Tag: D3 Football

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

Steve Croce Named The Next Head Coach of Anna Maria College Football

Steve Croce, who has over 30 years of experience coaching high school football in Connecticut, has been named the next head coach at Anna Maria College. (PHOTO COURTESY: Photo Peter Hvizdak/GametimeCT.com)

By Matt Noonan

A new era for the Anna Maria College football team officially began on the final day of January as Steve Croce was introduced as the fourth head coach in program history.

Croce, who was both an assistant coach and offensive coordinator with the AMCATs last season, takes over for Dan Mulrooney, who recently accepted the head coaching job with Lock Haven University.

“I am truly honored to assume the head coaching duties for this amazing team,” Croce said, via GoAMCATS.com.

Named the 2021 Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) Assistant Coach of the Year, Croce will oversee an AMCATs squad that enjoyed its best season in program history last fall, which included a league title and trip to the NCAA Division III postseason.

Croce, a former high school football coach in Connecticut, joined Mulrooney shortly after he was introduced as Anna Maria’s third head coach in December 2016. He has experience as both a head coach and offensive coordinator and has been a full-time firefighter in Waterbury, Connecticut for 30 years.

“Dan and the entire coaching staff built a close-knit football family at Anna Maria College … I will continue to expand on our winning formula as we move forward,” said Croce.  

Mulrooney Named The Next Head Coach At Lock Haven University

Dan Mulrooney, who coached Anna Maria College from 2016 to 2021, has been named the next head coach of Lock Haven University. (PHOTO COURTESY: Telegram & Gazette/Michelle Sheppard)

By NoontimeSports.com

Dan Mulrooney promised to start a “new culture” with the Anna Maria College football program when he was hired on December 14, 2016. And indeed, he did.

Mulrooney, a former defensive coordinator with WPI, guided the AMCATs to 11 wins in four seasons, along with its first-ever Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) title this past fall. Anna Maria competed in the NCAA Division III postseason for the first time in school history last November but saw its bid for a national title conclude with a 62-10 setback to Delaware Valley in the opening round.

Two months after Anna Maria’s best season in program history concluded, Mulrooney accepted the head coaching role with Lock Haven University, an NCAA Division II squad that posted a 1-10 record last fall.

Mulrooney replaces John Kelling, who was let go from the program last month.

“It is with great pride that I accept the head football coaching position at Lock Haven University … I am ready to build LHU football into a program with a championship culture. A culture that our entire university community, alumni, and our entire fanbase will be proud to support,” Mulrooney said, via GoLHU.com.

Mulrooney certainly transformed the Anna Maria program into a squad to watch, especially in his third season when the AMCATs concluded its 2019 campaign by matching the 2013 team with two wins. Anna Maria’s 2-3 conference record resulted in a four-way tie for third place.

Two years later, Anna Maria produced its most wins in program history with seven victories, including five league wins.

Following the conclusion of the 2021 season, Mulrooney was named the ECFC Coach of the Year, while Steve Croce was tabbed the league’s Assistant Coach of the Year.

Croce, who was the team’s offensive coordinator last fall, has been named the next head coach of the AMCATs.  

“It has been an honor of a lifetime to be able to serve as the head football coach at Anna Maria College. Thank you to President Retelle and the administration for giving me the opportunity and resources to lead and positively impact a great group of student-athletes,” Mulrooney said, via GoAMCATs.com.

Checking In On The D3 Football Coaching Carousel

Dan Swanstrom will be returning to the University of Pennsylvania after spending five seasons as the head coach at Ithaca College. (PHOTO COURTESY: University of Pennsylvania Athletics)

By Matt Noonan

The football coaching carousel never stops, especially in NCAA Division III.

As noted, both this morning and over the last few days by D3Football.com, three schools, including Ithaca College, will be looking for a new head coach to lead their respective program onto the gridiron this fall.

Dan Swanstrom, who guided the Bombers to 32 wins and 11 losses in five seasons, is returning to the University of Pennsylvania as the Quakers’ new offensive coordinator. His final day at Ithaca College is next Monday, January 31.

Penn head coach Ray Priore announced Swanstrom’s hiring on Monday and is excited to welcome back his former quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator that helped the Quakers share a pair of Ivy League crowns in 2015 and 2016.

“It’s great to have Dan rejoin the Penn Football Family after leading Ithaca to great success over the last years,” Priore said in a statement on Monday. “He returns with a tremendous work ethic, an incredible amount of football knowledge, and a passion for the game.”  

Swanstrom inherits a Penn offense that ranked last in the Ivy League in touchdowns (24) and points (191).

In his final season at Ithaca, the Bombers won eight of 10 contests, including five of six Liberty League (LL) matchups. Ithaca concluded its campaign with a heartbreaking defeat to SUNY Cortland in the 62nd meeting between the two schools last November.

According to D3Football.com, this year’s Cortaca Jug Game between Ithaca and SUNY Cortland will be played at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, November 12.

“I can’t put into words how special my time at Ithaca has been,” said Swanstrom, via D3Football.com. “I would like to thank the players, coaches, and fans for the cherished experiences and the meaningful relationships.”

Swanstrom isn’t the only one making a transition from Division III to Division I as it was announced yesterday that Chris Wilkerson, who guided the University of Chicago for the last nine seasons, has been named the new head coach at Eastern Illinois University.

Wilkerson, who is an Eastern Illinois alum, guided the Maroons to an 8-2 record last fall, including a 7-2 mark in the Midwest Conference. UChicago’s offense shattered numerous single-season records while halfback Nicholas D’Ambrose placed second in the nation with a school record of 1,714 rushing yards.

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve as the head football coach at UChicago for the past nine seasons,” said Wilkerson, via athletics.uchicago.edu. “I want to thank all the players and coaches for their commitment and passion for Maroon football.”

North Central will also have a new head coach — the school’s athletic director Jim Miller recently announced Brad Spencer will be taking over for Jeff Thorne, who recently accepted the offensive coordinator role with Western Michigan.

Thorne will reunite with Western Michigan coach Tim Lester as the two coached together at North Central under Jeff’s father John Thorne.

As the head coach of North Central, Jeff Thorne guided the Cardinals to the school’s first-ever championship in 2019. They fell short of winning their second title last month against the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.  

Other coaching changes/notes:

Player Perspective: Mark Cheffers (Catholic University Football)

Mark Cheffers, who played high school football in Massachusetts, has been a player to watch on Catholic University this fall. (PHOTO COURTESY: Catholic University Athletics)

By NoontimeSports.com

Mark Cheffers has been a player to watch this fall on the Catholic University football team.

The Winchendon, Massachusetts native has recorded career-bests in receptions (21), receiving yards (262), and yards per game (65.5) through four contests while recording a season-high eight catches for 93 yards in the Cardinals’ season-opening win against McDaniel College last month. He caught his first touchdown last Saturday against Christopher Newport University after tallying three catches for 44 yards in his team’s exciting win one week earlier over Endicott College.    

Cheffers currently leads the team with 21 receptions heading into this Saturday’s New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) clash with MIT and will certainly be a player to keep an eye on, both against the Engineers and later this fall.

We recently caught up with Cheffers, who played high school football at Saint John’s High School in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, to discuss his senior season, as well as what interested him in going to school outside of New England.

From your perspective, how has your senior season with the Cardinals gone thus far?

I am proud of the way we have taken the field this year – I love the energy in the locker room.

There is a lot to be excited about, but we have even more to improve upon. As we start our conference schedule this Saturday, I think we will begin to show who we really are (and that is exciting).

How has your game evolved from your initial season in 2018 to this fall? What sort of changes have you made to become the receiver/student-athlete you are today?

I was somewhat undersized coming into my first season with the Cardinals program, but I have grown and gotten stronger over the past few years. I may have slowed down – maybe not entirely since that initial season? – but I have used the past few years to study the game more so I can recognize certain coverages to understanding my routes better to create space between myself and the defender.

How will your team’s non-league matchups/performances last month help you (and the team) heading into conference play this weekend against MIT?

I think we have really tested ourselves this season.

We began with a scrimmage against Johns Hopkins University to playing some challenging foes, including Randolph-Macon College, which was previously ranked last week in the D3Football.com Top 25 poll. We also played Endicott College and Christopher Newport University, so all three matchups have certainly been a challenge, but in a great way.

Heading into our first NEWMAC game on Saturday, we have learned where we need to improve to be competitive, both against MIT and other teams we will face later this fall.

Being a Massachusetts native, what interested you in playing football outside the state/region?

I was not recruited to play football anywhere else, so I was interested in going to school outside of the New England region. Coach Mike Gutelius made it clear that he wanted me on this team during the recruiting process, so I saw it as an opportunity to play football for the Cardinals, as well as gain new experiences in Washington D.C.

Sticking with the Massachusetts theme, how often are you checking-in on St. John’s Shrewsbury football program?

All the time. I had a great time playing for the Pioneers’ program and winning a state championship in 2017 against North Attleborough. I saw they just moved to a very tough conference, so I wish them luck this evening against Malden Catholic.

Tell me about your major. How did you choose it and what do you hope to do with it beyond graduation next spring?

There were quite a few majors that interested me, but in the end, I elected to pursue a degree that is allowing me to concentrate on sales and entrepreneurship – the professors have been incredible and super-helpful to me, so I am glad I elected to pursue this concentration.

Finally – and I know graduation is months away! – but do you see yourself staying involved with football after your final game with the Cardinals this fall?

I have a hard time admitting that this is my last season, but I am trying to enjoy every moment. I want to continue to be involved in this game in some capacity as it has helped shape me into who I am today. I would love to coach in the future.