By Matt Noonan
CAMBRIDGE, MA – It took 40 years, but Framingham State’s football team finally accomplished their ultimate goal of winning a New England Football Conference Championship.
“It was tremendous,” exclaimed head coach Tom Kelley, who was a four-year defensive starter for the Rams during the 1970’s. “It hasn’t sunk in yet, but I keep telling people it will.”
The Rams overcame a week one defeat to the Endicott College Gulls by rattling off 10 consecutive wins, which included last weekend’s championship victory against Salve Regina.
“We knew we had the talent, and we knew we had the players, and sometimes chemistry is a big part of that and we knew that and the coaches jumped in and picked everything up by the bootstraps,” Kelley said. “We challenged [our players] every week and they met the challenge.”
Framingham State will be faced with an enormous challenge this weekend when they venture into the NCAA Div. III Football tournament for the first time in school history and travel to Cortland, New York to face SUNY Cortland.
The Red Dragons, unlike the Rams, have been to the tournament eight times. Saturday’s tilt marks their third appearance in five seasons.
“They’ve been there, they’re the big dog and they certainly are the big dog and they’ve got the experience, they’ve got the players and I think they don’t respect us a whole lot and that’s OK,” stated Kelley.
“We’re a small state school [heading into the tournament] for the first time, and if I was probably sitting in their seat I’d feel the same way.”
Kelley knows that in order for his team to be successful, especially against a Red Dragons offense that averaged 37.4 points per game, they’re going to have to rely on their defense.
“Our defense has just been outstanding. I just love our defense and we’re going to go as far as our defense takes us at this point,” stated the head coach.
SUNY Cortland senior quarterback Chris Rose finished his team’s nine-game slate with 19 touchdowns, while the halfbacks combined for 1,753 net yards and 18 touchdowns. The Red Dragons offense ranked number one in the conference in scoring offense, too.
Framingham State junior defensive end Alex Torti, who was this week’s Div. II/III Golden Helmet Award recipient, believes the Rams defense can stop this offensive juggernaut if they play flawless football.
“They’ve got a fantastic offense. Their offensive line is big, strong, fast. Their running back [Dorian Myles] is fantastic, the quarterback is great and all around they’re a very solid team, they’re good at whatever they want to do,” explained Torti, who finished the NEFC championship game with two fumble recoveries and a touchdown.
“We’re going to have to be really on our game and have everything straight, and eliminate mistakes. I’m hoping that we can pullout another ‘W’ this week and keep it going.”
NEFC teams haven’t enjoyed a great deal of success in the postseason and have bowed out in the first round the last four years. Curry College advanced to the second round in 2007, but saw their season conclude with a 38-7 loss to St. John Fisher College.
No matter the outcome of Saturday’s game, Kelley is just thankful for the support he received over the past few months from former coaches and players that have returned to the Framingham campus to assist the squad in their quest for NCAA glory.
“Probably the best thing about this whole ride is the amount of former coaches [and players] that have embraced the program again and have come back and really supported us along the way, and that’s been probably the most emotional [aspect],” explained Kelley.
“Once things settle down, I will really enjoy what happened this past year.”
For more information on this clash, check out the SUNY Cortland pregame notes, which were provided the Red Dragons athletic department by CLICKING HERE.