Tag: Dan Mulrooney

Five New England College Football Teams to Watch In Week Two

Lorenzo Valencia and the Assumption University defense will be a unit to watch this week against Merrimack College. (PHOTO COURTESY: Gil Talbot/Assumption Athletics)

By Matt Noonan

The second week of the New England college football season technically began Sunday, but before we kick off another busy weekend of games, how about we highlight five teams fans should watch (or keep an eye on) this week?

Like we did last year, we will be highlighting five teams from the New England region that fans should keep an eye on every week. This year, we will include all three divisions, not just NCAA Division III teams, and schools.

So, without further ado, here are five teams I’ll be watching on Friday and Saturday.

Anna Maria College (0-0, 0-0 ECFC): When we last saw the AMCATs on the gridiron, their exciting season concluded in the opening round of the NCAA Division III Tournament.

Anna Maria enjoyed its best season in program history last fall, winning its first-ever Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) crown while also setting a program record for wins in a single season: seven.

As expected, the AMCATs were picked to win the conference crown again this season, but face a challenging non-conference slate, which begins with a home date this Saturday with the UMass Dartmouth Corsairs. Neither team has met before on the gridiron, but this will certainly be a good measuring stick for Steve Croce, who begins his first season as the program’s head coach.

Croce was named the fourth head coach in program history, succeeding Dan Mulrooney, who stepped down earlier this year to accept the head coaching role with Lock Haven University.

Assumption University (1-0, 0-0 NE10): They say defense win championships.

Last Saturday, the Greyhounds’ defense shined in their season-opener, helping the Greyhounds score an impressive 3-0 win over Kutztown University, which entered last week’s tilt as the 13th best team in NCAA Division II.

Assumption’s defense concluded the game with three interceptions and five sacks.

Jael Feliz led the Greyhounds’ defense with 12 total tackles, including nine solo stops and two-and-a-half tackles for a loss of 10 yards. Lorenzo Valencia, who was named the Northeast-10 (NE10) Conference Defensive Player of the Week, chipped in eight total tackles, including four solo stops and two tackles for a loss of 22 yards.

Larsen Wilson led the team with two interceptions while Isaiah Huff recorded two solo stops, three pass breakups, and one interception.

Assumption’s defense will be a unit to watch on Friday evening when they visit Merrimack College.

Holy Cross (1-0, 0-0 Patriot League): The Crusaders scored their initial win of the 2022 season last Friday by defeating Merrimack, 31-17.  

This week, the Crusaders face an early-season test against the Buffalo Bulls, a Football Bowl Subdivision squad that dropped its season-opener on Saturday to Maryland.

Buffalo and Holy Cross have not met since 1970 – additionally, the Crusaders’ last win against the Bulls came in 1963.

Holy Cross currently leads the all-time series, 6-3-1, but is 2-3 against the Bulls in Buffalo.

A win over the Bulls would certainly provide the Purple and White with some additional momentum heading into its Homecoming contest next Saturday with Yale University.

Coach Bob Chesney’s squad scored a win over an FBS squad last season when they defeated Connecticut by a score of 38-28.

Quarterback Matthew Sluka will be a player to watch against the Bison after being named this week’s Golden Helmet Award by the New England Football Writers.

Saint Anselm College (1-0, 0-0 NE10): Quarterback Drew Willoughby was the player to watch last Thursday as the Austin, Texas native led the Hawks to an exciting opening day win over Millersville University.

The Hawks’ 18-point win provided the program with its first win in the opening week since 2014, along with its most recent victory against a member of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) since 2012.

Willoughby finished his team’s season-opener with 30 completions and 349 passing yards. He connected with three different receivers for touchdowns and became the seventh signal-caller in program history to reach 3,000 career passing yards.

For his effort, he was named the NE10 Offensive Players of the Week and earned the D-II/D-III Golden Helmet Award from the New England Football Writers.

Willoughby will again be a player to watch on Saturday when they host American International College (AIC).

Springfield College (1-0, 0-0 NEWMAC): It was an impressive start for the Pride last Friday night against Western New England.

Six players rushed for a touchdown while the offense concluded the non-conference meeting with 506 yards of total offense.

The team’s impressive ground game led to the entire offensive line – Lou Cocozza, Cam Borges, Vinny Ruggiero, Jon Weber, and Chris Eichler – being named to this week’s D3Football.com Team of the Week.

While it’s only one game, this Springfield team looked pretty good – their momentum will be tested against Rowan University on Saturday.

Like Springfield, Rowan enjoyed a successful debut by defeating Widener University, 42-20.

Rowan lost to Springfield last fall – the Profs defense struggled to contain the Pride’s rushing attack, which was led by Tim Callahan (151 rushing yards and three touchdowns) and Patrick Ladas (115 rushing yards and one touchdown).

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.

The 2021 New England College Football Season Was Worth The Wait

Matthew Sluka and the Holy Cross football team concluded its 2021 campaign with 10 wins, along with a trip to the NCAA FCS Tournament. (PHOTO COURTESY: Mark Seliger Photography/Courtesy of Holy Cross Athletics)

By Matt Noonan

Another season of New England college football — and yes, preps and high schools, too — are slowly ending. But the 2021 season is still on my mind.

After not seeing so many local teams compete last fall due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was an amazing feeling to pace the sidelines these last few months and watch numerous student-athletes compete on the gridiron.

The 2021 New England football season will be one we will all remember — in my opinion, it was worth the wait. (And you can revisit some of our favorite memories from the sidelines by watching our end-of-season highlights on YouTube!).

There were some of the “usual suspects” that either won or were in the mix for their respective conference title to some new teams, especially in NCAA Division III that deserve our attention going forward.

Before we officially say so long and farewell to a fun season of coverage, allow me to revisit a few stories that I certainly will remember from this season.

  • Holy Cross not only won its third-straight Patriot League title, including two in the same year, thanks to a shortened spring season to go with their first postseason victory in program history. And despite losing on Friday in the second round of the NCAA FCS playoffs to the University of Villanova, the future is very bright for coach Bob Chesney’s squad.  
  • Harvard University captured their 137th meeting with Yale University last month, thanks to a game-winning touchdown pass from Luke Emge to Kym Wimberly. The 34-31 victory by the Crimson clinched their first eight-win season since 2015. 

  • Sacred Heart University made its second-straight appearance in the NCAA FCS Tournament, but came up short to Holy Cross, which edged the Pioneers in the opening round by a score of 13-10. The Red and White will graduate some key pieces from this year’s squad, but will attempt to win their third-straight Northeast Conference crown next fall.

  • Bentley University and the University of New Haven were two teams to watch in New England NCAA Division II.

    Both teams met twice last month, including in the opening round of the NCAA Division II Tournament. Two weeks earlier, the Falcons and Chargers squared-off in an early November contest with New Haven not only winning the game, but also securing their first Northeast-10 Conference (NE10) crown since 2012.

    The Chargers lost to Kutztown University last weekend in the second round of the playoffs, but they will certainly be a team to watch next season — the same could be said for the Falcons.

  • Bentley’s Stephen Sturm was one of a few NE10 signal-callers to watch this fall as he concluded the season with a league-high 23 touchdown passes.

    Saint Anselm’s Drew Willoughby, who was named the league’s Rookie of the Year, threw for a league-high 2,803 passing yards to go with 22 touchdowns. He averaged 311.4 passing yards per game.

  • Anna Maria College won its first-ever Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) title with seven wins, which is the most victories any AMCATs squad has recorded in a single season. And despite losing to Delaware Valley in the opening round of the NCAA Division III Tournament, coach Dan Mulrooney’s squad will certainly be a team to watch next fall, both in and outside of the ECFC.

  • The 2021 Williams College football team made history by becoming the first squad to win nine games in a single season.

    The Ephs capped their campaign with three impressive wins over Amherst College (24-19), Trinity College (42-3), and Wesleyan University (25-0) to clinch a 9-0 record, their first perfect season since 2010.

  • Colby College could be a team to watch next fall as they matched their 2013 squad with four wins.

    The Mules captured their second-straight Colby-Bates-Bowdoin (CBB) crown with a pair of victories over Bates College (10-2) and Bowdoin College (21-10).  

  • Tom Kelley and the Framingham State University football team won their third-straight Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) crown outright. The Rams concluded their season with an 8-3 overall record for the third consecutive season, as well as posted a perfect 8-0 league mark for the second-straight year.

    The Rams will continue to be the team to watch (and yes, follow) in 2022, but will certainly be challenged by a slew of teams in the MASCAC.

  • Endicott College captured its first conference crown since 2013, as well as hosted its first-ever NCAA playoff game.

    Coach Paul McGonagle’s Gulls will certainly be a team to watch next fall — the Green and White are young and will return a slew of talent from this year’s squad on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Mike Ingraffia and wide receiver Shane Aylward.

  • After starting its season with a 1-3 record, Springfield College bounced back with six-straight wins to capture its second New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) crown. The Pride ended their season with three important wins against Catholic University (28-14), MIT (17-7), and the United States Merchant Marine Academy (28-23).

  • NCAA D-III Football Teams to Watch in 2022: Bridgewater State, Husson University, Salve Regina University, Plymouth State, Trinity College, Tufts University,  UMass Dartmouth, University of New England, and Western Connecticut.

Four New England D3 Football Teams Are Headed To The NCAA Tournament

Endicott College will make its first appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament this week since 2013. (PHOTO COURTESY: Tammy McManaway Sports Photography)

By Matt Noonan

In just a few hours, we will learn the opening round matchups of the 2021 NCAA Division III Tournament with four New England teams scheduled to compete in the opening round.

One of the four teams — Framingham State — is making its third-straight trip to the national postseason while the other three, including Endicott College, are making their first appearance in a few seasons.

Let’s highlight the four local teams that will be competing in the national postseason, as well as how things played out in their previous appearances.

Anna Maria College (7-2, 5-1 ECFC): Coach Dan Mulrooney and his AMCATs made history this fall by winning their first-ever Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) title on Saturday with a 31-7 victory over SUNY-Maritime. The win snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Privateers, dating back to Anna Maria’s first season as a varsity program, but this particular trip will be the team’s initial appearance in the national tournament.

Endicott College (8-2, 5-1 CCC): Saturday’s 37-3 victory over Nichols College provided the Gulls with their first conference crown since 2013 when they beat Salve Regina in the New England Football Conference (NEFC) championship game. Endicott secured a matchup with Rowan University but saw their second trip to the playoffs conclude in the opening round with a 24-0 setback. The Gulls’ initial trip to the national tournament came in 2010 — they lost to SUNY Cortland by a score of 49-35 after edging Maine Maritime Academy in the NEFC Championship one week earlier.

In addition to two trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Gulls have appeared in four bowl games, winning a pair of ECAC North Atlantic bowls against Mount Ida College and Norwich University, along with two appearances in the New England Bowl (beat Dean College in 2019, lost to the United States Merchant Marine Academy in 2018).

Framingham State (8-2, 8-0 MASCAC): The Rams are heading back to the postseason for the third consecutive season after winning eight Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) matchups this fall.

Framingham State is seeking its initial postseason win — the Black and Gold have competed in the national tournament five times in the last nine years. They made their first appearance in 2012 after beating Salve Regina in the New England Football Conference championship — Framingham State lost to SUNY Cortland by a score of 20-19.

In addition to competing in the NCAA Tournament, coach Tom Kelley‘s Rams have won two New England Bowls in 2016 and 2017 to go with a pair of ECAC Bowl games.

Springfield College (7-3, 6-0 NEWMAC): The Pride punched their ticket to the postseason with a 28-14 victory on Saturday over Catholic University.

Springfield will represent the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) in the postseason for the second time in program history — they captured the conference crown in 2017 with a 10-0 overall record but lost their opening-round matchup to Husson University.

The Pride’s initial appearance in the national postseason came in 1998 when coach Mike DeLong‘s squad lost its opening-round contest to Buffalo State by a score of 38-35. They would return two years later, winning back-to-back contests against Montclair State (first round) and Brockport (second round) before losing to Widener University in the NCAA East Regional Final.

Springfield’s 2000 postseason run was the furthest any Pride team would advance in the national tournament — they did advance to the second round in 2006 but lost to St. John Fisher by a score of 27-21. One round earlier, Springfield rolled past Curry College, 42-14.