For information on where and when to vote today, visit Vote.org.
Alright, let’s get to some news and links. And we’ll begin in the college sports world where a few local New England NCAA D-III conferences announced yesterday that they will “suspend” or “cancel” winter sports.
The New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) announced they have suspended winter sports, including men’s and women’s basketball and swimming and diving.
While it seems inevitable that more cancelations and postponements will be announced over the next few days and weeks, some local schools, including Clark University and Coast Guard Academy, will explore options for its winter teams. It is possible we could see some local games played, but nothing is official (as of this morning!) so stay tuned.
Let’s switch gears to football – professional football, to be exact – where we could see 16 teams compete in the National Football League’s (NFL) postseason if future games are canceled due to the pandemic.
16 teams may sound crazy, but with frequent reports about players (or members of each team) testing positively for the coronavirus, it certainly could make for an interesting yet exciting postseason.
And here is some more football news and links from the world wide web:
Finally, make sure to tune into a brand new Noontime Sports Podcast today – we welcomed Joe Malkin (Massachusetts Maritime Academy) and Shawn Medeiros(Endicott College) to discuss how sports information directors are creating content when games are not being played.
Framingham State’s Melikke Van Alstyne chases Endicott College’s PJ Bandini after an interception in the second half. (Photo Credit: Matt Noonan/NoontimeSports.com)
By Matt Noonan
Happy Friday, everyone!
And welcome to our second installment of ‘Football Friday,’ a post where we revisit stories, teams, coaches, and student-athletes that we have covered over the past decade.
Today, we’re jumping back to 2012 to highlight a Framingham State University football team that not only won the New England Football Conference (NEFC) championship against Salve Regina University but also advanced to its first-ever NCAA D-III Tournament.
The Rams’ run toward a national championship, unfortunately, concluded in the opening round against SUNY Cortland – the Red Dragons edged Framingham State, 20-19, despite a fourth-quarter rally by the Black and Gold.
Yet, despite a one-point setback in the national tournament, the 2012 season was quite a memorable one for the Rams, which captured the program’s first and only NEFC title, while four members of the squad, including coach Tom Kelley, garnered major postseason awards from the conference. Additionally, Framingham State won 10 games for the first time in program history and only lost once in the regular season to Endicott College, which defeated the 2011 NEFC Bogan Division and Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) champions on the opening day of the 2012 season.
Endicott’s defense shined in its week one victory against the Rams as the unit finished the contest with five interceptions, five tackles for a loss, one fumble recovery, and a trio of pass break-ups.
“We stuffed them on first down (and) forced them (into) long second downs (and) that really got them out of their groove,” Endicott’s Andrew Holfinger said following his team’s initial win of its 2012 campaign.
Luckily, the loss to the Gulls was quickly forgotten six days later when Framingham State scored its first win of the 2012 season against Nichols College.
The Rams, who defeated the Bison by a score of 34-6, leaned on its ground game as both Matthew Mangano and Melikke Van Alstyne combined for four touchdowns and 393 rushing yards.
The victory over the Bison seemed to provide the Rams with a ton of momentum as they would go onto capture its next nine contests, including a 16-0 win over rival Bridgewater State University followed by an exciting overtime victory against Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
Not only did the Framingham State offense shine throughout the 2012 season, but so did the defense, which limited its numerous foes to 12.8 points per game, along with 63.0 rushing yards per contest.
After registering just seven points in the opening week, the Rams concluded seven contests with 30 points or more. But during the team’s final regular-season contest against Worcester State University, all three units – offense, defense, and special teams – collaborated to produce a season-high 65 points.
The 65-21 win over the Lancers allowed the Rams to clinch its second-straight NEFC Bogan Division crown, as well as secure a spot in the conference’s championship round one week later against Salve Regina.
“We’re certainly going to be tested,” Kelley said when previewing his team’s contest against the Seahawks at the New England Football Writers’ Gridiron Club of Greater Boston luncheon, which was held at Harvard University.
Salve Regina entered the contest with an identical 9-1 record. The Seahawks averaged nearly 400 yards of offense while the defense limited opponents to roughly two touchdowns per game.
But despite scoring the first points of the 2012 NEFC title game, Salve Regina struggled to contain both Melikke Van Alstyne and Matthew Silva, who combined for three rushing touchdowns.
James Muirhead led the Rams defense with eight total tackles, including three stops for a loss of 17 yards and one forced fumble.
Salve Regina, which trailed Framingham State by four points (14-10) at the break, attempted to mount a late comeback during the final minutes of the fourth quarter but saw its rally dashed when the Rams recovered its onside kick.
Moments after the final kickoff of the game was recorded, the Rams celebrated a hard-fought championship, which Muirhead considered “so surreal.”
“All the hard work paid off,” said Muirhead, who was named the Bull Mottola Championship Game Most Valuable Player Award following the final whistle.
“I don’t really have any words to explain it,” he would add.
The 28-16 win over the Seahawks was a culmination of the Rams’ commitment of hard work and determination that was fueled by an overtime setback one year earlier in the same contest to Western New England. And while the victory over the Seahawks did not spark a deep postseason run, it was certainly the beginning of many more conference titles and postseason appearances for a squad that has maintained its success over the past few years.
Watching – and yes, covering – this team truly made me fall in love more with small college football. The 2012 season truly marked the beginning of my tenure of producing content on various New England D-III athletic teams and programs, and I am thankful for the time both Tom Kelley and the players provided me throughout this exciting and historic campaign.
Ryan Verria has enjoyed reuniting with his father on the gridiron at Bridgewater State University. (PHOTO COURTESY: Bridgewater State University Athletics)
By Matt Noonan
Ryan Verria had a few thoughts on his mind during his initial practice with the Bridgewater State University football team in August of 2018.
His main focus was impressing the coaching staff, as well as a few friends he knew from growing up three miles away from campus. But he was also thinking about how he would tell his teammates that his father, Joe Verria, was the team’s head coach.
“You don’t always see (a father-son duo) at the collegiate level,” he added.
The team would eventually learn both Ryan and Joe were related. In fact, Verria said his teammates embraced the father-son relationship, claiming it was “pretty cool” that Ryan was able to play for his father, who had coached him previously through various youth sports leagues while growing up in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.
Verria didn’t plan to compete for his father initially after graduating from Boston College High School in 2017. Instead, he elected to leave the area to play football at John Carroll University in Ohio where he competed for the Blue Streak’s junior varsity program. Ryan made some impressive plays, according to his father, who recalls watching clips of his son’s games that the JCU coaching staff provided him.
But watching plays of Ryan on a phone or computer was only temporary as Joe would soon see his son make similar plays in person one year later when he transferred home to compete for the Bridgewater State football team as an incoming sophomore.
“It didn’t dawn on me that he would come back,” said Joe Verria when asked about his son deciding to return home to play football at Bridgewater State. “But when it happened, I thought this is going to be great.”
Bridgewater State University football coach (and alum) Joe Verria has thoroughly enjoyed coaching his son, Ryan Verria, the past two seasons. (PHOTO COURTESY: Bridgewater State University Athletics)
And so far, it seems the experience for both Joe and Ryan has been great as the father-son duo has celebrated a pair of Cranberry Bowl wins against Massachusetts Maritime Academy, including a dramatic come-from-behind win last season, along with a New England Bowl victoryin 2018 against Salve Regina University.
Ryan credits his teammates for helping him grow and improve these past two years, as well as his father, who he is constantly conversing with about strategy both in-person and through text messages. The conversations, both after games and on Sundays also include offensive and defensive breakdowns to new routes the receivers could run during practice to some motivational tactics both Verria’s could use to inspire the team for a successful game day.
But as much as Joe enjoys these dialogues about the x’s and o’s with his son, it is truly the opportunity he has, both currently and in the past, to teach his favorite sport to Ryan while cracking a smile on game days when he makes a play on offense or special teams.
“You know, you’re sitting out there at practice and I am watching the offense execute and (Ryan) is running around and making plays, and you say to yourself, ‘man, I can’t believe he is out there,’ but it is kind of cool,” said Joe Verria.
Joe – just like any parent – is proud of his son’s growth and improvement over the past few years, as well as the leader he has become both on and off the field. He admires Ryan’s leadership – he considers his son someone that leads by his actions, not words, which is certainly one of many reasons why his teammates voted him captain for the upcoming season.
Ryan is honored to be a captain – he knows he is representing a well-respected program that his father competed for from 1976 to 1979. But excluding discussing his current captain duties, which currently pertains to staying in touch with his classmates and teammates this summer, Ryan lights up when chatting about the impact his father – and yes, his mother, too – have made on his life. Both parents have shared some important words of wisdom, along with some important advice that will continue to allow Ryan to thrive both on the playing field and perhaps as a future coach like his father.
“Yeah, coaching is definitely a possibility,” Ryan said with a smile.
But for now, Ryan will focus on being the best receiver he can be while enjoying one final season with his Joe as his head coach.
“I feel grateful to be honored,” said Johnston, who was nominated for the award by Mike Kelley, who is the director of athletics at Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
“It is a great honor and I am grateful for it. And I am glad I can represent Massachusetts Maritime Academy.”
Johnston became the first Buccaneer to receive this award since Jonathan White, who played soccer at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, in 2011.
For student-athletes to receive this honor, they must be nominated by their school’s director of athletics, be a senior, and achieve at least a 3.2 cumulative grade point average. Recipients are selected by the MASCAC Athletic Directors.
Johnston enjoyed a successful senior season with the Buccaneers, registering career-bests in total tackles (57.0), solo stops (37), sacks (12.5), and tackles for a loss (19.5). Additionally, he recorded a career-high three forced fumbles along with two break-ups. The 12.5 sacks were the most recorded by a defender in the conference – it was also the fifth-highest total in Division III.
Noontime Sports recently spoke with Johnston about his career with the Buccaneers, as well as where he is headed after graduation next month.
When you look back to your playing days with the Massachusetts Maritime Academy football program, what will you remember most?
The guys. I made some of my best friends through this program.
The Massachusetts Maritime Academy football program consists of some great all-around guys and they deserve to get awards like this too because they are just as competitive and just as good as I am to receive this (type) of honor, if not, better.
My position coach for my first three seasons with the Buccaneers – Odell Jones, who currently oversees the defensive line at Assumption College – was probably one of the best coaches I ever had in my career. He pushed me to my limits and I give him full credit with how successful I am in football today. But I will definitely remember the people the most (because) those are the memories that will last the most for me.
You and your teammates enjoyed a successful 2019 campaign. Do you feel the team (and program) took a step forward this past season?
Yeah, absolutely. I think it was a total success. My graduating class may have featured the most seniors this program has had in a while, but we stuck together through the ups and downs, and I give all credit to the players, including the grades below us.
I am hopeful the team can continue to build on what they did last year and continue to get better.
Your team competes in a few rivalry games each season. Which one is your favorite and why?
The (rivalry) we have with both Maine Maritime Academy and Maritime (N.Y.) are important to us and they go through the same stuff we go through (during game weeks). But our rivalry with Framingham State is important – it is always a big game and so is Bridgewater State. Unfortunately, we did not beat Bridgewater State this past year, but I always feel we put forth a good effort against them, as well as Framingham State.
Where will you be headed after graduation next month?
I just accepted a full-time position earlier this month with Travelers in Braintree, Massachusetts. I will be working in the ocean marine underwriters department.
Finally, do you plan to return to campus hopefully later this year or in the future to cheer on the Buccaneers?
Absolutely. I would love to come back and cheer on my teammates.
A brand new Massachusetts D-III Lacrosse season began this past weekend with Clark University competing against Salve Regina University in an overtime clash, which saw the Seahawks edge the Cougars, 14-13.
Yet, despite falling to the Seahawks last Saturday, the Cougars still secured a spot in our initial Noontime Sports Massachusetts D-III Men’s Lacrosse Top 10 Poll, which is powered byZelos Athletics.
Amherst College, Williams College, and Tufts University secured the top three spots – all three teams will begin their respective campaigns later this month. Amherst was the national runner-up from one year ago, while Williams saw its national postseason run conclude against the Mammoths in the semifinals of the D-III Tournament.
Springfield College and Western New England rounded out the top five, checking in fourth and fifth, respectively, while Endicott College, MIT, and Babson College secured the sixth, seventh, and eighth positions.
Curry College earned the final spot on this week’s poll – the Colonels, who were picked to finish fourth in the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) will commence their 2020 campaign at the end of the month against Norwich University.
Mass. D-III Lax Top 10 Poll | Monday, February 17th, 2020
1. Amherst College
0-0, 0-0 (NESCAC)
2. Williams College
0-0, 0-0 (NESCAC)
3. Tufts University
0-0, 0-0 (NESCAC)
4. Springfield College
0-0, 0-0 (NEWMAC)
5. Western New England
0-0, 0-0 (CCC)
6. Endicott College
0-0, 0-0 (CCC)
0-0, 0-0 (NEWMAC)
8. Babson College
0-0, 0-0 (NEWMAC)
9. Clark University
0-1, 0-0 (NEWMAC)
10. Curry College
0-0, 0-0 (CCC)
On The Rise: Lasell University, Mass. Maritime Academy, Nichols College, UMass Boston, and Wheaton College