By Matt Noonan
After concluding last season with a New England Football Conference (NEFC) crown, along with their first trip to the NCAA Division III tournament, Framingham State will attempt to continue their success this season.
The Rams, who were picked to finish first in the MASCAC, (Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference) will begin their campaign on the road tomorrow against Endicott College, a team that was picked to win the NEFC.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for us, but we’re looking forward to it,” said Head Coach Tom Kelley.
Last season, the Gulls defeated the Rams in the opener, 35-7, but Framingham State rebounded with 10 straight victories before Cortland State ended their run in the first round the tournament.
“Depth was what brought us to where we were (last season),” Kelley explained.
Kelley enters his seventh season without wide receivers Alex Avery and Tyrone Figueroa, cornerback Tyrone Notice and defensive lineman James Muirhead, who was the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III Defensive Player of the Year and New England Football Writers Gold Helmet Award winner, but he does return a senior class with experience and optimism.
“We’ve got a lot of leadership on this team and we want to get it done,” said senior linebacker and co-captain Sam Hill. “I am really excited to see what we can do.”
“I’m very excited (about the upcoming season),” said senior running back and co-captain Melikke Van Alstyne, who rushed for a school record and conference leading 1,790 yards on 311 carries with 18 touchdowns last season. “We’re definitely building off this year and this squad we have now.”
Van Alstyne will definitely get his number called, but Kelley explained, “I’d like to have the best of both worlds. Any offense that we run we need to throw the ball to be successful.”
Sophomore quarterback Matt Silva returns for his second season under center and will be in charge of aerial attack. Expect the Dracut native to target not only Van Alstyne, but also junior receiver Phil Clain and sophomore receiver Tevin Jones.
On defense, the Rams will rely on Hill, along with seniors Pat McGrath, and Michael Altavesta (ranked second on the team in solo tackles (51) and total tackles (75)). In the secondary, look for senior defensive back Brian Castellanos, who recorded team-best six interceptions last season.
After their trip to Beverley, the Rams will travel Rowan to fac a squad that’s coming off a 7-3 campaign and a trip to the tournament. The Rams will then return home for their first conference clash against Fitchburg State before concluding September on the road at Western New England.
With preseason in the books, Hill and his teammates seem ready for the season to commence.
“We’re just really excited to get (the season started),” he said. “I’m really excited to watch us play and see how it pans out.”