By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeSports
A brand new season of New England Division III football is set to commence in two days – there are some very intriguing matchups to follow this week, beginning with some must-see games on Friday, September 6th.
Yet, before any of these games officially begin, allow us – Noontime Sports – to dish out our conference predictions for the 2019 season, including our projected winner, runner-up, and dark-horse.
Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC)
Projected Winner: Western New England
After a successful first season as head coach, Jason LeBeau will once again guide the Golden Bears to a conference title and first-round appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Runner-Up: Endicott College
The Gulls return a slew of talent on both sides of the ball but face some serious challenges in the first three weeks against Framingham State and Wesley College.
Dark Horse: Husson University.
The Eagles begin a new era under first-year coach Nat Clark, who has prior experience with the program under former head coach Gabby Price. Husson graduated some key pieces of last year’s squad, but do return some talented upperclassmen that will challenge Endicott, Salve Regina, and Western New England for the top spot.
Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC)
Projected Winner: Maritime (N.Y.)
It is hard to pick against the Privateers, who were picked to capture the ECFC crown, per the league’s preseason coaches poll. Maritime will be led by first-year coach Mickey Rehring, who has some work to do with finding replacements from last year’s squad, including the offense.
Runner-Up: Dean College
The Bulldogs enter the upcoming season with expectations of taking the so-called ‘next-step.’ Dean has the potential to challenge the Privateers for the top spot in the ECFC with a slew of returners from both last season and 2017.
Dark Horse: Castleton University
Coach Tony Volpone seems focused on watching his team improve and get better this fall – he, along with the coaching staff return a young roster that will certainly be an interesting team to watch as the season progresses.
Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC)
Projected Winner: Framingham State
The Rams seem to embrace the so-called ‘target’ on their back – they know they will face challenges from both conference and non-conference foes this fall, but that shouldn’t stop them from winning eight or nine games.
Runner-Up: Bridgewater State
The Bears graduated some key pieces from last year’s 8-3 squad, including wide receiver Jack Lavanchy. Bridgewater State does return 40 student-athletes from last season, which should help the Bears compete with the Rams for the top spot in the conference.
Dark Horse: Western Connecticut
Western Connecticut graduated some key pieces from last year’s squad this past spring, including half-back Kyle McKinnon, but do return wide receiver Will Daniels, quarterback David James, and defensive end Jordan Fletcher, which will help the Colonials challenge both the Bears and Rams for a MASCAC title.
New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC)
Projected Winner: Trinity College
The Bantams have won the last three conference crowns and should find a way to capture their fourth consecutive title this fall, thanks to some key returners on both sides of the ball, including its defensive line. Trinity will also rely on running back Spencer Lockwood, who was named the Gatorade Player of the Year for Connecticut in 2017.
Runner-Up: Amherst College
The Mammoths return some impressive talent on offense – they will once again be led by quarterback Ollie Eberth, who accounted for 19 touchdowns last fall, including nine on the ground. Amherst does have some graduation holes to fill on defense, but should once again be in the mix for the conference crown.
Dark Horse: Williams College
The Ephs faced some adversity last fall but still managed to win five of nine contests. This season, Williams should lean heavily on its junior class to keep pace with Amherst and Trinity, as well as Middlebury College, which beat the Ephs last fall in Williamstown.
New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC)
Projected Winner: Springfield College
Despite losing some key pieces last September, the Pride still managed to post an eight-win season, which concluded with a New England Bowl victory over Maritime (N.Y.). Springfield returns most of last year’s squad, especially on offense, but will need players like AJ Smith and Jack Pavelchak to step-up on defense.
Runner Up: WPI
For WPI to enjoy another successful season, they will need to rely on their senior class, especially halfbacks Connor Field and Sean McAllen on offense and linebacker Nick Ostrowski on defense. This senior class seems committed to doing whatever is needed to help the Engineers challenge Springfield (and others) for the top spot in the NEWMAC.
Dark Horse: MIT
After capturing its first-ever NEWMAC crown last fall, coach Brian Bubna and his staff will look to duplicate their 2018 performance this season, despite some key graduation losses on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Udgam Goyal. MIT does return some talent (and leadership), which should help the Engineers be in the hunt for a second-straight conference title.
Stay connected with our New England Football coverage on Twitter by following @Noontime_FB!