New England D3 Football: Week One Predictions

10 Games To Watch

By Matt Noonan (@MattNoonan11) 

Ah, the first official week of the college football season is here, which means it is time to dish out 10 games to watch, as well as 10 predictions, too.

Let me know what you think – did I choose the right team or score? –  by sending me a tweet to @MattNoonan11 or @NoontimeSports.

Happy College Football season, everyone!

Alfred State at Coast Guard (Thursday, August 31st): Quarterback Ethan Goldcamp should have a solid debut under center, which will help the Bears commence its season with a win. Coast Guard 28, Alfred State 10 

Mount Ida at UMass Dartmouth (Friday, September 1st): The Mustangs are one of my teams to watch in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) this season, and I think they will pull this one out by at least a touchdown (maybe six points?). Keep an eye on quarterback Mike Pina, who will certainly be a player to watch this fall. Mount Ida 24, UMass Dartmouth 17 

Anna Maria at WPI (Friday, September 1st): Welcome back, Coach Dan Mulrooney! Mulrooney and the AMCATs will be a fun program to follow this fall – Coach joined me on the initial Football Friday Podcast and will do great things for the Anna Maria Football program – but I am going to take the Engineers in this one. Expect a big game from tailback Sean McAllen and linebacker Sam MalafronteWPI 30, Anna Maria 14 

Westfield State at Nichols (Friday, September 1st): Coming off an impressive season, the Bison of Nichols will look to continue its momentum from a year ago when they host the Owls on Friday evening. My player to watch in this one is Nichols linebacker Brett McEvoy, who is refereed to as the ‘Tom Brady‘ of the defense. Nichols 21, Westfield State 13  

Fitchburg State at Curry (Friday, September 1st): I picked against the Colonels last season in their opener, so I will take them this time. Curry will need some new wide-outs to step-up this season – the squad graduated some key receivers last spring. Curry 21, Fitchburg State 14 

Framingham State at Endicott (Saturday, September 2nd): This is always a must-see, must-attend game in the opening week. One of the match-ups I am interested in watching is Endicott fullback Lavante Wiggins against the Framingham State front seven. Additionally, keep an eye on both quarterbacks, too. Framingham State 28, Endicott 14 

Springfield at Western New England (Saturday, September 2nd): It’s the Battle of Springfield this weekend as the Pride make a short trek to the Golden Bears’ home field. As I said on today’s season-preview podcast with James Baker, I will take the ‘underdog’ in this game: Springfield. Springfield 28, WNE 27 

Union at Husson (Saturday, September 2nd): John Smith‘s senior season should be a fun one to follow. He’s coming off his best year with the Eagles and will certainly be a student-athlete to watch in this contest. Additionally, keep an eye on Coach Gabby Price‘s defense – seven starters are back from last year’s unit. Husson 28, Union 17 

Castleton at Plymouth State (Saturday, September 2nd): The Panthers enjoyed perhaps their best season in years last fall, but can they continue that momentum this season? PSU welcomes back eight starters on offense, while the defense will be looking for a few new student-athletes to step-up – the unit returns just five starters. Castleton will receive a big boost in this contest from wide-out Ryan BarryCastleton 22, Plymouth State 21 

Bridgewater State at Buffalo State (Saturday, September 2nd): The Bears were picked to capture the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC), but can they make claim their second-straight league crown without some key members of last year’s defense? This will be a difficult test for the Bears, but certainly one that could help them once they hop into conference play in two weeks. Buffalo State 24, Bridgewater State 14 

Springfield Picked To Capture NEWMAC Football

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Springfield College was picked to capture the first-ever NEWMAC crown this fall. (PHOTO CREDIT: Springfield College Athletics)

By NoontimeSports.com (@NoontimeSports) 

Springfield College was picked to capture the first-ever New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) crown, according to the conference’s release on Wednesday morning.

The Pride collected six of eight first-place votes, while Merchant Marine, which checked-in second on the conference’s preseason poll, earned the final two votes. Both Merchant Marine and Springfield College competed against each other last year as members of the Liberty League.

WPI was picked to finish third, while Norwich and MIT rounded out the top five, checking in fourth and fifth, respectively. Catholic University and Coast Guard Academy were picked to finish sixth, while Maine Maritime is projected to finish eighth.

Springfield returns 17 starters from last season, including fullback Jordan Wilcox and defensive end Nick Giorgio. The Pride concluded its 2016 campaign 5-5 overall, but will look to commence its 2017 season on a high note when they visit Western New England on Saturday, September 2 for a 1:00 p.m. kick-off.

As noted in the conference’s release, NEWMAC play officially begins Saturday, September 23 with Coast Guard visiting Norwich, MIT heading to Catholic, WPI hosting Springfield and Maine Maritime entertaining Merchant Marine.

Teams To Watch In 2017: Merchant Marine Mariners

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Merchant Marine’s football team is expected to be one of the top teams in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) this fall. (PHOTO CREDIT: USMMA Athletics)

By Jaden Daly (@jadendaly_) &  John Kelly, Jr. (@jfkjr24) 

Team Name: United States Merchant Marine Academy Mariners

Preseason Ranking: The Mariners checked-in sixth on our ‘Preseason Top 10’ poll, which was posted on Twitter on Monday, July 31st.

2016 Season Recap: The Mariners posted their first winning season since 2003, capturing five of nine contests (5-4). They went toe-to-toe with a pair of Top 25 teams – No. 19 Hobart and No. 24 St. Lawrence – but did fall to both squads by single digits. They notched their first conference road win since 2003 by rallying to defeat WPI with a dramatic 45-44 victory. USMMA also beat Springfield for the second-straight season on Senior Day, while the rushing attack (299.9 yards per game) ranked third in NCAA Division III football.

Key Losses: Patrick Keyes (Safety), Ian Stoner (D-Line), Marcus Kitchin (D-Line), Alex Shiber (D-Line), Joshua Woodburn (LB), Parker Johnson (Lineman), Channing Meyer (Dback), and Tyler Sulik (Linebacker)

Players to Watch: Brice Moore (Quarterback), Wiley Martin (Fullback), Joe Bellomo (Running Back), Aaron Rice (Running Back/Wide Receiver), Luke Jamison (Wide Receiver), Joe Vitelli (Wide Receiver), Jake Murphy (O-Line), Isaac Lee (Linebacker), Justin Sydlowski (Linebacker), Brooks Cannell (Defensive Back) and Charles Deegan (D-Line).

2017 ScheduleUSMMA Football moves over from the Liberty League to the newly-established New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) in head coach Mike Toop’s 13th season. The Mariners went 3-0 against NEWMAC foes last season, defeating rival Coast Guard 31-27, WPI 45-44, and Springfield 15-12. They will face four familiar teams from last season, including SUNY Maritime (Sept. 16- Homecoming Weekend), Springfield, WPI and Coast Guard (Nov. 11th on ESPN). The Mariners will take on three opponents they haven’t faced in a while – those foes include Maine Maritime (first meeting since 1964), Norwich (First Meeting since 2003), and Catholic (first meeting since 1996). They commence the year against two new opponents in MIT (week four) and Misericordia (week one) on Parents Weekend.

Season Outlook: The Mariner defense, which was the biggest reason the squad enjoyed a successful campaign last year, happens to be the unit’s biggest question heading into a new season. The defensive unit does return some quality talent, but will need its first two games – both contests are non-conference match-ups – to gain important experience, which should help them once conference play begins. The NEWMAC will provide favorable match-ups for the Mariners at the beginning of the year before a stern test on the road against Norwich University during the fifth week of the season. The month of October also features some important tests against WPI – the Engineers will host the Mariners, while Springfield will pay a visit to Kings Point, New York. Springfield-USMMA could be a de-facto conference championship game, so make sure to circle that particular meeting on your calendar now. USMMA will end its regular season slate against Coast Guard Academy – the game will be broadcasted on the ESPN Family of Networks. The Mariners could enter the Secretaries’ Cup with a chance to clinch another winning season, so make sure to keep an eye on this game, too.

Teams To Watch In 2017: Husson University Eagles

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Husson quarterback Cory Brandon and the Eagles will begin its ECFC title defense against Union College on Saturday, September 2nd. (PHOTO CREDIT: Husson University Athletics)

By Matt Noonan (@MattNoonan11)

Name: Husson University Eagles

Preseason Ranking: The Eagles checked-in third overall on our ‘Preseason Top 10’ poll, which was posted on Twitter on Monday, July 31st.

2016 Recap: 2016 was an exciting year for the Eagles, who captured the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) crown en route to a NCAA Division III first-round match-up against Western New England. Unfortunately, the team’s season concluded in Springfield, Massachusetts, but the loss certainly provided the unit with motivation heading into the off-season, as well as this year, too. Running back John Smith highlighted his team’s 2016 campaign, rushing for 1,822 yards and 17 touchdowns. Smith’s best game occurred in week two when he rushed for a season-high 280 yards and four scores in a 43-23 win over Dean College. In addition to Smith’s effort, the team received boosts from quarterback Cory Brandon, wide receivers Deon Wiggins and Kadeem Edge, and linebacker Ellis Throckmorton. Husson’s initial game of the season against Alfred University – the team that defeated WNE in the second round of the postseason – was an impressive showing by the Eagles. That game – a 35-28 setback – certainly proves this is a team on the rise, as well as a program to watch this season.

Key Losses: Deon Wiggins (Wide Receiver), Kadeem Edge (Wide Receiver), Ellis Throckmorton (Linebacker), Alonzo Connor (Linebacker), Rick Orio (Defensive Back), Logan Steward (Defensive Back), and Jeff Turcotte (D-Line).

Players to Watch: Cory Brandon (Quarterback), John Smith (Running Back), Obie Christmas (Running Back), DJ Allen (Tight End), Robenson Saintard (Slot), Frank Curran (D-Line) and Luke Washburn (D-Line).

2017 ScheduleCoach Gabby Price‘s squad will be tested from the start when they commence their ECFC title defense with a non-conference clash against Union College of the Liberty League next Saturday, September 2. Union may not be the team to beat in the Liberty League this fall, but there is a great deal of optimism surrounding the Dutchmen who will be led by running back Connor Kinzelmann and safety Jason Nelson. Both units – Union’s offense and defense – will provide unique challenges, but this is a game the Eagles certainly will be prepared for once camp concludes. And after a visit from the Dutchmen, Husson will embark on an important three-game road trip, beginning in Franklin, Massachusetts against Dean College – the newest member of the ECFC – followed by visits to Western New England and Endicott College. These four games will be critical for the Eagles’ success this fall – they certainly could go 3-1 during this four-game stretch, which would set them up for an interesting week five match-up against SUNY Maritime, which was picked to finish second in the conference this season. The match-up with the Privateers could be a de-facto championship game, but don’t overlook other match-ups later in the season against Castleton or Mount Ida.

Season Outlook: Husson returns 13 starters from last season, including seven student-athletes on defense. All seven student-athletes will be critical to continuing the unit’s success from a year ago – keep an eye on Luke Washburn and Tarik Smith up front, as well as Quan Soyini, Jake Dobos and Jean Gabriel in the secondary. This unit will certainly provide challenges to opposing offense, not just to its ECFC foes, but also its non-conference foes, too. Games against Endicott, WNE and Union will be fun to watch – it will be interesting to see how running back John Smith does against all three defensive units. The meetings against Endicott and WNE will be a preview for when Husson moves over to the Commonwealth Coast Football (CCF) conference in 2019. While the defense will certainly be a unit to watch, fans should not overlook an offense that will be headed by Smith and tailback Obie Christmas. The two backs combined for 23 touchdowns on the ground – the ground game will certainly open up the air attack for quarterback Cory Brandon, who concluded last season with 27 touchdowns, as well as 2,323 passing yards. Brandon will be targeting a few new wide-outs this season due to graduation losses to Deon Wiggins and Kadeem Edge, but Husson does return a few members from last season’s offense, including tight end DJ Allen and wide receiver Kyle Gaudet. Look for Gaudet to become one of Brandon’s go-to targets this fall. Husson’s first four games won’t be easy, but should set them up for success once conference play begins. Their game against SUNY Maritime will certainly be the game to watch.

Teams To Watch In 2017: Framingham State Rams

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Framingham State’s football team will once again be a squad to follow (and watch) this season in New England. (PHOTO CREDIT: Frank Poulin Photography)

By Matt Noonan (@MattNoonan11) 

Name: Framingham State Rams

Ranking:
The Rams checked-in fourth overall on our ‘Preseason Top 10’ poll, which was posted on Twitter on Monday, July 31st.

2016 Recap: Last season was not your typical campaign for the Rams. Instead of contending for some national hardware in the NCAA Division III Tournament, Coach Tom Kelley‘s squad capped it season by capturing the first-ever New England Bowl championship. Yet, prior to defeating the Salve Regina in the region’s inaugural bowl game, the Rams sustained a few difficult plays, bounces and moments in a trio of games, including a heart-breaking 28-27 overtime loss to Bridgewater State, which provided the Bears with the conference crown and automatic bid to the postseason. Excluding the team’s three setbacks, the Rams did secure some quality wins over Endicott College (32-21), Western Connecticut State (23-17) and Fitchburg State (14-0). Framingham State will face all three teams this fall.

Key Losses: Trevon Offley (Running Back), Jalen Green (Running Back), Chris Dagg (Specialist), Aaron Owens (Linebacker) and Jaleel Wingard (Defensive Back).

Players to Watch: Adam Wojenski (Quarterback), Zak Walker (Quarterback), Quron Wright (Running Back), Napoleon Miller (Wide Receiver), Mike Calicchio (Wide Receiver), Stephen Beahn (Wide Receiver), Joe Wilder (O-Line), Thomas Burns (Defensive Back), Svenn Jacobson (Linebacker), Campbell Marchant (D-Line), Brian Donahue (Linebacker), Jaquan Harris (Defensive Back) and Joshua Onujiogu (D-Line).

2017 Schedule: The road back to the NCAA Division III Tournament will begin with a visit to ‘the nest’ on Labor Day Weekend when Framingham State tangles with Endicott College in Beverly. One week later, the Rams will play its first home game of the season against a talented Cortland State squad from the Empire 8. The Red Dragons defeated the Rams last season in New York, but the Rams’ offense still managed to tally 327 total yards of offense, while the defense recorded a pair of sacks and interceptions. This will be another quality test for the Rams before they hop into Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) play in week three against Bridgewater State. Their 28-27 overtime loss from last year should certainly be motivation for the squad heading into this particular outing. Framingham State will conclude its initial month of play against Massachusetts Maritime Academy – this is always a fun game to attend because of the Kelley connection between both schools (Tom’s son Mike Kelley is a MMA alum and assistant coach for the Buccaneers. He is also the school’s baseball coach, too). Visits to Fitchburg State and Plymouth State highlight the month of October, while November will feature a pair of home dates against Western Connecticut State and Worcester State.

Season Outlook: Checking-in second on the conference’s preseason coaches poll, the Rams, who perhaps could have been picked to capture the league’s crown this fall, will certainly be one of many MASCAC squads to watch this season. Both non-conference games to start the season will be critical for the squad’s success, but the same could be said for its week three match-up at Bridgewater State. On paper, this squad looks ready to challenge the Bears for the conference’s crown, as well as the automatic bid to the ‘big dance.’ Quarterback Adam Wojenski gained a great deal of experience last year under center – the MASCAC Offensive Rookie of the Year appears ready to lead an offense that will feature a great deal of talent on the line and in the back field. Keep an eye on wide-out Stephen Beahn this season – he could be in for an exception senior year. On defense, linebacker Svenn Jacobson highlights a unit that should provide challenges to opposing offenses – this particular unit posses a great deal of experience and depth, which should help them be successful against both the run and pass.