D3 Football: Maher, Johnston Secure Spots On AFCA Division III Coaches’ All-America Teams

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Framingham State’s Jacob Maher concluded his initial season with the Rams as an AFCA Division III Coaches’ All-America First Teamer. (PHOTO COURTESY: Frank Poulin/Framingham State Athletics)

By Matt Noonan | @NoontimeNation

A pair of New England D-III Football student-athletes were recently named to the 2019 American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) All-America Teams.

Jacob Maher of Framingham State secured a spot on the first team, while Kyle Johnston of Massachusetts Maritime Academy earned a spot on the second team.

Maher wrapped up his first and final season of college football with the Rams this fall by catching a team-high 56 receptions for 819 yards and eight touchdowns. The senior tight end from Marshfield, Massachusetts averaged 5.1 receptions and 74.5 yards per contest. He caught a season-high three touchdowns in his team’s 39-33 win over UMass Dartmouth in October before hauling in two touchdowns in his team’s regular-season finale against Worcester State.

Prior to earning an end of season honor from the AFCA, Maher earned and All-Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) first-team honor and a spot on the New England Football Writers (NEFW) Division II/III team.

Johnston, who also appeared on the NEFW D-II/III team, enjoyed his best season with the Buccaneers by recording a career-best 57.0 total tackles, including 37 solo stops and 20 assists in 10 contests. The defensive lineman from Raynham, Massachusetts tallied career-highs in sacks (12.5), tackles for a loss (19.5), and forced fumbles (three) in 10 games this fall and was also named to the All-MASCAC first team. 

In four seasons with the Buccaneers, Johnston tallied 164.0 total tackles, including 121 solo stops to go along with 49.5 tackles for a loss and 25.5 sacks. He also recorded eight forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and seven pass breakups, including three last season.

Player Perspective: Stephen Gacioch (UMass Dartmouth)

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Stephen Gacioch recorded three touchdowns in his team’s 21-14 win over Plymouth State University to bump UMass Dartmouth’s record to 4-0. (PHOTO COURTESY: UMass Dartmouth Athletics)

By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeSports 

Stephen Gacioch has enjoyed a successful start to his junior season with the UMass Dartmouth football team.

Through four contests, the Tiverton, Rhode Island native has completed 91 of 143 passes for 1,344 yards and 15 touchdowns, while adding 185 yards on 63 rushing attempts and one score.

Earlier this week, Gacioch was tabbed our Offensive Player of the Week – he was also awarded his second Division II/III Gold Helmet Award of the season from the New England Football Writers Association after leading the Corsairs to a 21-14 win last weekend against Plymouth State.

Gacicoch is currently second in Division III in passing yards and is tied for third in touchdown passes with Blaine Hawkins of Central College.

Noontime Sports recently spoke with Gacioch about his team’s impressive start, as well as what he and the team must do this week when they visit Framingham State on Saturday, October 5th.

Your team is off to a 4-0 start. Did you imagine your team would enjoy this much success when you all convened prior to your first game against Alfred State?

Prior to (facing) Alfred State (in week one), we had a feeling that things were different this year. There was a focus and intensity that was buzzing throughout camp, and every day we were making each other better. We knew if we played each game with high intensity, make no mental mistakes, and stayed disciplined that we had the talent to start the way we have (thus far).

From your perspective, what has made this offense click?

We’re a close-knit group. We have a lot of returners at the receiver position and we have four unselfish running backs that rotate and maintain fresh legs throughout the game.

Our offensive line has done a great job of being versatile and overcoming many different situations we’ve been in this year. We like to spread the ball around and give everyone their opportunities to make a play and we thrive off that as a group.

How has the defense, which has allowed just 18.0 points per game, helped the offense during practice?

Our defense does a great job. Playing against them in camp every day was the hardest challenge we’ve faced – the offense became much better because of (facing this unit every day).

Our scout guys right now are doing an amazing job giving us different looks at practice to prepare us every week for a new opponent.

How has your relationship with DJ Machado and Leroy Brown improved from last season to this season?

This year they both came to camp ready to play. They have instilled so much trust in me that there are times when I know pre-snap who the ball should go to based on matchups or defensive alignments.

DJ and Leroy have done an awesome job at winning their routes and I trust them to make the plays.

This week, your team faces Framingham State in an important conference contest. What must the offense do to be successful against the Rams defense?

As an offense, we must win the 12% rule, which is to now allow sacks, drops,  turnovers or foolish penalties. And if we can execute the game plan then we’ll be successful.

Lastly, what do you enjoy most about playing on the road? Do you get a different adrenaline boost being away from your home stadium?

I personally like the feeling of having something to prove. Whenever we’re on the road there are people who doubt us and it gives a little extra adrenaline every-time we’re on the field.

Player Perspective: Jacob Burke (Norwich University) On Saturday’s Game Against Coast Guard Academy

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Jacob Burke (45) and the Norwich University football team look to continue their winning ways on Saturday against Coast Guard Academy. (PHOTO COURTESY: Norwich University Athletics)

By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeSports 

Saturday will be an exciting day at Norwich University.

The campus will be celebrating the institution’s 200th anniversary and will host Coast Guard Academy in a must-see, must-watch New England Division III football game, which is scheduled to commence at 2:00 p.m. (eastern time).

Both Coast Guard Academy and Norwich enter Saturday’s clash with identical 2-0 records and know a win would keep them atop the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) standings, as well as possibly tied with WPI, which also enters the third week with the same record.

One of the players that certainly hopes to continue the Cadets’ recent momentum is Jacob Burke. The senior linebacker, who has tallied 14 total tackles this fall, is hoping to help the Cadets snap a two-game losing streak to the Bears since the rivalry resumed in 2017.

Noontime Sports caught-up with Burke to discuss Saturday’s game against the Bears, as well as what he enjoys most about being a part of this rivalry.

What makes this game (and rivalry) so special and unique from your perspective?  

This game (and) rivalry are extremely special and unique because it is steeped in tradition. This year is especially important for a number of reasons.

This year, both teams are 2-0 and have a chance to start the season 3-0 and move into first place in the conference.

2019 marks Norwich’s Bicentennial and it is a privilege to be able to be a part of this game during homecoming (and) alumni weekend.

The winner of Norwich-Coast Guard also is awarded ‘The Mug,’ too, which is arguably the most important trophy to win throughout the season.

Finally, this is not just any college football game. This rivalry is known as the ‘Little Army-Navy Game’ and the name speaks for itself.  The singing of each team’s alma mater after the game concludes is the culmination of a very special college football Saturday.

This game is second to none and it is an honor to be involved with such a storied tradition.

What are a few memories you have from playing in this contest? 

My two most influential memories about this game include the excitement and anticipation during the week of this game last year. The week was more intense, and the entire program was more focused. The same can be said for this year, too.

My second memory of this game was losing on the final play to the Bears last year. That is a feeling you never want to repeat and that is exactly what our program promised each other.

What is the build-up to this game like on campus? Do people talk about this game outside the practice field?  

The build-up to this game is always exciting. Considering it is (our) alumni/homecoming weekend, the campus is quickly filling up and the buzz around the school is extremely high. Professors and peers are (also) there to support the team, too.

When preparing for this contest, does it have a different feel than other weeks of the season? 

We prepare for this week just like any other week. However, everyone in the program understands just how important this game is and how much this rivalry means so this week is more intense.

The team remains really focused despite all the distractions which allow us to prepare well.

What must your team do to be successful/score a win on Saturday? 

We must play together and stick together throughout the game. We must limit mistakes and be ready to adjust on the fly while still being able to play fast and tough. We can’t beat ourselves.

What do you imagine this year’s game day atmosphere to be like? Do you anticipate a big crowd? 

The game-day atmosphere is going to be awesome. The school expects a huge crowd so extra seating has been placed around Sabine Field. The entire team is looking forward to a crazy and loud atmosphere on Saturday.

D3 Football: Senior Leadership Has MIT Primed For A Successful 2019 Season

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Members of the MIT offensive and defensive line go head-to-head during a situational drill at last Wednesday’s practice. (PHOTO: Matt Noonan/NoontimeSports)

By Matt Noonan | @MattyNoonz11

It was an ideal ending to a mid-week practice for the MIT football team: a long touchdown pass down the far seam that ignited a celebration that would continue following a few words from second-year coach Brian Bubna.

Players departed the field with smiles on their faces – there were even sounds of laughter and high-fives, too.

MIT appeared ready and eager to translate their hard work from this particular preseason practice to a game, which they will have the opportunity to do this Saturday, September 7th when the Engineers welcome Carnegie Mellon to the Cambridge, Massachusetts campus for a 12 p.m. kick-off.

The Engineers enter the 2019 season as a team to watch in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) after capturing their first-ever league title one year ago but do have some holes to fill from last year’s senior class. But that doesn’t seem to faze this year’s seniors, especially the squad’s four captains, who credit both last year and prior senior classes for teaching them what they must do to help both their classmates and underclassmen continue the program’s previous success.

“It starts with leading by example while also making sure that every one that is younger than us knows what it takes to compete at an elite level and they can follow the lead,” said linebacker Sam Cantrell, who is one of 18 seniors on this year’s MIT football team.

Cantrell says both the offense and defense have competed at an “elite level” throughout the preseason, but have also exhibited a great deal of energy, too, which should translate into some impressive plays this fall by both upperclassmen and first-year players. 

“We bring it on both sides of the ball,” said Cantrell, who finished tied for second on the team last fall with 52 total tackles.

“We strive to be the best on both sides of the ball, so really competing with each other and holding each other to a higher standard is the biggest thing from last year to this year.”

Senior Ben Bennington, who plays defensive line for the Engineers, agreed with his classmate and defensive counterpart, but also added that both the freshmen and sophomore classes have stepped-up and improved since the squad’s initial practice last month.

Said Bennington, “The freshmen and sophomore classes have really stepped up. (They are) playing faster now and everyone has picked-up where they’re supposed to be or where they’re supposed to be going (from studying our plays) and everyone is flying around (out there).”

MIT’s roster features 22 first-year players and 24 sophomores – all 46 student-athletes will certainly be asked to help the team this fall as they attempt to defend their conference crown.

But no matter if its a first-year or a senior, halfback John Robertson just seems excited to compete with his teammates this fall and continue the program’s recent tradition of competing every day in practice, while “playing for each other.”

“With turnover (every year) there is kind of an identity that is up to the senior class each year, and I think this year we’re really trying to play for each other,” said Robertson.

“We’re trying to play in-between the whistles, go after these guys – (our defense, to be exact) – right here, and then tap each other each play.”


Stay connected with our New England Football coverage on Twitter by following @Noontime_FB.

Mass. High Schools: Belmont Football 2019 Season Preview

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The Belmont Marauders seem optimistic about their 2019 campaign with hopes of returning to the MIAA D3 North playoffs and going a bit further than last year. (PHOTO: Matt Noonan/NoontimeSports.com)

By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeSports 

Coach Yann Kumin seems content about his team’s preseason practices thus far.

“It’s been a good preseason so far,” said Kumin, who is excited to coach the Belmont Marauders this fall.

Kumin’s crew mustered just three wins in seven regular-season contests last fall but still managed to secure a spot in the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) Division 3 North playoffs. Belmont fell to Danvers in the quarterfinals but erased memories of their postseason setback to the Falcons with a thrilling come-from-behind Thanksgiving Day win over Watertown.

Perhaps their exciting win against the Raiders is a sign of things to come this fall for a Marauders squad that returns a slew of talent on both sides of the ball, especially at wide receiver.

According to Kumin, this year’s wide receivers are “probably one of the more talented” groups he has coached since being named the sideline boss of the Marauders prior to the 2014 season.

Additionally, Kumin is excited for his defense, too – he and his staff welcomed back a slew of talent at the skill positions, but currently, the coaching staff is trying to find replacements for the four seniors that were spotted up-front one year ago.

“We’ve got to fill those gaps up-front,” said Kumin, “and those big guys are the ones that motor the team and make the offense go and make the defense stout, so that has been our focus of camp to get that unit operating and working at the level we want it.”

 

Whoever is spotted up-front on defense will certainly need to be extra prepared as Belmont competes against some of the state’s best talent in the Middlesex League, a conference Kumin considers one of the “best leagues in the state.”

Said Kumin, “I love being a Middlesex League coach. I was a defensive coordinator with Stoneham, so I got an early taste (of the league) there, (but) you have to play your best game week-to-week in the league in order to win. So, that’s kind of our focus in these first two weeks and the scrimmage weeks is quality of execution. That is something that is really important to us, going out and getting quality reps and execution (while) staying out of negative plays.”

For Belmont to enjoy a successful season, they will need to lean on their five captains, Avery Arno (quarterback), Ryan Santoro (fullback/inside linebacker), Justin Rocha (cornerback/wide receiver), Zachary Hubbard (wide receiver), and Ryan Hoffman (center/interior tackle) to guide the squad, both in and outside conference play.

Kumin spoke highly of his five captains prior to Monday’s practice – he considers them all great leaders for the program.

“We take leadership really seriously in this program,” said Kumin. “One of the things we say is that being a captain and leadership, in general, is the first to serve and the last to be served … all five of (our captains) have been primed and taught by the guys who came before them and that is what the mantle of leadership and responsibility means in this program.”

Additionally, Kumin commended his other seniors and upperclassmen for their leadership and commitment to the program. “I have always kind of had that here (in Belmont) – I am really lucky to have it,” he said.

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