Noontime’s ‘What If’ D3 Football Conference Champion Predictions

Bobby Maimaron and the Williams College football team would have been one of our teams to watch this fall. (PHOTO COURTESY: Kris Dufour/Williams College)

By Matt Noonan

Like many of our fans and friends, I miss New England D-III football. But as an optimist, I believe we’ll see our favorite teams and student-athletes back on the gridiron at this time next year vying for conference crowns, along with at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament.

And speaking of conference crowns – and yes, the national postseason, too – I thought it would be fun to produce a special Noontime’s ‘What If‘ post on which teams I believe would have won their respective conference this fall.

As expected, these predictions were not easy as there are a slew of teams and programs capable of winning their respective conference, but here are my predictions. And as usual, you can share your thoughts with me on social media, as well as send a note to MattNoonan@noontimesports.com.

Commonwealth Coast Football (CCC): Western New England

For the past few seasons, the Golden Bears have been the team to watch and beat in this conference. And once again, Western New England would be the squad to watch in the CCC this fall. They would most likely enter their final game of the regular season with two important wins against Endicott College and Salve Regina University. And like most teams highlighted in this post, the 2020 Golden Bears would look a bit different than previous years, especially on offense as they would have a new quarterback, but their defense would be be a unit to watch – it would be led by linebacker Erich Keutmann, who was named a D3Football.com Preseason All-America second-teamer in September.

Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC): Dean College

The Bulldogs captured their first-ever conference crown last season, thanks to quarterback Terrell Watts, who was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Year, along with wide receiver Errol Breaux and safety Tyzohn Poole. Of course, there would be other student-athletes to watch as the season progressed, but at this point of the 2020 season, the Bulldogs would have claimed some important wins against Castleton University and SUNY Maritime. They would have also beaten a new D-III football team: Keystone College.

Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC): Framingham State University

Like Western New England, it is hard to pick against the Rams, which would be starting a new chapter in its program history with first-year coach Aynsley Rosenbaum, who spent the past 12 seasons overseeing the Framingham State offense. But like prior years, this would be the team to watch in the MASCAC. Sure, they would look a bit different on offense without quarterback Adam Wojenski, who graduated last spring, but the Rams would welcome back some key pieces from that unit, including halfback Devaun Ford, who was named the 2019 MASCAC Rookie of the Year. Framingham State would be challenged for the top spot by Bridgewater State, UMass Dartmouth, and Western Connecticut.

New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC): Williams College

The Ephs of Williams College suffered just two setbacks last season, including an opening day loss to Middlebury College, which would be a game circled on their calendar this season. Williams would somehow find a way to beat the Panthers at home, along with Wesleyan University, which tripped up the Ephs prior to their season-ending win over Amherst College last November. But for the Ephs to win the NESCAC, they would not only need to beat Amherst, Middlebury, and Wesleyan, but also Trinity College and Tufts University. Additionally, let’s not overlook Colby College and Hamilton College, which would challenge the Purple and Yellow, but in the end, quarterback Bobby Maimaron, along with the rest of the Ephs would make just a few more plays in all nine contests to secure the NESCAC title.

New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC): Springfield College

Sure, MIT maybe the favorite after winning the NEWMAC crown the past two years, but it would be hard to overlook Springfield College, which would be led by halfback Hunter Belzo and linebacker AJ Smith. The Pride, which finished with six wins last year, would win at least seven, maybe eight games this season, but their most important victory would occur during the final weekend of the regular season against the Engineers in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Early Preseason Outlook: Springfield College Pride

Springfield Pride

By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeSports 

Our ‘Early Preseason Outlook’ coverage continues with a closer look at the Springfield College Pride, who begin their season on Saturday, September 7th when they visit Western New England at 1 p.m. The winner of this week one clash will claim Pynchon SAW trophy.

The Pride’s 2018 Season: Springfield concluded ist 2018 campaign with an 8-3 record, along with its first-ever New England Bowl victory, too.

The Pride’s win over Maritime (N.Y.) in the New England Bowl was highlighted by a pair of rushing touchdowns by Hunter Belzo, three interceptions by Jonny Bianchi and a team-hight 12 total tackles from Nick Giorgio.

Prior to scoring an exciting end of season win, Springfield scored early-season victories against Western New England and Kean University, as well as a gritty conference victory at WPI.

Springfield bid farewell to 24 student-athletes from last year’s squad this spring, including Bianchi, Giorgio, and linebacker Tom Casey, but do return a slew of talent that will keep them in the mix for their second New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) championship this season.

The 2019 Outlook: While the Pride’s defense will look a bit different this season with some key graduation losses, the unit does return linebacker AJ Smith, who posted career-highs last fall in total tackles (68.0), tackles per game (6.2), sacks (four), and tackles for a loss (nine).

Smith, along Jack Pavelchak (linebacker) and Grayson Heyward (defensive line), will be the leaders of the defense, which yielded 16.3 points per game one year ago.

Quarterback Chad Shade and halfback Hunter Belzo will be the focal points of the Pride’s offense – the duo combined for 23 touchdowns last season and should receive some help fullback Tim Callahan, who finished 2018 with 642 rushing yards on 146 carries and three scores.

Nick Bainter returns to anchor an offensive line that helped the offense rush for 295.2 yards per game last fall. Bainter will receive some help upfront from Jeremy Lipsky, who appeared in 10 games last season, along with John Cox.

Springfield is certainly a team to watch this season – they will definitely contend for the NEWMAC crown – but one of the biggest questions facing this unit is their defense. The offense should have no problem continuing its success on the ground from one year ago.

Springfield’s Schedule: As usual, the Pride will challenge themselves immediately with a trio of non-conference games in the first three weeks before hosting WPI on Saturday, September 28th for a 3 p.m. kick-off. All four September contests are winnable, but they certainly aren’t easy.

A week three match-up with Union College is one to circle – the Pride lost to the Dutchmen last season before rebounding one week later with a hard-fought conference win over WPI.

Springfield will entertain Norwich University in the first week of October before hitting the road for two more important conference meetings with Coast Guard Academy and Merchant Marine.

Weeks after their visit to Merchant Marine, the Pride will cap their 2019 campaign with a visit from MIT, which defeated Springfield last fall to secure their initial NEWMAC crown.

Players to Watch: Chad Shade (Quarterback/Pittsfield, Mass.), Hunter Belzo (Halfback/Middletown, Conn.), Tim Callahan (Fullback/Enfield, Conn.), Ryan Deguire (Halfback/Schenectady, N.Y.), Nick Bainter (Offensive Line/East Bridgewater, Mass.), Jeremy Lipsky (Offensive Line/Glen Rock, N.J),  John Cox (Offensive Line/Stratford, Conn.), AJ Smith (Linebacker/Rahway, N.J.), Jack Pavelchak (Linebacker/Patchogue, N.Y.), and Grayson Heyward (Defensive End/Albany, N.Y.).


Stay connected with Noontime Sports’ football coverage on Twitter by following @Noontime_FB.

Noonan: What Quarterbacks Could Have An Impact This Saturday?

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Western New England’s Alec Coleman is just one of many D3 quarterbacks that can lead offenses with both his arm and legs. (PHOTO COURTESY: Chris Marion)

By Matt Noonan | @MattNoonan11

Last week, a majority of New England’s D3 quarterbacks were forced to tuck and run – you can thank Mother Nature for last week’s ground and pound attack.

Sure, the weather may have been a factor for some offensive game plans, but watching quarterbacks lead teams down the field this fall with both their arms and legs seems to be the new norm for a position that used to be all about throwing touchdowns or fades.

And with a very important week approaching for some teams, one should expect to see their favorite school’s quarterbacks once again utilize both their arms and legs in must-win contests.

One of those quarterbacks that can pass and run is Alec Coleman of Western New England, who has scored 16 touchdowns in his last three contests, including nine scores on the ground.

Last week against Nichols College, Coleman helped the Bears erase a one-score deficit by finishing the game with five touchdowns, including four on the ground (Coleman’s four rushing scores matched a season-high, which he set one week earlier during his team’s 70-13 win over the University of New England).

Coleman began catching our attention for his passing and rushing abilities last month when he guided his team to impressive wins against Anna Maria College and Salve Regina.

Through eight games this season, Coleman has accounted for 28 touchdowns, including a team-high 13 scores on the ground. He currently leads the Golden Bears’ rushing attack with 652 yards and should certainly enjoy more success this weekend against Endicott College.

Watching the Endicott defense attempt to slow down Coleman will be one of many storylines to follow when the two teams converge on Saturday in Beverly – a win for Coleman’s squad would most likely secure the Blue and Gold their second-straight conference crown.

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Springfield College’s Hunter Belzo has been a player to watch under center the past few weeks. (PHOTO COURTESY: Matt Noonan)

In Springfield this weekend, one should keep an eye on Hunter Belzo, the running back turned quarterback that has led Springfield College to some exciting wins this fall, including a 17-14 win last month at WPI (that was hands down one of my favorite football games I saw this season).

Belzo, who made his first career start under center against the Engineers last month, will look to keep the Pride in contention for a conference crown when Springfield hosts Maine Maritime Academy.

Similar to his performance two weeks ago against Catholic University, Belzo should have no problems finding the end zone against the Mariners with both his feet and arm.

Amherst College quarterback Ollie Eberth has quietly enjoyed a successful third season with the Mammoths, tossing eight touchdowns, while adding a career-best six scores on the ground.

Eberth recorded a pair of rushing touchdowns in his team’s first two wins of the season, while adding one score on the ground against Colby College and Middlebury College.

Last week against Tufts University, Eberth relied more on his teammates in the rushing game, but did conclude his team’s 19-13 win with 150 passing yards.

This week, Eberth will most likely depend on arm against a Trinity College defense that has surrendered an average of 204.9 yards per game through the air, while holding rushing attacks to roughly 65 yards per contest. But maybe Eberth could locate the end zone with his feet when Amherst’s offense makes it into the red zone on Saturday.

Trinity’s defense managed to slow down Tufts signal-caller Ryan McDonald, a player coach Jay Civetti considers “a runner first,” a few weeks ago, so it will be interesting to see if they can contain Eberth, as well.

McDonald is always a player to watch on the Jumbos – so far this season, he has scored 17 touchdowns, including seven on the ground. Last week against Amherst, McDonald rushed for a 25-yard touchdown late in the second, which brought the visitors within four points (10-6) of the Mammoths at the break.

A few other quarterbacks to keep an eye on this week:

  • Will Jernigan (Middlebury College): The Decatur, Georgia native has been a quarterback to watch this fall – currently, he has recorded career-bests in touchdown passes (six) and rushes (four). Despite being grounded for much of last week against Trinity, Jernigan has been able to lead a Panthers offense with both his arm and legs. Against Williams College, he rushed for a season-high 94 yards on 27 carries and one score, while tossing two touchdowns. One week later against Bates College, he relied on his arm more than his leg to lead the Blue and White to an exciting 35-34 victory. Look for Jernigan to return his form from earlier this season when the Panthers visit Hamilton College on Saturday.
  • Bobby Maimaron (Williams College): Maimaron still has time to establish some new career-highs, both this week and next week, but our Noontime Sports Rookie of the Year has quietly produced a successful second season with the Ephs, which has seen the Duxbury, Massachusetts native toss eight touchdowns, while adding an additional eight scores on the ground. The eight rushing touchdowns shattered his mark of seven from one year ago. 
  • Mark Piccirillo (Wesleyan University): The Shelton, Connecticut native is always a quarterback to watch every week. So far this season, he has accounted for 15 touchdowns, including three on the ground. He needs 29 yards to match last year’s rushing total (474), which he should be able to muster against Williams on Saturday.

Stay connected with our Noontime Sports New England Football coverage by following @Noontime_FB on Twitter! 

D3 Football: Week Eight Highlights

WEEK EIGHT HIGHLIGHTS

By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeSports 

It wasn’t easy, but somehow MIT made a few more plays than Coast Guard Academy, especially on offense as the Engineers defeated the Bears, 13-0, in Cambridge to improve to 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the NEWMAC.

The win was highlighted by a pair of MIT touchdowns, including an early fourth quarter two-yard plunge by Cole Baker, which capped a 13 play, 90 yard drive.

Coast Guard attempted to answer on its next two series, but mustered just 10 total yards on nine plays. MIT’s defense also sacked quarterback Ethan Goldcamp on the Bears’ final two offensive plays of the contest.

Sam Gozelski highlighted the defensive effort for the Engineers with six total tackles, including a pair of sacks for a loss of 18 yards. John Robertson and Ashton Robinson powered MIT’s rushing attack by combining for 148 yards on 33 carries, while quarterback Udgam Goyal connected on 13 of 25 passes for 108 yards and one touchdown (his lone touchdown pass was to Eddy Garcia-Montes in the second quarter).

MIT will look to continue its current momentum next Saturday when they visit WPI.

Speaking of WPI, the Engineers saw their 24-0 lead erased by Merchant Marine comeback, which was capped by a late two-yard touchdown run by Krystian Abbott, as the Mariners picked-up an important conference win to keep their title hopes alive.

Abbott concluded the USMMA-WPI contest with a game-high 127 yards on 33 carries and one touchdown.

In Somerville, Tufts University scored a hard-fought 28-21 win over Williams College, thanks to a 13-yard touchdown pass from Dom Borelli to Jack Dolan. Borelli rushed for one touchdown, along with 31 yards on nine carries, while Ryan McDonald completed 17 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns.

Greg Holt paced the Jumbos’ defense with 13 total tackles, including nine solo stops, two tackles for a loss of three yards and one fumble recovery.

Amherst College picked-up its sixth-straight win by scoring early and often against Wesleyan University. The Mammoths, who are now 6-0 overall, defeated the Cardinals, 33-3, thanks to two rushing touchdowns from Biafra Okoronkwo, who concluded the contest with 119 yards on 18 carries.

Despite falling to their Little Three rival, Wesleyan’s Brandon Morris finished his team’s sixth contest of the season with 11 total tackles, including five solo stops, one sack for a loss of 11 yards, one pass break-up and one forced fumble.

Springfield College picked-up an important road win our nation’s capital by defeating Catholic University, 23-11. Hunter Belzo tossed one touchdown, while rushing for another, while Skyler Bateman rushed for one touchdown late in the opening frame.

Endicott College and Western New England each scored conference wins, defeating Becker College and University of New England, respectively, while Husson University soared past Anna Maria, 54-14.

Framingham State kept its hopes of a MASCAC crown alive with a 27-2 win on the road at Westfield State.

Finally, Terrell Watts accounted for four touchdowns, including three through the air, as Dean College rolled past Gallaudet University, 53-21. Watts concluded his team’s contest with 372 yards of total offense, including 306 passing yards.


Our New England D3 Football week eight highlights were compiled by Matt Nooonan (@MattNoonan11) and Brian Willwerth (@BriWillwerth)

 

Noontime Sports: Football Stars of the Week (Monday, Oct. 8th, 2018)

NS Stars Of The Week LOGO

By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeSports & @Noontime_FB 

With another week of New England D3 Football in the books, it is time to unveil our Noontime Sports Football Stars of the Week from week six!

Our ‘Stars of the Week’ post will appear every Monday on our site throughout the remainder of the college football season. The weekly post will highlight some key contributors from the New England region from the past week on offense, defense and special teams.

Congratulations to this week’s recipients and best of luck to all student-athletes, coaches and teams competing this upcoming weekend.


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Travon Holder enjoyed a successful day on the ground, rushing a season-high 203 yards and three touchdowns against Mass. Maritime Academy. (PHOTO COURTESY: Westfield State Athletics)

Offensive Stars of the Week

Hunter Belzo (Springfield College): Against Coast Guard Academy, Belzo scored three touchdowns, including two on the ground. Belzo rushed for 207 yards on 31 carries, while tossing two passes (five attempts) for 39 yards and one touchdown.

Errol Breaux (Dean College): Breaux turned in an impressive performance against Husson University last Friday evening by leading all receivers with 229 yards on six catches (38. 2 yards per reception), while hauling in a pair of touchdown receptions.

Noah Brum (Worcester State): Brum concluded his team’s conference clash against Western Connecticut by completing 28 of 47 passes for 349 yards and two touchdowns.

Alex Cohen (Anna Maria College): Cohen helped Anna Maria erase a 17-0 deficit by completing 26-of-38 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 32 yards on 12 carries and one score as the AMCATs topped Castleton University on the road.

Matt Dunn (Norwich University): Dunn completed 23-of-52 passes for a career-high 407 yards, while tossing a pair of touchdowns during his team’s contest against Merchant Marine.

Ryan Gaboury (University of New England): Gaboury hauled in a game-high 10 grabs for 192 yards and three touchdowns with his longest reception being a 41-yard touchdown in the first half.

Moe Harris (Castleton University): Harris reached the end zone three times, including two times on the ground as he finished last Saturday’s contest against Anna Maria with 204 yards on 31 carries. His lone catch was a 44-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter, which evened the score at 24-24.

Matt Hersch (Colby College): Hersch had his hand in all three scores for the Mules as he finished the contest 23-of-40 for 277 yards, while tossing a trio of touchdown passes against Wesleyan University.

Nick Juvelier (Curry College): Juvelier recorded five touchdowns last week against University of New England, including four through the air. He finished 35-of-49 for 369 yards, while rushing for 51 yards on 10 carries and one score.

Travon Holder (Westfield State): Holder rushed for a season-best 203 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Owls past Massachusetts Maritime Academy on the road.

Brian Peters (University of New England): Peters helped the Nor’easters win their first-ever game in program history by completing 25-of-33 passes for 302 yards and three touchdowns last Saturday against Curry College.

Manni Romero (Norwich University): Romero hauled in a season-best 10 catches for 272 yards and two touchdowns last Saturday during the Cadets’ conference setback to Merchant Marine.


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Andrew Yamin and the Amherst College defense registered six sacks last week in a shutout win over Middlebury College. (PHOTO COURTESY:

Defensive Stars of the Week

Taj Gooden (Wesleyan University): Gooden turned in an impressive showing against Colby College, registering nine total stops, including five solo tackles, four tackles for a loss of 13 yards and two sacks for a loss of 11 yards.

Blayne Merchant (WPI): Against Catholic University, Merchant tallied a team-high seven solo stops and eight total tackles – he matched Nick Ostrowski with the same number of total tackles. Additionally, he recorded two tackles for a loss of 14 yards, one sack for a loss of 11 yards and one quarterback hurry.

Chris Rice (Castleton University): Rice stuffed the stat sheet with eight total stops, including five solo tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss of 18 yards and one sack for a loss of 10 yards against Anna Maria.

Keegan Stanton-Meas (University of New England):  Stanton-Meas helped the Nor’easters claim their first-ever win in program history against Curry College by finishing the game with 12 total tackles, including five solo stops, two tackles for a loss of three yards and one sack. He also registered a pair of pass break-ups, too.

Andrew Yamin (Amherst College): Yamin registered a season-high 3.5 sacks for a loss 22 yards, while leading the Amherst College defense with 11 total tackles (four solo stops) as the Mammoths shutout Middlebury College last Saturday.


Special Team Stars of the Week

Nick DiCairano (Endicott College): DiCairano registered nine points on seven kicks, including six extra points in the Gulls’ fourth win of the season last Saturday.

Spencer Herrington (WPI): Herrington connected on all four kicks, including a 26-yard field gaol for six points, while recording six punts with three of them landing inside the Catholic University’s 20-yard yard line. One of his boots resulted in a touchback.

Robert Inniss, Jr. (University of New England): Inniss Jr.’s game-winning field goal (38 yards) with five seconds remaining helped the Nor’easters claim their first-ever win in program history against Curry College last Saturday. Inniss Jr. concluded the game with eight points (one field goals and five extra points).

Jeremy Martin (Plymouth State): Martin connected on a trio of kicks last Friday evening against Bridgewater State, including two field goals with his longest boot coming from 44-yards out. He also recorded four punts for 150 yards with one kick landing inside the Bears’ 20-yard line. Additionally, he booted four kickoffs for 258 yards with three resulting in touchbacks.


Stay connected with our Noontime Sports football coverage on Twitter by following @Noontime_FB