According to D3Football.com, Onujiogu is the only NCAA Division III student-athlete to ink his name on a contract with an NFL team.
The Wareham, Massachusetts native gained attention from the Houston Texans and New England Patriots following an impressive pro day workout earlier this year at Holy Cross. He also visited with the Patriots ahead of this year’s draft.
Onujiogu has been a staple of coach Tom Kelley’s defense since his initial season with the Rams in 2016. He registered 228 total tackles in 47 contests to go with 36 sacks, 67 tackles for a loss, and three forced fumbles.
Prior to his team’s initial NCAA postseason contest against Muhlenberg College, Onujiogu was named the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Defensive Player of the Year. He was also named to the New England Football Writers’ (NEFW) Division II/III All-New England team while securing a spot on the D3Football.com All-Region 1 squad.
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.
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 WesternConnecticut.
It’s hard to believe, but another season of New England NCAA Division III football has officially concluded — that was fast, eh?
Luckily, we still have plenty of end-of-season wrap-up content coming your way, so stay tuned for future posts and podcasts. But in the meantime, enjoy our end-of-season poll, which finds Williams College, Endicott College, and Framingham State in the top three spots.
1. Williams College (9-0, 9-0 NESCAC): The only New England team to finish without a setback, the Ephs concluded the 2021 season as the first team in program history to win nine games in a single season.
2. Endicott College (8-3, 5-1 CCC): Despite seeing its season conclude in the opening round of the 2021 NCAA Division III Tournament, the future is very bright for a squad that features a slew of rising seniors and juniors.
3. Framingham State (8-3, 6-0 MASCAC): The Rams were a pleasant surprise this fall, rebounding from an 0-2 start to win their third outright conference crown.
4. Trinity College (8-1, 8-1 NESCAC): The Bantams could be the “team to beat” next fall in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) after ending its season with back-to-back wins over Amherst College and Wesleyan University.
5. Western New England (7-4, 5-1 CCC): The Golden Bears may have ended with a difficult setback to the United States Merchant Marine Academy, but this team was resilient, especially after a midseason loss to Endicott College.
6. UMass Dartmouth (9-2, 6-2 MASCAC): The Corsairs matched their win total from 2003 by winning their final six contests, including their first-ever New England Bowl.
7. Husson University (7-3, 4-2 CCC): These Eagles provided a lot of challenges for non-conference and conference foes this fall.
8. Salve Regina University (8-2, 4-2): The 2021 Seahawks looked somewhat like the 2016 Seahawks that won eight games.
9. Springfield College (7-4, 6-0 NEWMAC): “The Brotherhood” bounced back from a 1-3 start with a six-game winning streak that resulted in a conference crown, along with an impressive showing against SUNY Cortland in the opening round of the postseason.
10. Bridgewater State (6-4, 6-2): The Bears concluded their season with a Cranberry Bowl win over Massachusetts Maritime Academy, which should provide the Red and White with some much-needed momentum heading into the offseason.
11. Anna Maria College (7-3, 5-1 ECFC): The AMCATs were a tremendous story this fall as they not only captured their initial conference crown but also competed in their first national postseason.
12. Wesleyan University (6-3, 6-3 NESCAC): These Cardinals provided a great deal of excitement with some dramatic come-from-behind wins this fall.
13. Castleton University (6-4, 4-2 ECFC): The Spartans were a fun team to watch down the stretch as they finished with six wins for the first time since posting an identical 6-4 record in 2017.
14. Plymouth State (5-5, 5-3 MASCAC): These Panthers were a team to watch during the second half of the season, especially mid-October.
15. MIT (5-4, 3-3 NEWMAC): Coach Brian Bubna’s squad ended its 2021 campaign with a much-needed win over the Engineers of WPI.
16. Amherst College (5-4, 5-4 NESCAC): These Mammoths exceeded our expectations and will certainly be a team to keep an eye on next fall.
17. University of New England (4-5, 2-4 CCC): The future is very bright for the Nor’easters, who concluded their season early this month with a dramatic win over Curry College.
18. Western Connecticut (5-5, 4-4 MASCAC): The Colonials head into the offseason with some momentum after ending its campaign with back-to-back wins over Fitchburg State and Worcester State.
19. Tufts University (4-5, 4-5 NESCAC): The Jumbos ended their season with a four-game winning streak – they were certainly competitive with some of the top teams in the NESCAC this fall.
20. Colby College (4-5, 4-5 NESCAC): The Mules concluded their season with the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin (CBB) crown.
Framingham State’s journey to the postseason: The Rams secured an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament by winning the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) — the Black and Gold won eight-straight league meetings this fall, including their last two against Bridgewater State (47-13) and Worcester State (40-21).
Muhlenberg’s last trip to the NCAA Tournament: The Mules concluded their 2019 campaign with a 13-1 record — their lone loss came in the national semifinals to North Central, which went onto beat Wisconsin-Whitewater in the national championship. The loss to Cardinals concluded an impressive run for the Muhlenberg seniors, who helped the Red and White win 41 of 49 contests to go with a pair of conference titles and trips to the NCAA quarterfinals.
This weekend, four teams, including two Massachusetts squads will compete in it as Western New England will host the United States Merchant Marine Academy while UMass Dartmouth will entertain Alfred State.
Both games will be played this Saturday, November 20 with kickoff times to be announced later this week.
Merchant Marine will look to capture its second New England Bowl in program history after beating Endicott College in 2018 by a score of 38-22.
The Mariners won eight of nine contests this season and finished second in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC). This week’s contest will mark the final game for coach Mike Toop, who announced he would be retiring at the conclusion of the 2021 season last Friday. Toop has paced the sidelines for 45 years, including the last 17 in Kings Point, New York.
Alfred State, UMass Dartmouth, and Western New England will all be making their inaugural appearance in the New England Bowl series – all three squads placed second in their respective conferences.
The New England Bowl series began in 2016 with Framingham State and Salve Regina University competing in the inaugural contest, and features teams from the NEWMAC, CommonwealthCoast Conference (CCC), Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC), and Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC).
Endicott, Dean College, WPI, and Western Connecticut were the last four teams to compete in the New England Bowl series in 2019.