutive shutout against Williams, and Middlebury cruised to a 28-9 victory against Colby. Combined the three won by a score of 89-15, and the scores could have been even more lopsided than that. Of the Fantastic Four of NESCAC football, only Wesleyan struggled as it took a late fourth quarter comeback to keep Hamilton in the winless column.

Nine out of the 10 games so far had the same result as last year (Middlebury beating Wesleyan is the only different result), and the results so far have mostly reinforced the idea that the league is built on two levels. Jumping up or down a level is possible (William’s descent has been coupled with Wesleyan’s and to a lesser extent Middlebury’s rise), but for the most part a team’s performance from year to year remains within that tier. The top of the bottom tier is occupied by Bates and Tufts, and the Jumbos win on Saturday affirmed their status as the team closest to making the jump from the bottom to the top tier – though they’ve win by slim margins in both weeks.

Stock Up

Wide Receiver Jack Cooleen ’16 (Tufts)

Cooleen’s statistics from 2014: 13 catches, 195 yards, two touchdowns
Cooleen’s statistics from Saturday: seven catches, 178 yards, two touchdowns

Tufts really only had one way of moving the ball on Saturday. That actually worked pretty well in the second half when Alex Snyder ’17 threw the ball up for grabs to the 6’5″ Cooleen. All 17 of Tufts’ points were a direct result of long balls to him. The two touchdowns came on 45- and 27-yard catches by Cooleen, and the game-winning field goal was set up by another 45-yard reception. Cooleen was beating mostly one-on-one coverage on the outside against much shorter defensive backs, and other teams have had success with being physical against him. That wasn’t the case on Saturday, and the Jumbos escaped with a win mostly because of his efforts. If he is able to sustain that threat of a deep jump ball, the Tufts offense suddenly adds a whole other dynamic to it.

Quarterback Reece Foy ’18 (Amherst)

Well, Amherst has found a quarterback, and that should scare every team in the NESCAC. The defining moment of the game against Bowdoin was when Foy was forced to step up on a pass play and took off to run. He quickly made it into the second level, and once he got going it was clear that he was faster than every Bowdoin defender. The play was a 90-yard run, and Foy finished with exactly 300 yards of total offense. Having thrown for 242 YPG, he is second in the NESCAC in that category. He is still not the most accurate quarterback, but as long as he can keep his completion percentage right around 60 percent (he is at 61.3 percent right now), he will be fine. Foy has the luxury of throwing to athletes like Jackson McGonagle ’16, too, who made a few acrobatic catches where he simply outmuscled Bowdoin defensive backs for the ball. The Amherst coaching staff has made it clear that they are sticking with Foy at QB, and he has given them no reason not to be happy with that decision.

Trinity Defense

Through two games, the Bantams haven’t allowed a point. You don’t need to have created your own sports website about NESCAC sports to know that that means they are pretty good. Their dominance goes even deeper than that. The Bantams have allowed only 167.5 YPG, the best in the NESCAC and 88 YPG less than second place Wesleyan. Their six takeaways through two games is also tops in the league. The scariest part of the defense is their youth: the top six tacklers are all underclassmen and three of them are freshman linebackers. Safety Spencer Donahue ’17 collected NESCAC Defensive Player of the Week honors, making him the second straight Bantam defensive back to win the award (Paul McCarthy ’16 won it last week). Williams had their chances as they got into Trinity territory on five different drives, but the Bantams made the plays in big moments. The play of the game came from McCarthy who wrestled a jump ball away from Darrias Sime ’16 in the end zone to keep Trinity up 14-0 at the beginning of the second half. The Trinity defense still has yet to face the best offenses in the league, but so far so good for the Bants.

This is just a really great photo we wanted you to see. (Courtesy of Josh Kuckens and Bates Athletics)
This is just a really great photo we wanted you to see. (Courtesy of Josh Kuckens and Bates Athletics)

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Bates’ Decision Making

Bobcats faithful are still at a loss for how they let the game Saturday against Tufts get away from them. Bates was up 14-0 at halftime, and their young defense was playing well. The Jumbos stormed back, but after a Tufts safety made it 17-16, the Bobcats were in a position to win with a 4th and goal from the one-yard line with just under seven minutes to play. However, instead of taking the field goal and the lead, Coach Mark Harriman went for it and watched Ivan Reese ’17 fumble the ball into the end zone for a Tufts touchback. Harriman has been aggressive near the end of games before, but this decision was puzzling because it amounted to an extra point for kicker Grant DeWald ’18, who is 4-4 on the season on PATs. I can see the logic of Harriman wanting to go for it so close to the end zone – and in a sense it worked, since Reese had the first down – and thinking that even if they got stopped that Tufts was pinned deep. But, hindsight is 20-20, and in this case he should have trusted his kicker and defense.

Quarterback Gernald Hawkins ’18 (Wesleyan)

The Cardinals struggled to move the ball all day against a very game Hamilton defense, and their inability to throw the ball downfield was a big part of that. Hawkins was just 14-31 (45 percent) for 157 yards, and Coach Dan DiCenzo went to backup Mark Piccirillo ’19 for short spurts as well as leaning on Devon Carrillo ’16 to run the Wildcat offense. Hawkins did not look comfortable sitting in the pocket and tried to make plays with his legs without great success. He did have one rushing touchdown that was negated by a Wesleyan penalty. Quarterback Jesse Warren ’15 was at times under appreciated for his importance in the Wesleyan offense and ability to keep defenses honest. Hawkins threw the ball more than 20 times in the first half, and the Cardinals put too much pressure on him without trying to wear down the Hamilton defense. Wesleyan has two weeks to get their offense right before they face Amherst.

Kicking Game

Kicking is usually an adventure in the NESCAC, but this weekend was an unusually bad one. In the Colby-Middlebury game, Middlebury blocked a punt that led to a safety, and Colby blocked two extra points and a field goal by Middlebury. Colby’s John Baron’s ’18 first punt went -2 yards (not a typo), and in the second quarter he boomed a 79-yarder that rolled out at the one-inch line – one of the few kicking bright spots on the day, coupled with Pat Donahoe’s ’16 71-yarder to the two-yard line. Trinity had a bad snap on a punt lead to punter Kyle Pulek ’16 having to throw a pass out of desperation that led to a nine-yard loss. Hamilton missed a 32-yard field goal, and Wesleyan almost lost because their extra point was blocked after their first touchdown. The Tufts kicking game was off all day long with an eight and 14-yard punt, two botched snaps leading directly to nine Bates points, and a 22-yard missed field goal – this after kicker Willie Holmquist ’17 went 3-4 on FGs last week, including a game-winner in OT, to earn Special Teams POW honors.

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

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

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

Stock Up:

Hamilton Offense

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

Connecticut Schools

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

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

Williams QB Austin Lommen ’16

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

Stock Down:

Bates O-line

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

Colby Backs

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


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

Game Notes:

Middlebury 28 at Wesleyan 25

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

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

Amherst 37 at Bates 14

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

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

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

Williams 27 at Bowdoin 7

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

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

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

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

Trinity 34 at Colby 0

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

Tufts 24 at Hamilton 21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s good to be back.