The Pittsfield, Massachusetts native concluded his final season with the Pride by recording career-highs in touchdown passes (seven), passing yards (456), rushing yards (771) and rushing touchdowns (eight).
Another season of New England D3 Football is right around the corner. (Photo Credit: Matt Noonan/NoontimeSports.com)
It’s never too early to start marking the calendar with Division III football games, especially with the opening kickoff just two weeks away.
In anticipation of the first kickoff of the 2016 season, which happens to be two weeks from today – Anna Maria vs. Coast Guard Academy – we have provided a list (and some quick thoughts) on what games you should keep an eye on (or attend) in week one.
Thursday, Sept. 1 – Coast Guard Academy at Anna Maria, 7 p.m. – We have been counting the days and weeks for this game, so when the Bears and AMCATs take the field, it will mean a new season of college football has begun. Keep an eye on Coast Guard Academy senior co-captain and quarterback Derek Victory, who enjoyed an impressive junior season under center.
Friday, Sept. 2 – UMass Dartmouth at Mount Ida, 6 p.m. – This is always a must-see game, according to Mount Ida head coach Michael Landers. Keep an eye on Mount Ida sophomore quarterback Jack Sheehan, who enjoyed an impressive first season, while also watching UMass Dartmouth junior linebacker Brandon Miller. Miller should be a focal point of the Corsairs’ defense this season.
Friday, Sept. 2 – Western New England at Springfield College, 7 p.m. – This has become a true rivalry game – basically, the winner becomes the so-called king of Springfield. The Golden Bears were picked to capture the New England Football Conference (NEFC) crown, but will be tested by a new-look Pride squad, which will be led by first-year head coach Mike Cerasuolo.
Friday, Sept. 2 – WPI at MIT, 7 p.m. – Both schools are rivals in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC), so this game will certainly live up to its hype. WPI escaped last year’s meeting thanks to a fourth quarter field goal by senior Blaine Bursey.
Friday, Sept. 2 – Bridgewater State at Curry, 7 p.m. – A new era has begun in Bridgewater as long-time assistant and defensive coordinator Joe Verria will lead the Bears as the program’s interim head coach. The Bears beat Curry last year in their season opener, but the Colonels rebounded, capping their 2015 campaign by winning three of five contests.
Friday, Sept. 2 – Fitchburg State at Becker, 7 p.m. – After an impressive 7-3 campaign, the Hawks of Becker will look to prove 2015 wasn’t a fluke. First-year head coach Frank Forcucci, who spent the previous three seasons as the program’s Associate Head Coach and defensive coordinator, will lead Becker this fall. Fitchburg State – on the other hand – has high aspirations for this season and will be led by senior quarterback Garrett Dellechiaie, who tossed 26 touchdowns for the second-straight season.
Friday, Sept. 2 – Salve Regina at Worcester St., 7 p.m. – The Seahawks of Salve Regina were picked to finish second the New England Football Conference (NEFC). They also appeared in our Noontime Sports Top 10 Preseason poll, too. Worcester State is one of our ‘Teams on the Rise,’ and this has always been an intriguing matchup, especially when each offense gets into a groove.
Saturday, Sept. 3 – Endicott at Framingham State, 12 p.m. – Under second year head coach Kevin DeWall, the Gulls of Endicott will look to commence their season with an opening day road win against a Framingham State squad that will feature some new names on both sides of the ball. The Rams won last season’s opener in Beverly, defeating Endicott, 42-6. Endicott’s last win in Framingham came in 2012 with the Gulls claiming a 34-7 victory.
Saturday, Sept. 3 – Plymouth State at Castleton, 1 p.m. – Castleton sophomore Mitchell Caron is expected to be spotted under center in the Spartans’ season opener. Quarterback George Busharis graduated this past spring, so it will be fun to watch Caron lead the Spartans. As for Plymouth State, they enter 2016 a year older and with more experience.
Saturday, Sept. 3 – Hartwick at West Conn., 5 p.m. – Senior halfback Michael Nicol will be expected to carry the load this year, and help Western Connecticut State kick-off its season with a win against a talented Hartwick squad. Nicol will be one of many players to watch on Joe Loth’s squad, especially if they want to make a run toward winning the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) crown.
Another season of New England D3 Football is right around the corner. (Photo Credit: Matt Noonan/NoontimeSports.com)
By Matt Noonan
It is never too early to start thinking about New England Division III football.
The countdown to training camp – and the first game – is on!
Below are some quick pre-season takes on each conference. As the season gets closer, we’ll have team and conference previews, so stay tuned!
Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC): After a successful 7-3 campaign last season, Becker will be a team to watch this fall. Can they continue their success under first-year head coach Frank Forcucci?
Absolutely, but they will need to play their best football against Husson, Norwich and Castleton State.
Keep an eye on Castleton State – the Spartans ended their season by capturing the Maple Sap Bucket Trophy with a 31-13 win over the Cadets. Rising sophomore Moe Harris will be one of many players to watch this season after he concluded his initial season with the Green and White by leading the rushing attack in yards (1,065), touchdowns (14) and yards per game (106.5).
Liberty League (Springfield & WPI): The Engineers of WPI enjoyed one of their best seasons under head coach Chris Robertson, finishing 7-4 overall and 4-3 in conference play.
WPI earned some impressive wins, defeating MIT (31-28), Norwich (27-10) and Springfield (19-17). They will look to keep their momentum going this season, but the biggest question facing the squad is who will be their number one halfback? Zach Grasis graduated, so that could open the door for rising sophomore Connor Sakowich.
Springfield will have a new head coach this season as Mike Cerasuolo was tabbed the program’s head coach earlier this year. A former player, Cerasuolo will look to continue his former head coach Mike DeLong’s success. DeLong retired last fall after an impressive 32-year run with the Pride.
Cerasuolo has been the program’s offensive coordinator for the past 15 seasons.
Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC): Framingham State will remain the favorite, but don’t overlook Bridgewater State and Fitchburg State.
The Bears won five of their final seven contests last season, including a 64-42 win over Massachusetts Maritime Academy in the 37th Annual Cranberry Bowl. Rising junior Alex McLaughlin will look lead the rushing attack – he rushed for 16 touchdowns last season – while rising senior Danny Higgins should navigate the unit’s air attack after tossing 13 touchdowns.
Fitchburg State graduated some key defensive players, but return rising seniors Mamour Samb (linebacker) and Ousame Samb (cornerback). Mamour Samb finished second on the team in total tackles (67) and tackles per game (7.4), while Ousame Samb led the unit with eight pass breakups. Rising senior Garrett Dellechiaie is back under center after an impressive junior season, which saw him toss 26 touchdowns. He also rushed for a career-high four touchdowns, too.
Framingham State graduates some key pieces, including quarterback Matt Silva, but again, don’t overlook a Rams team that has depth on both sides of the ball.
New England Football Conference (NEFC): The Golden Bears won 10 consecutive regular season games last fall thanks to an impressive defensive unit that registered 22 sacks (third in NEFC), 15 interceptions (first in NEFC) and 282.2 yards per game (first in NEFC).
The Golden Bears maybe the favorite heading into the 2016 season, but don’t overlook Endicott, MIT, Salve Regina or U.S. Coast Guard Academy. The Seahawks capped their season by defeating Husson in the ECAC Clayton Chapman Bowl Championship thanks to an impressive performance by quarterback Brandon Basil, who tossed five touchdowns, while completing 25 of 49 passes for 421 yards.
New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC): Amherst College will certainly be the favorite heading into the 2016 season, but let’s not forget about Tufts, which finished its 2015 campaign 6-2 following a 31-28 win over Middlebury.
The Jumbos return a pair of rising seniors – quarterback Alex Snyder and running back Chance Brady – while rising junior Steve DiCenzo and rising senior Shane Thomas should lead the defense.
Other teams to watch in the NESCAC include Middlebury and Trinity – the Bantams finished second last season and yielded the second fewest points in the conference (81 points).
Amherst’s 17-7 win last fall over Williams marked the second straight season the Purple and White finished their campaign undefeated (8-0). Can they make it three years in a row? We’ll find out!
Springfield College Pride (Photo Credit: LaxJournal.com)
After four games this season, Springfield College currently finds itself in a four-way tie atop the Liberty League standings for first place.
The Pride have rebounded from their opening day contest against Bridgewater State with three straight wins, which head coach Mike DeLong hopes will boost his team’s morale going forward.
On Friday, Noontime Sports caught up with the Springfield College head coach to discuss the season thus far, as well as his game plan for Saturday against Union College.
How important was it to earn that first Liberty League victory last week?
“Rochester was an opponent that we were not familiar with because we’ve never played them, so it was [nice to get our first conference win], and we’re getting ready to play Union, who we’ve played a number of times and they’ll be tough up there on their home field.”
What sort of challenges does Union College present? How will your team overcome them?
“It’s a difficult trip because of the timing of the game at six o’clock on a Saturday night and obviously you’re playing against a team that’s traditionally been one of the strong teams in the East, so you just try to keep your players focused on what they have to do to win this game and what they have to do to be ready to play once kickoff goes at six o’clock, so you just try and deal with that with that tomorrow. [Hopefully] we’ll have them well fed and hopefully well rested and ready to go.”
Union College’s offensive line provided challenges for your defense last year. What will your defense have to do in order to be successful against their line tomorrow night?
“We felt that their offensive line really controlled the game last year against us, so we told our defensive linemen that this is a physical line, and you’ve guys [are going] to have to step up and put pressure on that quarterback and rise to the challenge of playing against their line. I think three of them are back from last year, but they were a very physical line and our defensive line has to continue to grow and improve. Those young guys [on the line continue to improve] every week and [become] more consistent with their play and they’re going to have to be consistent with their play against a very well coached Union team.”
Your defense is one of the top units in the conference. What’s the secret to their success this season?
“Well, we’re not real big, but one of the keys is that speed and that pursuit to the ball, so hopefully we’ll have that [against Union]. Danny Macalena’s in his second year and an inside linebacker, and Max Nacewicz is his second year, too. And their maturity and having more game experience is beginning to show even though those guys are just sophomores, but they’ve gotten a lot more playing time [this season] and last year they got thrown into the fire. Kashden Naraine has held up pretty well at defensive tackle as a freshman and so has Daniel King at defensive end, but I think the key thing is they make their mistakes, but they still hustle to the ball.”
How has your team’s speed and conditioning impacted the team’s overall performance this year?
“The most important thing in football these days is speed and the second most important thing is more speed. It doesn’t matter how big you are, but if you can’t get there you can’t play, and if you have a slow guy trying to block a fast guy that slow guy is going to be in trouble unless he gets help of some kind and you’ve got to be able to get to your block and that takes speed and athleticism or you have to be able to get to the ball on defense. And then that second piece is strength because you want guys that can run to the ball and that’s pretty much in any position.”
Earlier this season, your team rallied past Mount Ida College to earn an impressive 49-42 victory. What does a win like that do for your program?
“Hopefully it showed them that if you don’t give up and don’t get down on yourself you still have that ability to comeback and win a game and that was quite a shootout we had with Mount Ida. They came in and really, really played well, but our guys never doubted their ability and sooner or later two things were going to happen. We would score, but also eventually our defense finally started to play a lot better once we went into the third quarter and fourth quarter, but that ability and confidence to be able to comeback certainly didn’t hurt us.”
What does Joel Altavesta do to boost your offensive production? How has he helped your team’s offense thus far?
“He just gets better with his feel with the ball up into the congested areas where he runs and his option passes are all great, but once he’s getting the ball in his hands he’s starting to slide off to the piles a lot better as he gets more touches on the ball and last week he was able to get into the open field, so he’s just gained more and more experience running [where it’s mostly] congested and I just think his ability and how he’s seeing things better because he’s starting to slide off the piles instead of jamming himself in there.”
Similar to your defense, your offense has experienced some success this year, too. Talk about your offense and their willingness to improve each day.
“We had Josh Carter has a four-year starter at quarterback and then we were hoping that our offense and our offensive coordinator Mike Cerasuolo does a great job of bringing the offense along and hopefully every week getting those guys better and more aggressive. We’re still growing a great deal as an offense and we’ve been banged up a little. Coach Cerasuolo has done a great job, though, of still maintaining the mentality that we feel if we can execute at the speed we want to execute we’ll be OK on offense.”
Finally, what’s going on at the quarterback position? Is there a reason all three of your starters have played in every game this year?
“We lost Austin Bateman in the second game, he’s been out since Husson and Rob Merckling is now injured also, so Jonathan Marrero is going to start against Union and he came in against Rochester and really seemed really poised for a freshman, but this is his first true start and he’s excited to be ready to go. He hasn’t had an opportunity to be an understudy to anybody yet because he’s getting thrown right into the fire here.”