By Matt Noonan
Another season of New England small college football has concluded, which means it is time to look back and reflect on what we learned from covering not one, but five NCAA Division III conferences.
Our 2022 rewind – well, more leftover thoughts, to be exact – begins with a simple question: Can Endicott College win its third-straight Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC)?
My initial answer is yes – expect the Gulls to contend for another CCC title next fall.
The Gulls clinched their first-ever undefeated regular season (10-0) in program history this fall, thanks to a defense that pitched four shutouts.
Entering their initial postseason contest with Springfield College earlier this month, Endicott’s defense had yielded 6.5 points per game in 10 contests – sure, they allowed more than a touchdown in their final two contests to the Pride and Western New England, but this unit has potential to be even better next season.
Endicott’s defense will look different next fall but expect Hector Johnson to continue his success from this season, which saw the Worcester, Massachusetts native tally 21.5 tackles for a loss, including 14.5 sacks. Johnson will lead a unit that will feature linebacker Matthew Licciardi, strong safety Zachariah Twardosky, and defensive lineman Colin Meropoulos.
Halfback Yavier Cosme-Diaz and quarterback Clayton Marengi will be two players to watch on offense next fall with the duo combining for 12 rushing touchdowns in 11 contests this season. Marengi added 15 passing touchdowns while completing 146 of 230 passes for 1,667 yards with four of those scores landing in the hands of wide receiver Shane Aylward.
The Endicott offense averaged 355.2 yards per game, which was the third best average amongst the seven CCC squads.
With some key returners expected to return, along with some new recruits, Endicott should be able to contend for a third-straight conference title. But don’t be surprised if Husson University or Western New England provide the Blue and Green with some challenges along the way.
Additionally, one should not count out the University of New England, which has certainly improved every season since its initial campaign in 2018.
One other team to watch next fall in the CCC is Curry College. Can the Colonels begin to make the climb under soon-to-be second-year coach Todd Parsons?
Finally, one team that won’t stand in the way of potential three-peat is Salve Regina University, which is joining the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) next school year as a full-time member.