The USA South Athletic Conference (USAC) is set to kickoff its spring season this weekend, joining a slew of other NCAA D-III, NAIA, and FCS squads that will be in action tomorrow, Saturday, and Sunday.
Brevard College and Huntingdon College will kickoff the truncated season on Saturday, February 20 before other teams return to the gridiron, both next week and the week after – Saturday, March 6, to be exact.
The USAC spring season will conclude with a championship game on Saturday, April 3 between the winner of the East and West Divisions.
Five teams, including Huntingdon, secured first-place nods in last week’s preseason coaches poll while Averett University and North Carolina Wesleyan College garnered a pair of first-place nods as two members of the East Division.
Let’s get you set for the opening weekend of USAC football with a quick preview of Saturday’s match-up between Huntingdon and Brevard:
Huntingdon has not played a football game since November 30, 2019 when they lost to Mary Hardin-Baylor in the second round of the NCAA D-III Tournament. The game marked the end of an exciting run for the Hawks, who captured the USAC crown with an 8-4 record, including a 6-1 mark in league play.
Four Hawks earned postseason honors from D3Football.com, securing spots on the 2019 All-South Region Team, including Otis Porter, who departed the Huntingdon program as the all-time leader in receptions (160), receiving yards (3,045), and touchdown receptions (35). Darrell Hixon, who also joined Porter on the same team, returns this spring to anchor an offensive line that helped the Hawks offense average 404.2 yards per game.
Brevard enjoyed one of its best seasons in program history in 2019, posting an 8-2 overall record, which included an Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) Scotty Whitelaw Bowl win over Carnegie Mellon.
The eight wins were the most recorded by a Tornadoes squad since the 2009 squad won seven contests.
Dante Anderson will be one of many student-athletes to watch on this Tornadoes squad, both on Saturday and this season – the Hartwell, Georgia native, who was named a first-team all-conference defensive back in 2019, guided a Brevard defense that recorded a league-high 21 interceptions and five touchdowns. The Tornadoes defense will certainly be a unit to watch on Saturday as they will square-off against a Hawks offense that will feature nine new starters.
Huntingdon coach Mike Turk, who has won 110 contests with the Hawks, knows Saturday’s contest is an important one for his team, which he says is “playing for a trophy” this spring.
It’s time to highlight the second New England D-III football team that will be competing this weekend in the NCAA Division III Tournament. And that squad is the Framingham State University Rams, which enter the postseason on an eight-game winning streak.
The Rams, who captured the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) this fall with some important late wins over Bridgewater State, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, and Western Connecticut, will be making their fifth appearance in the NCAA Tournament, as well as their second-straight trip as Framingham State competed last season against The College of Brockport.
Below are a few notes about Saturday’s match-up, including some stats (and numbers) on both teams, as well as players to watch.
Framingham State (8-2) at Wesley College (9-1)
Gametime/Location: Saturday, November 23rd at Wesley College, Dover, Delaware. Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m.
Rankings: Wesley is currently the tenth best team in D-III, according to the latest D3Football.com Top 25 Poll. Framingham State was not ranked nor receiving votes in this week’s poll.
Conference Affiliation: Framingham State competes in the MASCAC, while Wesley is a member of the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC).
Last Appearance in the NCAA Tournament: The Rams’ 2018 season concluded in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament with a 40-27 setback to Brockport. The Golden Eagles secured a 24-0 lead at the break before the Rams trimmed the deficit in the second half by outscoring the hosts, 27-16.
Quarterback Adam Wojenski concluded the contest 28 of 58 for 450 yards and two touchdowns – he did have three interceptions – while Brockport’s Joe Germinerio completed 19 of 40 passes for 320 yards and three touchdowns.
Wesley did not compete in the NCAA Tournament last season but did advance to the second round in 2017 following a 45-27 win over RPI. The Wolverines’ run toward a national championship concluded with a 49-28 setback to Brockport.
Inside the Numbers with Framingham State: The Rams have produced 346 points this season while allowing 176 … The 346 points are the most any MASCAC team produced this fall. They also led the conference in points per game (34.6), touchdowns (51), rushing yards (1,728), rushing yards per game (172.8), few yards allowed per game (274,8), interceptions (14), and fewest rushing yards allowed per contest (90.5) … Framingham State will be making its fifth appearance in the NCAA Tournament – they have never won a postseason contest. Saturday’s meeting with Wesley will be the team’s second in the postseason as the two squads met in 2015 with the Wolverines winning by a score of 42-22.
Inside the Numbers with Wesley College: Wesley is currently second in the NJAC with 337 points – Salisbury University is first with 417 points. The Wolverines are averaging 33.7 points per game … Wesley is second in the NJAC in scoring defense, limiting opponents to 157 points (15.7 points per game) … Wesley is second in the conference in total offense – they are averaging 441.7 yards per game … The Wolverines are first in total defense in the NJAC, yielding an average of 249.7 yards per game … Wesley boasts the second-best rushing offense in the NJAC behind Salisbury and is first in the conference in passing offense .. Saturday’s postseason contest will be coach Chip Knapp‘s first as the team’s head coach since taking over for coach Mike Drass last season.
Framingham State Players to Watch:
Andrew Fennelly (O-Line): Named the MASCAC Football Offensive Lineman of the Year.
Devaun Ford (RB): Named the MASCAC Offensive Rookie of the Year. Ford rushed for 1,003 yards and nine touchdowns in 10 games. He is averaging 100.3 yards per contest.
Joshua Onujiogu (DE): Named the MASCAC Defensive Player of the Year. He has recorded 44.0 total tackles and eight sacks in nine contests this season.
Adam Wojenski (QB): The senior signal-caller has completed 184 of 303 passes for 2,455 yards and 27 touchdowns (eight interceptions). He has also rushed for 429 yards on 88 carries and four touchdowns.
Jacob Maher (TE): The Worcester State transfer leads the Rams in receptions (54), receptions per game (5.4), receiving yards (792) and touchdowns (eight).
Cully Curran (DB): Leads the defense with 67.0 total tackles … has recorded 39 solo tackles, including seven-and-a-half tackles for a loss of 22 yards, one fumble recovery, one interception, and five pass break-ups.
Anthony Behonick (LB): Second on the team in total tackles (49.0) … the junior linebacker has recorded 37 solo stops, including eight-and-a-half tackles for a loss of 16 yards, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, three interceptions, and one pass break-up.
Marcellus Pack (RB): The senior tailback has rushed for 595 yards on 102 carries and seven touchdowns.
Ruhann Peele (WR): The senior wide-out leads the team in receptions (81), receptions per game (8.1), receiving yards (1,141), and receiving touchdowns (12).
Corterris Simpson (WR): Second on the team in receptions (45), receptions per game (4.5), receiving yards (522), and touchdowns (five).
Nick Bruhn (PK/P): Has recorded 63 points on nine field goals and 36 extra points. His longest field goal was a 31-yard kick.
Dante Daniel (LB): The third-year linebacker leads the defense in total tackles (83.0) … Daniel has recorded 43 solo tackles, including eight-and-a-half tackles for a loss of 23 yards, one forced fumble, three fumble recoveries, one interception, and seven pass break-ups.
Shymere Vessels (DE): Vessels has recorded 57.0 total tackles, including 26 solo stops, 10 tackles for a loss of 29 yards and one sack for a loss of six yards.
The win – the Golden Eagles’ 13th straight – secures the Green and Gold a spot in next weekend’s national semifinals against top-ranked University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.
Mary Hardin-Baylor, which has also won 13 consecutive games this season, defeated St. Thomas, 24-10, in its quarterfinal match-up earlier today. Mount Union and University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh also clinched spots in next weekend’s semifinals by capturing their respective contests, too.
Brockport quarterback Joe Germinerio accounted for a trio of scores, including two rushing touchdowns, while Tyree Brown concluded the contest with 23 yards on five carries and one score, along with a reception for 16 yards.
The Golden Eagles led the Aggies, 21-7, at the break and 28-7 after three quarters before DelVal rallied with three consecutive fourth quarter touchdowns, including a pair of strikes from Dashawn Darden to Marquis Ellis, which evened the score at 28-28.
DelVal attempted to take the lead on its next two possessions, but saw both drives conclude with a punt from Stephen Adams.
Brockport would take over with 55 seconds remaining – they started their drive at the DelVal 48 – and would reach the 16 before sending in Renzi for the game-winning boot.
The loss snaps DelVal’s 12-game winning streak, which included a pair of postseason victories over Husson University and Western New England.
It’s PLAYOFF time, which means it is time to dish out some picks for this weekend’s NCAA Division III first-round tournament – all east region games, by the way! – and both New England Bowls.
Best of luck to all teams competing and make sure to circle back throughout the weekend for updates on all six games!
Western New England (8-2) at Delaware Valley (10-0) | Saturday, Nov. 18th at 12 p.m.
James Baker (In The D3FB Huddle): Tough draw for the Golden Bears against the top seed of the east region. DelVal is one of the top four seeds in the entire tournament, too. DelVal can score on offense and defense, so the Bears will have to be patient and not beat themselves with turnovers. WNE always surprises us, but the Aggies are just too tough to beat. PREDICTION: DelVal 48, WNE 21
Matt Noonan (Noontime Sports): The win over St. Lawrence weeks ago saved WNE’s season, but against DelVal, the Golden Bears must be patient and protect the ball on offense. PREDICTION: DelVal 45, WNE 25
Husson (9-1) at Springfield (10-0) | Saturday, Nov. 18th at 12 p.m.
James Baker (In The D3FB Huddle): Featuring two of the best running backs in the nation, this game will go by fast – bring your track shoes, football fans! Often overlooked, the Pride’s defense has done a great job this season, allowing less than 88 rushing yards per game and 10.9 points per game, too. Husson halfback John Smith will get his carries, but it’ll be Springfield that wins and moves onto the next round.PREDICTION: Springfield 24, Husson 14
Matt Noonan (Noontime Sports): As James and I have discussed numerous times this season, the Pride’s defense is legit, and yes, this unit has been overlooked by some in the D3 Football world. They’ll have their way against a talented Husson offense led by halfback John Smith, while the Springfield offense will rush by the Eagles’ defense for a few scores. Big game for Jordan Wilcox! PREDICTION: Springfield 35, Hudson 16
Plymouth State (9-1) at Brockport (10-0) | Saturday, Nov. 18th at 12 p.m.
James Baker (In The D3FB Huddle): The ‘Mountain Men’ have a long trip to Western New York to face off against a Golden Eagles team that dominated the Empire 8 most of this season. This game should be relatively low scoring to start, and will depend on how well the Panthers o-line handles Brockport’s 3-3 stack, one of the tougher defenses to block. The first half should be competitive, but the athletes on the Golden Eagles will pull away in the second half.PREDICTION: Brockport 35, Plymouth State 13
Matt Noonan (Noontime Sports): The ‘Mountain Men’ have been a great story, both this year and last year, but their storybook campaign will sadly concludes in Western New York on Saturday. The Golden Eagles are just too good and will certainly be a team to watch in this particular region going forward. Maybe they have what it takes to make the ‘Final Four?’PREDICTION: Brockport 31, Plymouth State 17
RPI (8-2) at Wesley (9-1) | Saturday, Nov. 18th at 12 p.m.
James Baker (In The D3FB Huddle): The Wolverines have been slow starters and RPI likes to grind, leaning on their defense to force the opposition into making mistakes. Wesley’s EJ Lee could be the difference in this one.PREDICTION: Wesley 35, RPI 24
Matt Noonan (Noontime Sports): Sure, I would love to say RPI’s season will continue beyond this weekend, but not against a talented and tough Wolverines squad, which won’t be an easy out in this particular region of the bracket. PREDICTION: Wesley 41, RPI 22
Curry College (8-2) at Framingham State (9-1) | Saturday, Nov. 18th at 12 p.m.
James Baker (In The D3FB Huddle): Curry’s Alex Corvese was recently named the Commonwealth Coast Football (CCC) Offensive Player of the Year, and his team will need both his arm and legs to get past a tough (and talented) Rams defense. Framingham has a strong quarterback in Adam Wojenski, so expect a lot of offense in this particular contest. The Rams will benefit from home field advantage, and perhaps kicker Ryan Clifford may be the student-athlete that decides this particular outcome. PREDICTION: Framingham State 38, Curry 35
Matt Noonan (Noontime Sports): Framingham State running back Quron Wright is going to be the difference in this one. Wright’s o-line should have their way with Curry’s front four (and may front seven) en route to a second-straight New England Bowl victory. PREDICTION: Framingham State 35, Curry 28
SUNY Maritime (9-1) at WPI (8-2) | Saturday, Nov. 18th at 6 p.m.
James Baker (In The D3FB Huddle): Thomas Wright and the Privateers have enjoyed a 9-1 run this season, but they haven’t faced a team as strong as the Engineers this fall. Dereck Pacheco and the WPI defense will give Wright some trouble, while the Engineers’ two-headed running attack of Sean McAllen and Connor Field will be tough for SUNY-Maritime to slow down.PREDICTION: WPI 42, SUNY Maritime 21
Matt Noonan (Noontime Sports): SUNY Maritime has been another great story this fall, but this will be perhaps their biggest challenge of the season. WPI’s defense has rebounded since their setback to Springfield and will provide Thomas Wright and the Privateers’ offense with a lot of challenges. Expect another big game from WPI halfback Sean McAllen, who will score at least two touchdowns in this one. PREDICTION: WPI 45, SUNY Maritime 21
Matt Falkenbury (Play-By-Play Voice of SUNY Maritime): The Privateers are a vastly different team on the road this season than they were at home. Playing this game on the road – considering they either had to come-from-behind to win or lost in all five of those games – is a bit concerning. Quarterback Thomas Wright struggled on the road the last three games and it’s something to watch for in this one. The defense will have to come up big for them to pull this out. My heart says Maritime wins, but my head says WPI wins it on a late field goal.PREDICTION: WPI 31, SUNY Maritime 28.