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.