Noontime’s Five New England D3 Football Teams to Watch in 2023

Shane Aylward and the Endicott College football team will attempt to continue their recent success next season. (PHOTO: Matt Noonan/NoontimeSports.com)

By Matt Noonan

Eight small college football teams remain in the mix for the ultimate prize: an NCAA Division III championship.

Perhaps next year one of those eight teams will be a squad from New England.

Never say never, right?

As we slowly say goodbye – and yes, farewell – to another season of New England small college football coverage, let’s highlight five teams I’ll be keeping an eye on next fall.

Curry College: The Colonels exceeded our expectations this fall.

Coach Todd Parsons guided the Purple and White to three wins, matching the team’s total from a year ago, thanks to first-year halfback Montie Quinn, who rushed for a team-high 1,165 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Quinn has the potential to produce more rushing yards and touchdowns next fall – heck, he might be able to duplicate Raphael Zammit‘s success, which could help Curry contend for a Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) crown. Zammit currently holds multiple single-season (and career) records, including the most yards recorded in a single season (1,587).

In addition to Quinn, Parsons could welcome back some upperclassmen from this year’s team that might have an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, a few players could transfer to Curry, providing the team with an additional boost heading into next summer’s camp.

Parsons should be able to build off his initial season with the Purple and White, which saw Curry score its first home win against Salve Regina University in 13 years.

Unfortunately, the 17-point victory over the Seahawks did not result in more wins, but there is a sense of optimism surrounding this program that better days are ahead.  

Dean College: Give it time, but these Bulldogs are heading in the right direction.

Despite finishing the 2022 season with just one win, coach Andrae Murphy’s unit exhibited their resiliency on a weekly basis, which helped the Maroon and White score an exciting late October win over Alfred State in overtime.

The win over the Pioneers was certainly a turning point for Dean, which had dropped some heartbreakers earlier this fall, including a 26-23 setback to Gallaudet University.

Dean was competitive in its final three contests but did lose all three games. Their final outing with Keystone College, a one-point setback, could provide Murphy’s unit with some additional motivation heading into the offseason.  

The Bulldog’s roster will feature some new student-athletes next summer, along with some key members of this year’s squad, including Mozes Mooney, a wide receiver turned quarterback that registered 14 touchdowns this fall, including two on the ground.

Mooney’s best outing occurred in the final week of the regular season when he tossed four touchdowns while rushing for a season-high 46 yards against Keystone.

Endicott College: The Gulls are inching closer to winning their first postseason contest.

Sure, Endicott’s season did not conclude the way many imagined with the Blue and Green suffering its fourth postseason setback in program history. Yet, before their 10-game winning streak was snapped by Springfield College, the Gulls posted their first-ever undefeated season in program history, thanks to a defense that yielded 6.5 points per game, as well as pitched four shutouts.

Endicott has produced seven wins or more under coach Paul McGonagle. Additionally, they have won back-to-back conference crowns while establishing a successful blueprint that should eventually result in a playoff victory.

Expect the Gulls to lean on its defense again next fall, thanks to some key returners, including Hector Johnson, Zachariah Twardosky, and Matthew Licciardi.

Quarterback Clayton Marengi, a junior quarterback from Lynnfield, Massachusetts, will also be a player to watch on offense next season after tallying 15 passing touchdowns to go with eight rushing scores.

Donovan Wood will be one of many players to watch on next year’s Middlebury College football team. (PHOTO COURTESY: Will Costello)

Middlebury College: It was not an ideal ending for coach Bob Ritter.

Ritter’s final game with his alma mater concluded with the Panthers surrendering a season-high 65 points to Tufts University, which scored its second-straight win against Middlebury. Had the Panthers beat the Jumbos, they would have finished their campaign with eight wins – additionally, they could have shared the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) crown with Trinity College had the Bantams lost their season finale to Wesleyan University (the Bantams beat the Cardinals to clinch their first-ever 9-0 season in program history).

Sure, losing the final game of a season is never easy, but the Panthers looked much better than they did a year ago when they concluded the 2021 season with three wins and six losses.

Wide receiver Donovan Wood was one of many players to watch this fall – he led the Navy Blue and White receiving core with 54 receptions for 938 yards and 11 touchdowns. Additionally, quarterback Cole Kennon was impressive – the junior signal-caller threw for 1,854 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Both players should help the Panthers contend for a conference crown next season.

Salve Regina University: It was hard to get a gauge on this year’s Seahawks, which finished their 2022 campaign with six wins and four losses.

Salve Regina concluded its season with an impressive win over Husson University, which should provide Salve Regina with some much-needed momentum heading into a new conference next fall.

The Seahawks will compete as a full-time member in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) next school year and will certainly need some of their underclassmen to step up, especially when competing against Merchant Marine, MIT, and Springfield College.

Coach Kevin Gilmartin’s squad leaned on some players not named Jack Maguire or Joey Mauriello this fall, including quarterback Jake Stack, who concluded his sophomore season by completing 104 of 240 passes for 1,394 yards and 15 touchdowns.

First-year tailback Justan Luzzi was the team’s second-leading rusher, tallying 357 yards on 82 carries and two touchdowns while Zachary Ludemann, a junior linebacker, led the Seahawks’ defense with 107.0 total tackles.

All three student-athletes, along with others, of course, will be tasked with leading the Seahawks to victory next fall.

Inside The Matchup: Plymouth State at Husson University

Quarterback Braden Lynn and the Plymouth State Panthers will compete against Husson University on Saturday in the New England Bowl. (PHOTO COURTESY: Chris Kilmer/Plymouth State University Athletics)

By Matt Noonan

Our small college football postseason coverage rolls on with “going inside” another New England Bowl matchup: Plymouth State at Husson University.

Game Time & Location: Plymouth State will make the trek to Husson for the second time this fall on Saturday, November 19 with kickoff scheduled for 12 p.m. (LIVE STATS || VIDEO)

Husson’s 2022 Season Review: For the third consecutive season, the Eagles won four of six Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) contests to go with a non-league win against Alfred State.

Husson concluded its regular season slate with five wins, matching its total from 2013 when the Eagles competed in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC).

The Eagles scored some exciting wins this fall, including a 27-17 victory over Western New England last month, which provided Husson with its first-ever win against the Golden Bears.  

Quarterback Nic Visser was recently named the CCC Offensive Player of the Year after ending the regular season with 14 passing touchdowns to go with a league-best 2,200 passing yards.

Plymouth State’s 2022 Season Review: The Panthers’ regular season concluded with a disappointing setback last Saturday to UMass Dartmouth in a win-or-go-home matchup.

Despite losing to the Corsairs, Plymouth State enjoyed a successful season, producing eight wins in 10 contests, which was one less than the Green and White produced in 2017 when they shared the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) crown with Framingham State.

The Panthers began their campaign with four-straight wins, including a week two victory over Husson. Manny Sanchez highlighted the win, rushing for a game-high 131 yards on 21 carries while quarterback Braden Lynn completed 12 of 17 passes for 107 yards and one touchdown.

New England Bowl History (for both teams): Saturday’s clash between the Eagles and Panthers will be the first time either school competed in the New England Bowl.

Series History: Plymouth State has won three of its five meetings with Husson, dating back to the first contest between the Panthers and Eagles in 2004. Husson beat Plymouth State in 2018 and 2021.

Husson’s Last Postseason Appearance: It’s been four years since the Eagles last appeared in a postseason (or a bowl) contest – Husson lost to RPI in the opening round of the 2018 NCAA Division III Tournament.

Prior to their meeting with the Engineers, Husson competed in five NCAA Tournament games, along with two Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) Bowl games.

Their lone postseason win occurred in 2017 when they beat Springfield College in the opening round of the national postseason.

Plymouth State’s Last Postseason Appearance: The Panthers previously advanced to the opening round of the national postseason in 2017 where they lost to Brockport by a score of 66-0.

The Green and White have competed in the postseason six times in program history, dating back to their first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 1984 (Plymouth lost to Union College in the quarterfinals by a score of 26-14).

Plymouth State’s lone postseason win occurred in 1994 when the Panthers edged Merchant Marine, 19-18, in the first round.

Players to Watch on Husson: Nic Visser (QB), Elijah Garnett (RB), Jon Bell (WR), Russ Walker (WR), Tucker Buzzell (LB), Adam Bertrand (LB), Alex Brown (DB), and Sean Savage (LB).       

Players to Watch on Plymouth State: Braden Lynn (QB), Manny Sanchez (RB), Willie Lombard (RB), Jake Donahue (WR), Conner Sheehan (K/P), Evan Wilson (LB), Quinn Girard (DB), Bryce Wronski (LB), and Luc Normandeau (DB).       

Catching Up with Coach Chuck Goldstein (Gallaudet University Football)

Brandon Washington and the Gallaudet University football team captured the 2022 Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) crown last Saturday. (PHOTO COURTESY: Gallaudet University Athletics)

By Matt Noonan

It sounds like a simple message that any football coach would preach to his squad: please protect the football, but also, let’s not commit too many penalties.

Through the first five contests of the 2022 season, the Gallaudet University football team averaged at least one fumble per game to go with 96.6 penalty yards. The Buff and Blue racked up more than 100 penalty yards in a pair of early-season meetings, including an early October contest with Castleton University which saw Gallaudet edge the Spartans, 20-17.

The win over the Spartans was an important one, but perhaps a turning point for a squad that needed to reduce the number of fumbles and penalty yards they were tallying on a weekly basis.

Said coach Chuck Goldstein: “The thing that prevented us all year was ourselves.”

Goldstein’s squad made corrections, addressing the little things they needed to do to be more successful. The result: fewer fumbles – in fact, just one fumble during its final four contests – along with fewer penalty yards.

Gallaudet won three of its final four contests, including its regular season finale last weekend against Alfred State to clinch its second Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) crown in nine years.

“Earlier (in the season), we would put the ball on the ground, and we had too many penalties,” said Goldstein. “But if you look at the last couple of games, we held onto the ball and we had very (few) penalties. And that is the key to success for us.”

Now, Gallaudet must translate its success to its next outing, a postseason contest next Saturday, November 19.

The Bison will be idle this weekend, allowing 70 student-athletes an opportunity to get some additional rest before embarking on what some hope could be a magical run toward a national title next month. But before Gallaudet executes its next play next Saturday, November 19, Goldstein says the focus, for now, is to celebrate the team’s hard work, both this fall and last spring, that resulted in a league championship.

Noontime Sports recently caught up with Coach Goldstein to discuss his team’s exciting season, while learning more about a few student-athletes that have stepped up for the Bison this fall.

On winning the ECFC crown, despite being picked to finish fifth in the preseason poll: Last year, we began our season (with five-straight wins), and then (we lost) three-straight contests. We had a young team (last fall), so I knew coming into this season that we were going to be competitive.

I told our guys when they left in the spring that we had a good football team, which is what I said when they returned (to campus) in August.

Our goal was to compete every day. The motto for our season was to do your job. We had some moments where we fell under the bend, but don’t break philosophy with some comeback wins, but the kids never quit. The players did everything we asked them to do, and good things happen when you do the little things right.

On Gallaudet’s exciting win over Dean College last month: I remember like it was yesterday. The x-factor was playing on grass – it had rained (in Massachusetts prior to our mid-October meeting with the Bulldogs), so we were slipping all over the place, which was one thing we were not prepared for, but we were able to hang on (at the end), thanks to our defense, which kept us in the game.

Special teams have been a strength for us this year with a great kicker and punter in Jonathon Waterman, but what happened was our offense came through at the end – they kept their cool throughout (the entire contest).

On falling to SUNY-Maritime one week after rallying to beat Dean: We really thought going into that game we were the better team and didn’t overlook them, but just didn’t play well. We finally put it together when our backs were against the wall (by producing) 22 points in the fourth quarter and unfortunately missed that two-point conversion at the end (of the game).

At the end of the day, it is what it is – had we won the game, we would have clinched the conference championship (one week later) against Anna Maria College. But (losing to SUNY-Maritime) was a wake-up call – it set the tone heading into the Anna Maria (game) knowing that we were still in (the conference title race), but no one is going to give it to us.

Brandon Washington has rushed for a team-high 950 yards and eight touchdowns in nine contests this fall. (PHOTO COURTESY: Gallaudet University Athletics)

On beating Alfred State to clinch the program’s second ECFC crown: We played a great game against Alfred. We were able to run the ball, the defense was great, and it was just a complete team win. I had a gut feeling that we were going to come out ready to go and play well, and they did.

On the impact Brandon Washington has made on offense: We started teaching Brandon (how to play quarterback) last spring because he’s a wide receiver. He’s a skill position guy, he’s an athlete, and we were talking (amongst the coaches) about letting him play safety, as well.

When Brandon was in the game (this fall), we were moving the ball more, so in the last two games, as well as the Maritime game in the second half, Brandon was our quarterback and we decided to play to his strengths. We let him run the ball a little bit and he is talented and special.

Our offensive line is a great group of guys and they just really pulled together and paved the way for (Brandon, as well as) Dre’Vaughn Mackall and Mikka Harvey, who have had some big games in the last couple of games, as well.

On the impact Jacob Hartman has made on the defense: We have had some good linebackers come through here, including first-team all-conference players for three or four years in a row, but Jacob Hartman is the best defensive player to (compete for this program). We have had some players in the past that were NFL prospects, but when you put the film on to watch him, you will know (where Jacob is on the field) right away.

An interesting fact: we taught Jacob how to play quarterback this spring – he was a high school quarterback in West Virginia, and he broke so many records at his school, so if we did get into a bind, he may be a guy that we would play quarterback for us.

What To Know About The Final Week of New England D3 Football

Aiden Lewin and the Springfield College football team are one win away from capturing their third NEWMAC title. (PHOTO COURTESY: Springfield College Athletics)

By Matt Noonan

The final week of the New England NCAA Division III football regular season has arrived.

As expected, the final week will feature some important matchups that will determine conference winners, along with which teams will advance to either the national postseason or a regional bowl game.

Let’s check in on all five New England conferences to see where things stand after a busy few weeks of small college football.

Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC): Endicott College clinched its second-straight CCC crown last Saturday with a 42-10 win over Salve Regina University to secure a spot in the upcoming national postseason.

The Gulls will travel to Western New England on Saturday with hopes of completing its regular season slate without a setback.

Endicott beat Western New England last season but lost to the Golden Bears in Springfield in 2019 (WNE won the conference that season, as well as competed in the postseason).

Husson University can possibly secure a spot in the upcoming New England Bowl, pending they beat Salve Regina. The Eagles have won four conference games for the third consecutive season, as well as scored their first-ever victory against Western New England last month.

A loss to Salve Regina could open the door for another CCC squad to appear in a bowl game.

Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC): For the first time since 2013, Gallaudet University has won the ECFC.

The Bison clinched the conference crown this past weekend by topping Alfred State, 36-22. Brandon Washington, who is a slot receiver and quarterback for the Bison, rushed for a career-high 228 yards on 28 carries and three touchdowns in the win.

Gallaudet is idle this weekend but will return to the field next weekend in the opening round of the NCAA D-III Tournament.

Castleton University can secure a spot in the New England Bowl with a win over Anna Maria College on Saturday. But a loss to the AMCATs could open the door for Anna Maria, Alfred State, or another ECFC team to represent the league in an upcoming bowl game.

Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC): Saturday is a big day for two MASCAC teams: Plymouth State and UMass Dartmouth.

The Panthers set up a de-facto conference title game with the Corsairs this weekend by defeating Massachusetts Maritime Academy, 21-7, last Saturday.

A Plymouth State victory would provide the Green and White an opportunity to compete in the postseason for the first time since 2017.

A Corsairs victory over the Panthers would allow UMass Dartmouth an opportunity to contend for a national title.

No matter the outcome, it’s likely both teams will be competing next weekend with one squad representing the MASCAC in the New England Bowl.

New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC): Trinity College is one win away from capturing its first conference crown since 2018.

Additionally, the Bantams are looking to become the third-straight NESCAC team to finish its respective campaign with a 9-0 record.

Middlebury College and Williams College finished 9-0 in 2019 and 2021, respectively.

For Trinity to clinch its first perfect season since concluding its 2016 slate with an 8-0 record, they will need to beat Wesleyan University, which claimed its first Little Three title in three years this past weekend.

Trinity has beaten Wesleyan in four of its last five meetings.

A loss to the Cardinals could pave the way for the Bantams to share the conference crown with Middlebury, pending they beat Tufts University. However, a Trinity win over Wesleyan and a Middlebury victory against Tufts would result in the Bantams winning the crown outright, thanks to its six-point win over the Panthers last month.

New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC): Catholic University will entertain Springfield College this weekend in a win-or-go-home contest.

Both teams enter the season finale with identical 5-0 conference records.

Catholic has won all five NEWMAC tilts by a combined score of 206-60.

Springfield beat its first five conference foes by a combined score of 162-92.

Like the MASCAC, the winner of this matchup will represent the NEWMAC in the national playoffs. The team that finishes with a 5-1 conference mark will most likely appear in next weekend’s New England Bowl.

Springfield has won all four meetings with Catholic, dating back to the initial season of NEWMAC football in 2017.  

Plymouth State Keeps Its Title Hopes Alive; Panthers Top MMA, 21-7

Manny Sanchez rushed for a game-high 86 yards and one touchdown on Saturday as Plymouth State topped Massachusetts Maritime Academy, 21-7. (PHOTO COURTESY: Kim Bownes/Plymouth State Athletics)

By Matt Noonan

With a 21-7 win over Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Plymouth State has set up a win-or-go-home game next Saturday, November 12 with UMass Dartmouth.

Braden Lynn helped the Panthers clinch their eighth win of the season this afternoon by connecting with Bryan Warren for a 28-yard touchdown pass with 7:08 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Plymouth State’s final score provided the visitors with a two-touchdown lead that would not be erased.

Manny Sanchez and Matt Griffing combined for 117 rushing yards and two touchdowns while Warren led the Panthers’ receiving core with four catches for 53 yards and one touchdown.

The Plymouth State defense registered two sacks, two fumble recoveries, one interception, and four pass breakups. Massachusetts Maritime recorded just one touchdown on 61 plays.

Plymouth State became a team to watch in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) after winning four-straight contests earlier this season, including a pair of league meetings with Bridgewater State (41-34) and Framingham State (14-9).  

The Panthers’ four-game winning streak concluded in early October with a 34-27 setback to Western Connecticut.

Since falling to the Wolves, Plymouth State has won four-straight contests and will need to beat UMass Dartmouth to secure a spot in the upcoming NCAA Division III postseason.

UMass Dartmouth has also been a team to watch in the MASCAC – the Corsairs rebounded from a week two loss to Anna Maria College by winning their last seven contests.

The Corsairs beat Plymouth State last season, 28-7, before winning its first New England Bowl seven days later against Alfred State. They also beat Plymouth State in 2019 and 2018.

Plymouth State’s last win over UMass Dartmouth occurred in 2017 – the game was played in Plymouth, New Hampshire.

The Panthers shared the MASCAC crown with Framingham State in 2017, but represented the league in the national postseason, thanks to a dramatic 16-13 win over the Rams.

Plymouth State’s 2017 title run concluded in the opening round with a 66-0 setback to Brockport.