Tag: Brian Casagrande

Noontime’s New England D3 Football Conference Predictions

The early expectation is that Trinity College will begin the 2022 season as the de-facto favorite to win the NESCAC. (PHOTO COURTESY: Trinity College Athletics)

By Matt Noonan

We’re less than 30 days from the start of a brand-new New England NCAA Division III Football season.

Are you excited?

I am, which is why I am ready to share my early predictions for which team will win their respective conference this fall.

Like most of our early season content, these picks are educated guesses. It’s possible these picks will be right while some could be wrong.

Anywho, allow me to share my early predictions for all five New England D-III football conferences.

Commonwealth Coast Football (CCC): From top to bottom, this might be the most competitive conference in the region.

As of early August – and yes, a few weeks back – I was pretty sure Endicott College would be the favorite to win its second-straight title this fall. But from doing some additional research, I will change my mind and go with another team: Salve Regina University.

To me, the Seahawks might be the best team on paper in this conference heading into the upcoming season. They will return some key members of last year’s offense that averaged 199.2 rushing yards per game.

But while Salve Regina might be the squad receiving some early-season praise for its key returners, do not overlook Endicott, along with Husson University, Western New England, and the University of New England. All four squads, along with Curry College and Nichols College will provide the Seahawks with plenty of challenges this season.  

Noontime’s CCC Champion Prediction: Salve Regina University

Noontime’s Surprise CCC Team of 2022: University of New England

Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC): A new chapter of Anna Maria College football will begin this fall with first-year coach Steve Croce.

Croce, who was on the staff last year, will be tasked with continuing the squad’s momentum, which saw the AMCATs win their first-ever conference crown, as well as appear in the NCAA Division III Tournament.

Like Salve Regina, Anna Maria will return some key members of last year’s squad on both offense and defense, including quarterback Alex Cohen, who concluded the 2021 season with 23 touchdown passes.

While Anna Maria appears to be the team to beat in the ECFC, don’t overlook Alfred State College, a squad that appeared in its first-ever postseason contest last November. Additionally, the Pioneers set a new program record for wins with six victories. For the Blue and Yellow to continue its success this fall, they will need to do it without quarterback Aaron Jenkins, who will be competing for Adrian College this season.

One team to keep an eye on this fall is Keystone College, a squad that concluded its inaugural season winless but could pose problems for both its non-conference and conference foes.

Noontime’s ECFC Champion Prediction: Anna Maria College

Noontime’s Surprise ECFC Team of 2022: Keystone College

Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC): Framingham State has been the team to beat over the last decade or so and should be the squad with a target on its back heading into training camp this month.

But don’t rule out the Corsairs of UMass Dartmouth, which concluded the 2021 season with a league-best nine wins (that’s nine wins in 11 contests).

UMass Dartmouth earned some much-needed momentum heading into the postseason by capturing its first-ever New England Bowl Game last November – the Corsairs rolled past Alfred State, 42-16, thanks to a six-touchdown effort (four passing and two rushing scores) by Dante Aviles-Santos.

Aviles-Santos returns this fall hoping to lead the Corsairs to their first-ever conference crown. UMass Dartmouth has never won a MASCAC title and appears to be the team to beat on paper.

While UMass Dartmouth might be equipped to challenge the Rams for the top spot in the conference, don’t overlook Bridgewater State, which finished its 2021 campaign with six wins and a Cranberry Bowl victory over Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Plymouth State, which ended its previous season with a 5-5 overall record, will also be in the mix for the conference crown.

Noontime’s MASCAC Champion Prediction: Framingham State  

Noontime’s Surprise MASCAC Team of 2022: Plymouth State  

New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC): The Bantams of Trinity College won eight games last season. They also lost one contest to Williams College, which captured the NESCAC crown with a perfect 9-0 record.

The loss to the Ephs should fuel a conference championship run for the Bantams this fall – Trinity, like other New England squads, will welcome back some key members of its 2021 squad, including quarterback Spencer Fetter, halfback Will Kirby, and wide receiver DeVante Reid. Linebacker Brian Casagrande, who led the Bantams’ defense with 46.0 total tackles, is also expected to return.

While Trinity will be the squad to watch in the NESCAC heading into their initial contest, the same could be said for others such as Amherst College, Colby College, Tufts University, and Wesleyan University.

Williams College could also pose threats to Trinity’s title run with the Ephs representing the region on last month’s D3Football Preseason Poll. Williams is one of many teams receiving votes.

Noontime’s NESCAC Champion Prediction: Trinity College  

Noontime’s Surprise CCC Team of 2022: Tufts University  

New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC): After starting their season with one win and three losses, Springfield College responded with a six-game winning streak that helped the Pride capture its second NEWMAC crown, as well as advance to the opening round of the NCAA D-III Tournament.

The early expectation is that Springfield will be the de-facto favorite to win the NEWMAC this fall, but don’t overlook Merchant Marine, which finished its 2021 season with a 9-1 overall record.

The Mariners won their final two contests against Coast Guard Academy and Western New England – the win over the Golden Bears provided Merchant Marine with its second New England Bowl victory since beating Endicott in 2018. Additionally, the team’s final win was an ideal sendoff for longtime head coach Mike Toop, who guided the Silver and Blue to 70 wins in 17 seasons.

Toop announced he would be retiring last November.

Merchant Marine should be able to compete for the top spot with Springfield – sure, both teams will need to fill some graduation holes, but the same could be said for every team in college football.

A few other teams to watch in the NEWMAC include Catholic University, MIT, and WPI.

Noontime’s NEWMAC Champion Prediction: Springfield College  

Noontime’s Surprise NEWMAC Team of 2022: WPI

Observations & Thoughts From Five Weeks of New England D2 & D3 Football

Western New England’s Steven Fedorchak set the program record for touchdown receptions last weekend against Salve Regina. (PHOTO COURTESY: Chris Marion)

By Matt Noonan

We’re slowly reaching the halfway mark of the 2021 college football season – crazy, right?

But the good news is there is still plenty of football left to be played.

While yesterday – Sunday, October 3, 2021 – technically marked the beginning of the sixth week of the season, here are some observations from what I have witnessed over the past few weeks.

Let’s begin in the Northeast 10 Conference (NE10) where Bentley University has won five straight contests to stretch its current winning streak to 10 games, dating back to October 2019.  

The Falcons, who currently occupy the top spot in the conference, have won three consecutive league matchups this fall, including a 34-21 contest this past weekend against Saint Anselm. Quarterback Stephen Sturm account for four touchdowns – three passing, one rushing – and 379 yards of total offense against the Hawks while Cole McCubrey registered a team-high 13 total tackles, including nine solo stops (Rene Nunez also recorded nine solo tackles).

Bentley enters the sixth week of the season as the 18th best team in Division II, according to the latest American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Poll. The Falcons are one of nine teams on this week’s list that have won five consecutive contests this fall.

West Florida and Northwest Missouri State, which secured the first and second positions in this week’s AFCA D-II Poll, boast identical 4-0 records.

As noted above, there is still a lot of football left to be played, but Bentley has certainly found ways to score hard-fought wins, both this past weekend and at the end of September against American International College.

This week, the Falcons host a Pace University squad that provided challenges for New Haven, which broke open a 14-14 tie with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Last week’s Pace-New Haven contest marked the first time the Chargers competed on the road this school year.

Coach Chris Pincince seemed proud of his team’s effort against the Setters, saying that “a win is a win, we look forward. We took another step toward another goal (of winning the Northeast 10 title) that we have.”

New Haven hosts Saint Anselm this week – the Chargers defense will be tasked with slowing down an impressive Hawks passing attack that is led by quarterback Drew Willoughby, who has thrown for 10 touchdowns and 1,410 yards in four contests.

As of now, it appears as if both Bentley and New Haven are the frontrunners for the conference crown as neither squad has dropped a league contest thus far, but don’t overlook Southern Connecticut (3-2, 2-1), Assumption College (2-3, 2-1), and Stonehill College (3-1, 1-1). All three, along with possible American International College could conclude the season in the top spot.

Sure, we picked against Western New England this past weekend in the previous 10 Games to Watch – I thought Salve Regina University would continue its early-season momentum against the Golden Bears – but the Blue and Gold proved me wrong as they defeated the Seahawks, 41-3, in their initial Commonwealth Coast Football (CCC) contest.

Steven Fedorchak highlighted his team’s big win over the Seahawks by setting a new program record for touchdown receptions with 23. He concluded the contest with a game-high 87 yards on six catches.

With the win, the Golden Bears returned to the top spot in our weekly poll and seem destined to occupy that position for the remainder of the season baring a future setback to say Endicott College this week or another conference foe later this fall.

We’ll share our weekly picks later this week, but from what I have seen from Western New England thus far, as well as this past weekend, they certainly are the favorite to win their fourth-straight CCC title.

Alex Cohen recorded six touchdowns last weekend in his team’s first-ever win against Keystone College. (PHOTO COURTESY: Brian Foley/Anna Maria College)

Here are a few more teams to keep an eye on over the next few weeks:

Anna Maria College: The AMCATs have been a great story this fall.

Anna Maria has won three of four meetings, including its first-ever with Keystone College, which saw quarterback Alex Cohen account for six touchdowns – five passing and one rushing.

Last Saturday’s win provided coach Dan Mulrooney with his seventh victory as the AMCATs head coach – the seven wins are the most recorded by a head coach in program history, dating back to their initial season in 2009.

Anna Maria has never won the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) but could be in line for the title, pending how the next few weeks play out.

Framingham State: After losing back-to-back non-conference games earlier this season, the Rams have bounced back, winning three straight, including their first conference clash of the season with UMass Dartmouth.

Coach Tom Kelley’s squad enters the sixth week of the season tied with Bridgewater State for the top spot in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) – the two teams will compete next month in Framingham.

The Rams pitched their first shutout of the season last weekend against Plymouth State (33-0) and will attempt to extend their winning streak to four games on Saturday when they visit Fitchburg State for a 3 p.m. kick-off.

Norwich University: The Cadets scored a big win last weekend against Coast Guard Academy to secure a three-way tie atop the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) standings.

After starting their 2021 campaign with back-to-back losses, Norwich has rebounded quite well – hey, they did not make things easy on Endicott, which rallied to beat the Cadets on their home field.

Keep an eye on the Cadets moving forward – maybe their win against Coast Guard Academy is just the start of an exciting second-half run.

Trinity College: I watched the Bantams game last weekend against Middlebury College and came away impressed.

Trinity blanked the defending champions by a score of 28-0, thanks to a pair of touchdown passes from Spencer Fetter, who has thrown eight touchdowns this fall while completing 62 of 91 passes for 952 yards.

Fetter was impressive, but the same could be said for others, including halfback William Kirby and linebacker Brian Casagrande, who both scored one touchdown last weekend.

Trinity is one of three New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) teams that have yet to drop a game this season – they will attempt to continue their winning ways on Saturday when they visit Hamilton College for a 1 p.m. kick-off.

University of New England: The Nor’easters are one win away from matching their program record for wins in a single season after capturing their last three matchups, including a pair of non-league wins over Alfred State and Bridgewater State.

Last Saturday, UNE scored its first win in program history against Nichols College, thanks to three rushing touchdowns from Jack Mahoney, Jaymeson Maheux, and Connor Sirois.   

UNE travels to Salve Regina this weekend for its second conference tilt of the 2021 season.

Noontime’s D3 Football Saturday Roundup: Trinity Rolls Past Middlebury, 28-0

Trinity College’s Spencer Fetter tossed two touchdowns on Saturday against Middlebury College. (PHOTO COURTESY: Trinity College Athletics)

By NoontimeSports.com

Make it three straight wins for Trinity College as the Bantams rolled past Middlebury College, 28-0, in their second home game of the 2021 season to erase memories of a five-point setback to the Panthers two years ago.

Trinity recorded 424 yards of total offense, thanks to quarterback Spencer Fetter, who concluded the game 18 of 31 for 319 yards and two touchdowns.  

Devante Reid led all receivers with eight grabs for 146 yards while Thomas Walsh (one catch, 57 yards) and Jack Barrett (two catches, 21 yards) each recorded one touchdown reception. Halfback William Kirby rushed for a game-high 56 yards and one score.

Trinity’s defense limited the Middlebury passing attack to a season-low 118 yards while recording three interceptions and six sacks.

The Bantams, who led 7-0 at the break, doubled its lead early in the third quarter when Spencer Fetter connected with Thomas Walsh for a 57-yard touchdown pass to cap a two-play, 70-yard drive.

Brian Casagrande would add to the Trinity lead on the initial play of the fourth quarter by intercepting Middlebury quarterback Cole Kennon for an 86-yard touchdown return before William Kirby capped his team’s scoring with an 18-yard rushing score with 4:43 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Trinity is one of three New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) teams that have won three straight contests as both Wesleyan University and Williams College remained perfected through three weeks by picking up wins against Bates College and Bowdoin College, respectively.

The Bantams will visit Hamilton College next Saturday, October 9 for a 1 p.m. kickoff – the Continentals scored their second win of the 2021 season this afternoon by defeating Colby College by a score of 27-14.

Western New England snapped its two-game losing streak with a 41-3 victory over Salve Regina University this afternoon. With the win, the Golden Bears improve to 3-2 overall and 1-0 in conference play.

John Kenney rushed for a pair of touchdowns while Sam Opont recorded a game-high 11 total tackles as Endicott College won its first conference game against Curry College, 34-27.

The Colonels entered the game on a two-game winning streak – they were led by quarterback Justin Mullaney, who completed 22 of 38 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns.

Make it three-straight for the University of New England as they scored their first-ever win over Nichols College, 28-19, to improve to 3-1 overall. Next week, the Nor’easters will attempt to win their second consecutive conference game against Salve Regina.

Elsewhere in New England, Framingham State rolled past Plymouth State, 33-0, Massachusetts Maritime Academy topped Westfield State, 16-8, and Norwich University beat Coast Guard Academy, 24-21, in the Little Army-Navy Game for the Mug.  

Stop by later this weekend for an additional blog post (or two) on the fifth week of the New England small college football season.

Noontime’s 10 Games to Watch (Week Three)

Middlebury College’s Will Jernigan will quarterback the Panthers this fall, including this weekend against Williams College. (PHOTO COURTESY: Will Costello)

By NoontimeSports.com

We’re posting a bit earlier than usual — maybe we will start producing (and sharing) our 10 Games to Watch every Thursday throughout the New England NCAA Division III football season? 

Either way, we’re excited for another busy weekend — this Saturday, ten new teams will join the fun as the 2021 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) season kicks off in various parts of our region. 

Last week, we finished 8-2 to bump our overall record to 18-2 thus far — not bad, eh? Let’s see if we can continue this momentum, both tomorrow (Friday, September 17) and Saturday, September, 18. 

Enjoy the games, everyone, and make sure to circle back throughout the weekend for roundups and insight!


FEATURED GAME: Middlebury College (0-0) at Williams College (0-0): This might be the game of the weekend and we’ll be keeping you updated from our Noontime Sports studios — well, more our Noontime Sports desk, to be exact — but this game features the two teams that are expected to contend for the NESCAC crown. Look for a late scoring drive by the Panthers to secure a hard-fought three-point victory. PREDICTION: Middlebury 17, Williams 14 


Dean College (1-1) at Husson University (1-1) (Friday, September 17, 2021 at 6 p.m.): The Eagles enter the weekend as a team to watch, but the same could be said for the Bulldogs, who provided some challenges last weekend when visiting UMass Dartmouth. Look for a big game from quarterback David Curry and wide receiver Errol Breaux. PREDICTION: Dean 27, Husson 17 

Westfield State (0-2) at Western Connecticut (1-1) (Friday, September 17 at 7 p.m.): Both teams enter conference play looking to bounce back after a week two setback. Look for a big game on Friday from quarterback Joshua Bagwell, who recorded 331 yards of total offense last week against Albright College. PREDICTION: Western Conn. 35, Westfield State 13 

Endicott College (2-0) at Catholic University (1-1) (Saturday, September 18 at 12 p.m.): The Gulls have recorded back-to-back second half comebacks to score a pair of wins — will that trend continue in Washington, D.C.? The Cardinals are looking to bounce back after a 62-10 setback to Randolph-Macon. PREDICTION: Endicott 28, Catholic 20 

UMass Dartmouth (2-0) at Framingham State (0-2) (Saturday, September 18 at 12 p.m.): The Corsairs have scored two hard fought wins over Dean and Husson, and can take a BIG step forward in the conference race with a win over the Rams. For Framingham State to secure a much-needed win, they must find a way to slow down UMass Dartmouth quarterback Dante Aviles-Santos, who recorded six touchdowns (five passing, one on the ground) last Saturday against Dean. PREDICTION: UMass Dartmouth 35, Framingham State 14

University of New England (1-1) at Alfred State (0-2) (Saturday, September 18 at 12 p.m.): The Nor’easters moved up our Top 20 Poll on Monday after rallying to beat Bridgewater State last Saturday. Look for the Blue and White’s early season momentum to continue on Saturday against the Pioneers. PREDICTION: UNE 24, Alfred State 14 

Amherst College (0-0) at Bates College (0-0) (Saturday, September 18 at 1 p.m.): Bates quarterback Brendan Costa is back for his final season with the Bobcats, who capped their 2019 season with back-to-back wins over Bowdoin College and Hamilton College. Bates enters the 2021 season with high hopes and optimism, along with a great deal of depth that should help them in their season-opener against the Mammoths. PREDICTION: Bates 21, Amherst 17 

Tufts University (0-0) at Trinity College (0-0) (Saturday, September 18 at 1:30 p.m.): Tufts wide receiver OJ Armstrong will be one of a few Jumbos to watch in this contest — this meeting between Tufts and Trinity is certainly an important one as both squads are expected to be in the mix for the conference crown. Keep your eyes on Trinity linebacker Brian Casagrande, who was named to our New England D-III Football Preseason Team. PREDICTION: Tufts 23, Trinity 21 

Salve Regina (2-0) at Montclair State (0-2) (Saturday, September 18 at 2 p.m.): The Red Hawks are looking for their initial win of the 2021 season — they almost beat RPI in their season-opener, but saw their two-touchdown lead disappear during the final session. They limited Delaware Valley to just 26 points last week, but will certainly have their hands full at stopping Joey Mauriello and the Seahawks offense, which found a way to score a hard fought win last Saturday against MIT. PREDICTION: Salve Regina 25, Montclair State 22

RPI (2-0) at WPI (1-1) (Saturday, September 18 at 2:30 p.m.): The RPI Engineers have been a fun team to watch this fall, winning a pair of dramatic victories against Montclair State and Stevenson University. Will their momentum continue against the Engineers of Worcester, who are looking to bounce back after losing to Endicott? The winner of this game will walk away with the Transit Trophy. PREDICTION: RPI 21, WPI 17  

Noontime’s D3 Football Teams To Watch Heading Into Week Three

Trinity College’s Seamus Lambert has the Bantams in position for another NESCAC crown. (PHOTO COURTESY: Trinity College Athletics)

By Matt Noonan

Another week of New England NCAA Division III football is quickly approaching, which means it is time to highlight five teams to watch this week (and yes, this weekend, too).

In case you missed it, make sure to check out this week’s Noontime Sports Top 20 New England D-III Poll, which found Western New England in the top spot followed by Endicott College (second) and UMass Dartmouth (third).

Middlebury College: The Panthers’ title defense officially begins this Saturday, September 18 when they visit Williams College in what might be the game of the weekend. 

A slew of players from the 2019 squad is back, including quarterback Will Jernigan, halfback LeeCharles McNeil, wide receiver Greg Livingston, and linebacker Jack Pistorius.

Of course, there are others, as well, along with 26 first-years that should help coach Bob Ritter’s squad contend for the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) crown. 

Two years ago, the Panthers scored an opening day win over the Ephs — the game was played in Vermont — but a win on Saturday would certainly be the ideal start for Middlebury’s title defense.  

Trinity College: Two years after producing just five wins, many, including myself, believe these Bantams will bounce back and be in the mix for the NESCAC crown this fall. 

Yet, for Trinity to begin its quest for its initial title since 2018, they must find a way to top — or outlast — Tufts University, which also enters the 2021 season with hopes of contending for a league title, too.

The Jumbos topped the Bantams in 2019 while Trinity beat Tufts, 38-24, on their home turf in 2018. 

Keep your eyes on quarterback Seamus Lambert, who was the 2018 Co-NESCAC Rookie of the Year, and linebacker Brian Casagrande, who led the Bantams in tackles during the 2019 season. 

Coast Guard Academy: After starting its season with a 16-0 victory over the University of New England, the Bears took a step back last Saturday, falling to Curry College by a score of 21-18.

Saturday’s clash against Nichols College will mark the Bears’ first home game in 672 days — crazy, right? — so scoring a win in New London would certainly help the team regain its week one momentum. 

The Bears defense has been a unit to watch thus far, limiting opponents to just 10.5 points per game, along with 297 yards of total offense.

Coast Guard’s defense will be tasked with slowing down an offense that is led by quarterback Logan Sawyer, who tossed three touchdowns last Saturday in the Bison’s come-from-behind win over Anna Maria College

A player to watch on Saturday is linebacker Connor Healy, who leads the Coast Guard defense with 20 total tackles, including 16 solo stops. He has also recorded one sack (for a loss of two yards), and one pass breakup this season. 

Anna Maria College: Credit is due to Dan Mulrooney’s AMCATs, who almost knocked Nichols College last Saturday in their 2021 season-opener. 

For most of last Saturday’s non-conference clash, Anna Maria was in control. However, they struggled to stop a Bison’s offense during the second half, which rallied to beat the AMCATs for a hard-fought win.  

While the setback might still sting (or be on the team’s mind?), Anna Maria proved they are a team to watch this fall, including this weekend in another non-conference clash with Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

From a quick look at last Saturday’s box score, Anna Maria finished the game with 353 total yards of offense, which was 23 yards more than Nichols. Additionally, quarterback Alex Cohen threw for a game-high 270 yards while Swavaughn Small paced the defense with nine total tackles, including eight solo stops and two tackles for a loss of seven yards. 

Husson University: The Eagles will host Dean College on Friday evening — both teams enter the non-conference clash with identical 1-1 records.

Husson enters the third week of the season as an interesting team to watch — sure, they could be 2-0, but the Eagles’ one-point advantage disappeared down the stretch against UMass Dartmouth in their season-opener. 

Last week, they needed a late touchdown drive to beat Plymouth State in a hard-fought — and yes, somewhat of a throwback — 10-7 win. 

A win over the Bulldogs is certainly possible, but the Eagles defense will need to slow down a passing attack led by quarterback David Curry, who has thrown 607 yards and eight touchdowns.

Husson’s Tucker Buzzell and Kaleb Caron will be players to watch on defense.