Eastern Collegiate Football Conference Championship Preview

Castleton State and Mount Ida College will compete on Saturday for the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference Crown! (Photo Credit: Brian Willwerth

By Matt Noonan 

We’re less than 24 hours away until Championship Saturday commences, and excluding AIC-New Haven and Framingham State-Salve Regina, another key matchup to watch tomorrow will be the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference Championship between Castleton State and Mount Ida College.

The winner of this particular match will win the conference and earn an automatic berth to the NCAA Div. III Championship.

Here is a preview of this particular contest.

Records: Both teams are 7-2 overall. Castleton is 6-0 in the conference, while Mount Ida is 5-1.

Last Meeting: The last time these two squads met was during the final week of the 2011 season. The Mustangs defeated the Spartans in Newton, 54-34.

Biggest Win: The Spartans biggest win occurred in week one when they defeated non-conference foe Plymouth State, 35-7. Senior quarterback Shane Brozowski tossed four touchdowns and recorded 400 yards through the air.

The Mustangs biggest win came against conference foe Maritime (N.Y). Senior kicker Bobby Hemmann kicked a 38-yard field goal as time expired to secure a 24-21 victory.

Biggest Setback: Castleton’s biggest loss came a week after their first win in Beverley, Massachusetts against Endicott College. The Gulls soared past the Spartans, 66-14. Castleton held a lead midway through the first quarter, but Endicott managed to erase the deficit and go onto earn their second win.

As for Mount Ida, their worst loss came in week three against Springfield College. The Mustangs held a 14-point advantage in the third quarter, but the Pride rallied to defeat the visitors, 49-42. Senior quarterback Scott Drosendahl tossed five touchdowns in the loss, while sophomore Chris McNally rushed for 112 yards on 21 carries.

Castleton’s New Quarterback: Last week, Brozowski suffered a season ending injury in his team’s win against Husson. So, without their starting gunslinger, the Spartans will rely on freshman George Busharis. The former Mansfield High School quarterback has appeared in six games this season and completed 11-of-22 passes for 152 yards. He’s recorded one touchdown and one interception, too.

The Mustang Way: Throughout the season, head coach Michael Landers has preached his team’s new motto: 1-0. It’s a theory that forces players to be discipline, but also focus on the task at hand. And ever since Landers first muttered the words of “going 1-0,” Mount Ida has been a different team.

Overview: Both these teams are evenly matched, but without Brozowski in the lineup, it could be a long day for Castleton State’s offense. However, the Spartans passing attack ranks second in the nation so don’t expect Busharis to struggle too much, especially if he’s able to connect with junior Brandon Boyle.

Drosendahl will be the main focal point for Mount Ida. The Mustangs senior quarterback ranks sixth nationally in passing efficiency and is second in the conference in touchdown passes (26).

Castleton’s defense is the top squad in the conference when it comes to defending the pass, so Drosendahl will have to be at his best against an impressive Spartans secondary.

Prediction: Mount Ida College 31, Castleton State 28

Mansfield Rallies to Beat Newton North, Win Division I South Final

By Dan Libon

Boston, MA – No matter how hard Newton North tried on Friday, they just could not make Mansfield go away, as the Tigers surrendered two big leads and allowed Mansfield High School to win a nail-biter, 48-46 at the TD Garden.

During the first quarter, both teams displayed great defense, but also, advanced to the free throw line often.

Taking a 13-7 lead during the first half, Mansfield set the tone early with a defensive dominance and excellent drives to the basket. The Tigers however did not let down, as they came back in the second quarter with a drive that stared with a three pointer by junior guard Luke Westman. Newton North took a lead into halftime, while Mansfield retreated to their locker room confused and uncertain if they could make their shots.

Shutting down the Mansfield offense, Newton North turned a six point deficit into a five point lead. Mansfield struggled for most of the second quarter to keep up with Newton North. Resorting to the three-point shot, Mansfield finished [0-9] from behind the arch during the first 16-minutes.

Mansfield began to chip away at the lead during third quarter by getting within two points and began the fourth quarter only trailing the Tigers by four points.

While Newton North tried to pull away at times during the final eight minutes, Mansfield refused to give up, as the Hornets went on a 8-0 run, which sparked an epic comeback. Mansfield fans erupted during the final minutes when senior forward Michael Lofton recorded a quick slam dunk that gave the Hornets the momentum they had been looking for all game.

Moments later, Hornets senior forward Chris Johnson would hit the game winner for Mansfield, which finalized their comeback and secure them the MIAA Division I South champions.

After the game, Mansfield’s head coach, Michael Vaughn commented about the play of his team, but also focused on the offense and senior forward Michael Lofton‘s performance.

“Michel has been our best player all year long…but the staple of our team offensive has been our ability to pass the basketball and share.” said Mansfield coach Michael Vaughn.

Michael Lofton led the Hornets with 16 points, while teammate senior forward Christopher Johnson finished with 11 points, as well as the game winner.

Tigers senior forward Tevin Flazon led Newton North with 14 points and Michae Thorpe contributed 11 points.

Next up for Mansfield is the State Semifinal game on Tuesday at the TD Garden.

New Bedford Second Half Surge Helps Whalers Earn Division I South Title

By Matt Noonan

BOSTON, MA – After an usually slow start against an impressive Mansfield Hornets [24-2] the New Bedford Whalers [24-0] bounced back and earned the MIAA Division I South title with a 47-46 victory.

“It’s an exciting time,” said New Bedford head coach Michael Gonsalves. “Tonight we have everything we got, we played a hell of a Mansfield team.”

“I thought the defense was [New Bedford’s] defense athleticism,” said Mansfield head coach Michael Redding. “We got that nine point lead and it seemed like they knew it was tied and they stepped up the defensive pressure, forced a bunch of turnovers that we hadn’t been doing and they just ware you down.”

After winning the opening tip, New Bedford’s offense stalled and struggled to score points while Mansfield’s offense jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead thanks to Hornets junior guard Katherine Campbell [7-points].

Eventually, the Whalers did respond by converting a variety of their points inside the paint, however, their shots selection from beyond the arc wasn’t impressive.

New Bedford’s junior guard Allexia Barros [23 points] and Mansfield’s senior center Colleen Copley [13 points] appeared to be the true heros for both teams during the opening quarters, as they not only scored on offense, but also, forced their opponents to shoot off target. Yet, New Bedford’s offense continued to appear incredibly out of sync during parts of the second quarter, which allowed Mansfield to end the quarter on a short run and head into halftime with a two-point lead.

“We just needed to relax and play good defense,” said Barros. “Our defense comes from our offense and that’s how we [eventually] won this game.”

Barros and her teammates regrouped during the break and played a completely better half of basketball during the third and fourth quarter, which clearly caught Mansfield off guard. The Hornets and Whalers offenses seemed to swap places, as Mansfield struggle while New Bedford forced turnovers and scored breaks on the transition.

“I think Wednesday night might have taken a little bit out [of my team], might have been a little tired down the stretch. I think it was more just their defensive pressure, but we played tough against an undefeated team,” said Redding.

The Whalers began the fourth quarter by continuing to provide extra pressure on the Hornets and slowly, the momentum shifted, which allowed New Bedford to earn their largest lead of the game, but also, control the final minutes of momentum.

Mansfield did respond during the closing seconds with a critical three-pointer from senior guard Keli McPherson, which brought the Hornets within three points during the final seconds, but their exciting run came crashing down, as New Bedford kept the ball away from Mansfield and celebrated on the Boston Celtics parquet floor.

New Bedford will return to the TD Garden on Monday when they face the Division I North champion, Andover for the chance to then advance to Worcester for the Massachusetts state championship. Although, one thing the Whalers will certainly want to improve upon is their free-throw shooting, as the team finished the game [5-19] from the line.

“We’re not that bad from the free throw line,” said Gonsalves.

“[We need to] practice on our free throws more,” said Barros.

A “Super” Comeback on “Super Saturday”

 

This article was written by Dan Libon (Featured Noontime Sports Writer)

Foxborough, MA – It was a tale of two teams at the Massachusetts Division II Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium on Saturday, between the Mansfield Hornets and Reading Rockets. At the end of the first half and trailing the Rockets by a gigantic margin, Mansfield head coach Michael Redding wasn’t sure if they could even come back.

“I thought that touchdown at the end of the half was the killer. I kinda walked in thinking that was one too many.”

Of course, these young men play the game of football for a reason.

With the running game being displayed early and often, Reading’s defense decided to put on a show themselves too. With three turnovers off of Mansfield’s four possessions, Reading was putting on a defensive clinic for 40-straight minutes. Yet, while Mansfield was turning over the ball constantly at times, they did show signs of life. A halfback pass from running back Jamel Marshall to wide receiver Jeff Hill, led to a 47-yard touchdown reception. It would be the most excitement that the Mansfield offense would display in the first half, as Reading dominated the entire 20-minutes of the first half.

After Mansfield took a 7-6 lead in the first quarter, Reading’s Nick Scali returned a kickoff for 72 yards, which set up the Rockets offense on the Mansfield 17 yard line. Unable to be successful on the PAT after the first Redding touchdown, the team resorted to a variety of two-point conversions for the remainder of the game in a move that would come back to haunt them in the fourth quarter.

Reading quarterback Brian Bourque threw a touchdown to help his team take the lead, 12-7, but after another Mansfield turnover with 5:24 left in the first half, it would lead to another Reading touchdown with 1:01 remaining. Then, a 34 yard interception by Larry Gilligan with 19 seconds left, set up Reading’s final touchdown of their season, making it 26-7 at halftime.

Beginning in the third quarter, Mansfield defense set up the beginning of a Hornet comeback and special Super Bowl memory. On offense, their passing attack that was nonexistent in the first half began to show signs of life thanks to a Jeff Hill touchdown pass, which cut the lead to 12 points. The 68-yard reception would be Hill’s second touchdown reception of the game and three minuets later, the lead would be cut to five points.

After a Mansfield interception in the closing seconds of the third quarter, Reading’s dominance started to not look as strong as it did in the early minutes of this particular Super Bowl.

With less than six minutes remaining in the contest, Mansfield had a chance to take the lead, but Reading was able to stop them from scoring. Reading’s defense struck again with an interception at their own 1-yard line and 20 seconds later, Mansfield’s Dan Gilmore intercepted a pass, which gave his team another shot to score the go-ahead touchdown.

Jamel Mashall rushed for a one-yard touchdown and two point conversion to give Mansfield a 29-26 lead. An onside kick recovery by Mansfield was then enough to end the game and win their fourth championship in eight seasons.

This comeback can only be describe as a total team effort and after getting the major defensive stops, which were needed greatly, Mansfield attacked with a passing game led by quarterback George Busharis and wide receiver Jeff Hill. Busharis threw for 231 yards in the second half after throwing for only 26 in the first half. Hill caught 5 catches for 191 yards with 135 yards coming in the second half. Jamal Marshall also rushed for 62 yards and for a touchdown.

A "Super" Comeback on "Super Saturday"

 

This article was written by Dan Libon (Featured Noontime Sports Writer)

Foxborough, MA – It was a tale of two teams at the Massachusetts Division II Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium on Saturday, between the Mansfield Hornets and Reading Rockets. At the end of the first half and trailing the Rockets by a gigantic margin, Mansfield head coach Michael Redding wasn’t sure if they could even come back.

“I thought that touchdown at the end of the half was the killer. I kinda walked in thinking that was one too many.”

Of course, these young men play the game of football for a reason.

With the running game being displayed early and often, Reading’s defense decided to put on a show themselves too. With three turnovers off of Mansfield’s four possessions, Reading was putting on a defensive clinic for 40-straight minutes. Yet, while Mansfield was turning over the ball constantly at times, they did show signs of life. A halfback pass from running back Jamel Marshall to wide receiver Jeff Hill, led to a 47-yard touchdown reception. It would be the most excitement that the Mansfield offense would display in the first half, as Reading dominated the entire 20-minutes of the first half.

After Mansfield took a 7-6 lead in the first quarter, Reading’s Nick Scali returned a kickoff for 72 yards, which set up the Rockets offense on the Mansfield 17 yard line. Unable to be successful on the PAT after the first Redding touchdown, the team resorted to a variety of two-point conversions for the remainder of the game in a move that would come back to haunt them in the fourth quarter.

Reading quarterback Brian Bourque threw a touchdown to help his team take the lead, 12-7, but after another Mansfield turnover with 5:24 left in the first half, it would lead to another Reading touchdown with 1:01 remaining. Then, a 34 yard interception by Larry Gilligan with 19 seconds left, set up Reading’s final touchdown of their season, making it 26-7 at halftime.

Beginning in the third quarter, Mansfield defense set up the beginning of a Hornet comeback and special Super Bowl memory. On offense, their passing attack that was nonexistent in the first half began to show signs of life thanks to a Jeff Hill touchdown pass, which cut the lead to 12 points. The 68-yard reception would be Hill’s second touchdown reception of the game and three minuets later, the lead would be cut to five points.

After a Mansfield interception in the closing seconds of the third quarter, Reading’s dominance started to not look as strong as it did in the early minutes of this particular Super Bowl.

With less than six minutes remaining in the contest, Mansfield had a chance to take the lead, but Reading was able to stop them from scoring. Reading’s defense struck again with an interception at their own 1-yard line and 20 seconds later, Mansfield’s Dan Gilmore intercepted a pass, which gave his team another shot to score the go-ahead touchdown.

Jamel Mashall rushed for a one-yard touchdown and two point conversion to give Mansfield a 29-26 lead. An onside kick recovery by Mansfield was then enough to end the game and win their fourth championship in eight seasons.

This comeback can only be describe as a total team effort and after getting the major defensive stops, which were needed greatly, Mansfield attacked with a passing game led by quarterback George Busharis and wide receiver Jeff Hill. Busharis threw for 231 yards in the second half after throwing for only 26 in the first half. Hill caught 5 catches for 191 yards with 135 yards coming in the second half. Jamal Marshall also rushed for 62 yards and for a touchdown.