New England Football Offseason Notebook: Sperone Named Fitchburg State Head Coach

10 GAMES WEEK FIVE

By Matt Noonan | @NoontimeNation 

Wednesday was an exciting day for the Fitchburg State University football program as they introduced Scott Sperone as their next head coach.

Sperone, who spent the past three seasons down the road directing the WPI defense, becomes the school’s first full-time head football coach.

“I’m eager to officially step into my role and recruit for our incoming class,” Sperone said in Wednesday’s release. “I’m excited to work with our student-athletes this spring, both on and off the field. I believe that a team working towards a unified goal can achieve great things and I’m looking forward to getting the Falcons ready to fly for the 2020 season.”

Sperone’s path to Fitchburg has featured multiple stops throughout New England over the past two decades with teams in all three divisions, including his alma mater Springfield College. He also spent time as the defensive coordinator with Fairleigh Dickinson University from 2011-17.

Under Sperone’s watch, the WPI defense was a unit to watch, especially this past season as the Engineers concluded their 11-game slate by yielding an average of 14.7 points per game. WPI limited opponents to 277.9 yards per game, including 89.5 rushing yards.

Fitchburg State concluded its 2019 campaign with a 2-8 record, including 1-7 mark against Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) opponents.

Sperone isn’t the only new coach in the MASCAC as Framingham State University announced last week that Aynsley Rosenbaum had been named the new coach of the Rams, as announced by former head coach and Director of Athletics Tom Kelley.

Rosenbaum, who is an alum of the Framingham State football program, has been the Rams’ offensive coordinator for the past 12 seasons. He has helped the program win nine conference titles, make five appearances in the NCAA Tournament and win four bowl games, including the inaugural New England Bowl against Salve Regina University in 2016.

Additionally, Rosenbaum’s offenses have been units to watch, especially last fall as the Rams led all MASCAC offenses in points, rushing yards, total offense, and touchdowns.

“I’m honored to take over at my alma mater as its head football coach and follow in the footsteps of Tom Kelley, my mentor, and friend,” Rosenbaum said via last Tuesday’s release on the Framingham State athletics website. “Framingham is a special place with people I truly care about and I look forward to continuing relationships with players, administration, and alumni.”

Framingham State finished 8-3 last fall – they posted an 8-0 mark in conference play and advanced to the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

Prior to the announcements of Rosenbaum and Sperone, Worcester State University‘s Adam Peloquin was elevated to the interim head football coach. As noted in the release from last November, ” (Adam) will assume the role through the 2020 fall playing season.”

New England Football Offseason Notebook: FSU’s Kelley Announces Retirement

10 GAMES WEEK FIVE

By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeNation 

Weeks after guiding his team to a ninth Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) title, along with an appearance in the NCAA D-III Football Tournament, Framingham State University football coach Tom Kelley announced his retirement on Wednesday, January 15th, 2020.

Kelley, who is an alum of the program, coached the Rams for 13 seasons. He guided Framingham State to five NCAA Tournaments and four bowl victories, including a 3016 New England Bowl championship.

“I cannot express how grateful I am to have been the head coach of the football program at Framingham State for the past 13 seasons,” Kelley said via Wednesday’s announcement on the Framingham State athletics website.

“As a former player, I could not be more proud of our teams and all the fine student-athletes who have come through the program. I was lucky to be surrounded by great coaches on our staff throughout the years that helped lead our teams to so much success.

“At this point, it is time for me to step away from coaching with the program sitting in a great spot coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances.  It’s time to put the horse in the barn.”

Framingham State won 107 games under the direction of Kelley, including 100 games in the last 13 seasons. Kelley has coached two AFCA All-Americans while being named the coach of the year eight times by five different organizations, including the New England Football Writers in 2012 when he led the Rams to a New England Football Conference (NEFC) championship, NEFC Bogan Division title, a MASCAC crown, and an NCAA Tournament appearance.

Kelley will remain in his current role as the school’s Director of Athletics while an announcement of a new coach should be coming within the next few weeks.

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Endicott College’s Nick DiCairano will represent the Gulls in The Dream Bowl on Monday, January 21dt, 2020. (PHOTO COURTESY: Nick Grace)

Endicott College senior kicker Nick DiCairano will be representing the Gulls’ football program next Monday, January 21st, 2020 at The Dream Bowl in Salem, Virginia at the Salem Football Stadium, as announced earlier this week on the athletic department’s website.

The Dream Bowl, which started seven years ago, “is a College Football All-Star Showcase of the best FCS, D-II, and D-III players from across the country.”

DiCairano will compete on the 2020 Crusaders team – he will be joined by a few other New England college football players, including Framingham State’s Dwayne Hunter-Parker.

Last month, DiCairano represented Endicott in the National Bowl College All-Star Game after producing an impressive senior season with the Gulls, which included career-bests in field goals (13), extra points made (57) and points (96). His longest field goal of the 2019 season was a 47-yard kick, which he recorded three times against Framingham State, Curry College, and Salve Regina University.

In addition to DiCairano, a few other New England college football players will be competing next Monday at The Dream Bowl, including Sacred Heart wide receiver Kezio Snelling, who was named to the Northeastern Conference (NEC) second team last November.

Also on the Crusaders is Derek Mountain and Corey Stefanik of Holy Cross and Momodou Mbye and Kevin Lawrence of Rhode Island College.

Noontime Rewind: The Best New England D-III Football Teams of the 2010s

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By Matt Noonan | @NoontimeNation 

Happy Sunday, everyone! And welcome back for yet another Noontime Sports rewind post where we reflect on coverage from both the current year and decade (the twenty-tens!).

This particular post will highlight some of the best teams we covered in New England D-III football – let the debate and conversations begin.

As usual, if you have any thoughts (or inputs) please comment below, but again, thanks for stopping by and reading a brand new rewind – let’s go!


The 2010 Williams College Ephs: Williams secured its third outright title with a perfect 8-0 mark which was capped by an end of season win over Amherst College. Additionally, the Purple and Gold captured the Little Three crown while producing their seventh perfect season in program history.

The 2011 Endicott College Gulls: In 2011, the Gulls captured 10 of 11 contests while averaging 40.5 points per game. The offense, led by quarterback Phil Konopka, was impressive, but the same could be said for the Endicott defense, which limited opponents to 16.5 points per contest. Kevin Eagan, who played just one season for the Gulls at defensive line, tallied 104.0 total tackles in 11 contests, including 55 solo stops and 23 tackles for a loss of 87 yards. Endicott finished the season with back-to-back wins, including an ECAC North Atlantic Bowl victory over Mount Ida College.

The 2012 Framingham State Rams: After finishing their 2011 campaign with a 7-4 mark, these Rams flipped the switch following an opening day loss to Endicott College by winning ten-straight contests, including a New England Football Conference (NEFC) Championship against Salve Regina University. Salve Regina was projected to win this particular meeting, but the Seahawks struggled to contain FSU halfback Melikke Van Alstyne, who rushed for 96 yards and two scores. James Muirhead concluded the contest with eight total tackles, including six solo stops, three tackles for a loss of 17 yards and one forced fumble. FSU would advance to the NCAA D-III Tournament but see their bid toward a national title conclude at Cortland State.

The 2013 Endicott College Gulls: Drew FrenetteSpencer Walsh, and Nate Lewis, along with the Endicott defense highlighted an exciting end of season win over Salve Regina to secure the program’s second NEFC crown in four seasons, along with a spot in the NCAA D-III Tournament. Endicott recorded its first shutout of the season and finished 2013 with an 8-3 record. The Gulls entered the postseason with a seven-game winning streak after starting its 2013 campaign with a 2-2 record.

The 2014 MIT Engineers: MIT advanced to the postseason for the first time in school history and won an exciting opening round contest against Husson University before falling to Wesley College in the second round of the NCAA D-III Tournament. The Engineers finished 10-1 in 2014 – they scored some exciting wins over Western New EnglandEndicott College, and Coast Guard Academy to secure their initial New England Football Conference (NEFC) championship in program history. MIT averaged 446.8 yards of total offense and 35.5 points per contest.

The 2015 Western New England Golden Bears: Western New England captured 10 of 11 contests in 2015, including a pair of conference victories against Endicott and Salve Regina. The Golden Bears produced 40 points or more in five contests and secured a spot in the NCAA D-III Tournament in late November.

The 2016 Western New England Golden Bears: Despite ending their season with a six-point setback to Alfred in the second round of the NCAA D-III Tournament, the 2016 Golden Bears were very impressive, winning 11 of 12 contests by an average score of 39.8 to 19.0. WNE averaged 460.1 yards of total offense in 12 contests and limited opposing offenses to just 110.1 yards on the ground per game. They scored impressive wins over Springfield CollegeUnion College, and Endicott College before beating Husson University in the opening round of the NCAA D-III Tournament.

The 2017 Husson University Eagles: Coach Gabby Price led the Eagles to not just an Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) crown in 2017, but also an upset win over Springfield College in the opening round of the NCAA D-III Tournament. Husson beat a very impressive Springfield team, which entered the postseason on a ten-game winning streak. Halfback John Smith rushed for a game-high 164 yards on 43 carries and two touchdowns while Elvin Suazo and the defense limited the Pride to a season-low 264 yards of total offense.

The 2018 Trinity College Bantams: The Bantams concluded their 2018 campaign not just with a 9-0 win over rival Wesleyan University, but also with their third consecutive New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) championship. Trinity won eight of nine contests and was able to win their ninth conference crown due to a 27-16 win earlier in the season against Amherst College. Trinity averaged 464.3 yards of total offense and 36.0 points per game while limiting opposing defenses to 67.7 rushing yards and 10.0 points.

The 2019 Middlebury College Panthers: Coach Bob Ritter led the Panthers to their first-ever 9-0 season in program history, along with a 2019 NESCAC championship. The team averaged 410.6 yards of total offense, including 227.4 passing yards while limiting opponents to 108.0 rushing yards per game. Middlebury scored some exciting wins this fall, along with some nail-bitters against Amherst College and Colby College. They scored 45 points against Wesleyan University in late October before producing 47 points one week later against Bowdoin College.

Chad Shade Named Jerry Nason Award Winner

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Springfield College’s Chad Shade was recently named the Jerry Nason Award winner. (PHOTO COURTESY: Springfield College Athletics)

By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeNation

Following an impressive senior season with the Springfield College football team, quarterback Chad Shade was named the Jerry Nason Award winner by the New England Football Writers.

The award, as noted on the NEFW website, “is presented to a graduating senior football player from a college in the New England region who succeeds in football against all odds.”

Shade, who became the second Springfield football player to receive the award, received a media redshirt last fall after sustaining a season-ending injury after his team’s fourth contest.

“I think he’s such a competitive kid, and his nature is that whatever the obstacle, and he’s such a positive influence — not only within the team, but in his own mindset — I don’t think he ever doubted his ability to come back and perform the way he did,” Springfield College coach Mike Cerasuolo said, via The Berkshire Eagle.

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).

Shade, who competed in all 10 contests this season, helped Springfield have the best rushing offense in Division III college football. Springfield averaged 405.0 yards per game, including 357.4 rushing yards, which was the most since the 2017 squad averaged 435.2 rushing yards per contest.

Player Perspective: Brendan Costa (Bates College)

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Bates College quarterback Brendan Costa was a player to watch last weekend against Bowdoin College. (PHOTO COURTESY: Brewster Burns for Bates College)

By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeSports 

Brendan Costa credited his coaches, but also his teammates for last weekend’s win over rival Bowdoin College. It was what many would describe as a true team victory.

“Our guys did a great job of executing assignments, especially our big guys up front,” said the third-year signal-caller, who threw for a season-best three touchdowns against the Polar Bears.

“The offensive line really paved the way for our skill guys to make plays and the offense as a whole took a big step forward (last) week.” 

The win over Bowdoin has seemed to energize both Costa and his Bates College teammates heading into their final game of the 2019 season tomorrow (Saturday, November 9th) against Hamilton College. The hope it seems is for these Bobcats is to duplicate their performance against the Continentals, so they can head into the offseason with some much-needed momentum.

Prior to his team’s final contest, Noontime Sports caught-up with Costa to discuss the program’s first victory since 2017, but also what it meant to provide second-year coach Malik Hall with his initial win at Bates.

How important was it to rebound and score your first win of the 2019 season after falling short to Colby one week earlier? 

This was the first game we put together (a full) four quarters. Each phase of football we played at an exceptional level. We couldn’t let the Colby College game (from one week earlier) dictate our performance in the following games so we put it behind us quickly.

I am proud of us as a team to be able to bounce back in the way we did.

What was it like to celebrate Coach Hall’s first win with the program? Did he say anything to you/your teammates after the game concluded? 

 I was really happy for Coach Hall. He was long overdue for his first win as our coach (of the Bates football program). He works his butt off every day so we can be more successful as a program. Everything he does is for the “B.”

During his post-game speech, he just touched on how proud he was of us for putting together a complete game. You could tell he was just as happy for us, as we were for him.

How will this win help the team heading into the final game of the 2019 season against Hamilton College? Do you sense a different buzz in the air, especially at practice this week? 

There has been a different vibe in practice this week. We now know we can do it, so it is our expectation to put together great games from here on out.

Hamilton is a good squad with a lot of great players. This will be a test for our team to get a win on the road and to start stringing wins together heading into 2020. We are up for the challenge.

What would it mean for you (and your teammates) to cap your season with a win? Would it provide momentum (and some additional energy) heading into the 2020 season? 

It would mean a lot to close the year on a high note. There is no time for us to take steps back, we need to keep progressing and what better way to do that than grabbing a win on the road and gaining momentum for next year. We need to start taking big strides as a program so why not start now? I am very excited about our future.