Noontime’s ‘What If’ D3 Football Conference Champion Predictions

Bobby Maimaron and the Williams College football team would have been one of our teams to watch this fall. (PHOTO COURTESY: Kris Dufour/Williams College)

By Matt Noonan

Like many of our fans and friends, I miss New England D-III football. But as an optimist, I believe we’ll see our favorite teams and student-athletes back on the gridiron at this time next year vying for conference crowns, along with at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament.

And speaking of conference crowns – and yes, the national postseason, too – I thought it would be fun to produce a special Noontime’s ‘What If‘ post on which teams I believe would have won their respective conference this fall.

As expected, these predictions were not easy as there are a slew of teams and programs capable of winning their respective conference, but here are my predictions. And as usual, you can share your thoughts with me on social media, as well as send a note to MattNoonan@noontimesports.com.

Commonwealth Coast Football (CCC): Western New England

For the past few seasons, the Golden Bears have been the team to watch and beat in this conference. And once again, Western New England would be the squad to watch in the CCC this fall. They would most likely enter their final game of the regular season with two important wins against Endicott College and Salve Regina University. And like most teams highlighted in this post, the 2020 Golden Bears would look a bit different than previous years, especially on offense as they would have a new quarterback, but their defense would be be a unit to watch – it would be led by linebacker Erich Keutmann, who was named a D3Football.com Preseason All-America second-teamer in September.

Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC): Dean College

The Bulldogs captured their first-ever conference crown last season, thanks to quarterback Terrell Watts, who was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Year, along with wide receiver Errol Breaux and safety Tyzohn Poole. Of course, there would be other student-athletes to watch as the season progressed, but at this point of the 2020 season, the Bulldogs would have claimed some important wins against Castleton University and SUNY Maritime. They would have also beaten a new D-III football team: Keystone College.

Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC): Framingham State University

Like Western New England, it is hard to pick against the Rams, which would be starting a new chapter in its program history with first-year coach Aynsley Rosenbaum, who spent the past 12 seasons overseeing the Framingham State offense. But like prior years, this would be the team to watch in the MASCAC. Sure, they would look a bit different on offense without quarterback Adam Wojenski, who graduated last spring, but the Rams would welcome back some key pieces from that unit, including halfback Devaun Ford, who was named the 2019 MASCAC Rookie of the Year. Framingham State would be challenged for the top spot by Bridgewater State, UMass Dartmouth, and Western Connecticut.

New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC): Williams College

The Ephs of Williams College suffered just two setbacks last season, including an opening day loss to Middlebury College, which would be a game circled on their calendar this season. Williams would somehow find a way to beat the Panthers at home, along with Wesleyan University, which tripped up the Ephs prior to their season-ending win over Amherst College last November. But for the Ephs to win the NESCAC, they would not only need to beat Amherst, Middlebury, and Wesleyan, but also Trinity College and Tufts University. Additionally, let’s not overlook Colby College and Hamilton College, which would challenge the Purple and Yellow, but in the end, quarterback Bobby Maimaron, along with the rest of the Ephs would make just a few more plays in all nine contests to secure the NESCAC title.

New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC): Springfield College

Sure, MIT maybe the favorite after winning the NEWMAC crown the past two years, but it would be hard to overlook Springfield College, which would be led by halfback Hunter Belzo and linebacker AJ Smith. The Pride, which finished with six wins last year, would win at least seven, maybe eight games this season, but their most important victory would occur during the final weekend of the regular season against the Engineers in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Football Friday: Revisiting Framingham State’s 2012 Campaign

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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.

Decisions On The 2020 College Football Could Come This Week

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The question of if and when college football returns should be answered in the coming weeks. (PHOTO COURTESY: Ken Lund on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-SA)

By Matt Noonan 

The debate about if and how college football could be played during a pandemic may be answered this week, especially after a flurry of activity this past weekend between Power 5 conferences convening remotely, per reports, to the Mid-American Athletic Conference (MAC) becoming the first F.B.S. league to cancel its 2020 season.

Last night – Sunday, August 9, to be exact – we learned the Big Ten conference, which met twice this weekend, is leaning toward canceling its football season. And if football is canceled, it is likely both the presidents and chancellors of each institution would pull the plug on other fall sports, too.

An announcement from the Big Ten is expected if not today definitely this week, and pending the league’s final decision on the 2020 fall sports season, it is possible other Power 5 conferences such as the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and Pacific-12 Conference (Pac-12) could cancel their respective fall sports seasons or perhaps make tweaks to their newly updated schedules.

While nothing official has been announced by the Big Ten or any Power 5 conference as of this morning, Bob Bowlsby, who is the commissioner of the Big 12, did provide some insight into what leagues might take into consideration when deciding to cancel games this fall: players enduring longlasting cardiac issues from contracting the coronavirus (Covid-19) that may prohibit them from future competition.

As noted in a recent story from Sports Illustrated, team doctors and physicians are worried that youth athletes, who are healthy and may be asymptomatic, could develop life-long heart problems, including myocardial, which causes damage to the heart muscle. It appears this issue is just one of many both presidents and chancellors are grappling with when it comes to making a decision on the 2020 fall sports season.

Here in New England, it appears as if both Boston College and the University of Massachusetts will play football this fall, but it is not a given that either program will play or perhaps complete its entire schedule. It is possible, pending future announcements from the Big Ten and other leagues, that both seasons could be canceled or punted to next spring.

Merrimack College, which competes in the Northeastern Conference (NEC), will have to wait and see if their football team will be allowed to play games this fall. According to last month’s update, the NEC President’s council will reconvene on Thursday, October 1 to assess the ongoing pandemic and see if it’s possible to provide not just the Warriors, but every team in the conference with some form of competition.

Other New England schools, including those that compete at both the Division II and III levels, will not be competing this fall, despite some athletic departments still not announcing that fall sports are canceled. But it is likely those announcements could come if not this week later this month once students return to campus.

At the end of the day, these are not easy decisions, so fans and football fanatics need to respect whatever is announced either today or over the next few days. Yes, no college football in the fall would seem strange, but if these decisions result in keeping the student-athletes safe, along with everyone else involved with college athletics safe and healthy, then we should applaud both the presidents and chancellors for making the right call.

NCAA D-III Presidents Council Cancels Fall Sports Championships

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Photo Courtesy: NCAA D-III Twitter

By Matt Noonan 

There will be no fall sports championships for any NCAA D-III member for the upcoming academic year.

In a statement posted (and seen) on the NCAA D-III Twitter handle earlier today, the President’s Council officially put an end to any thought or hope of fall championships due to the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The announcement follows a previous announcement from the NCAA Board of Governors from earlier today, which “directed each division to make a decision on its fall championships.”

“Looking at the health and safety challenges we face this fall during this unprecedented time, we had to make this tough decision to cancel championships for fall sports this academic year in the best interest of our student-athletes and member institutions,” said Tori Murden McClure, who is the chair of the President’s Council and president at Spalding, in a statement.

McClure did add that the championship committee “reviewed the financial and logistical ramifications” for having fall sports championships moved to next spring, but realized ” it was logistically untenable and financially prohibitive.” This would mean the next time any of us see a D-III football game won’t be until 2021.

As of now, the hope, according to McClure, is to provide both the winter and spring student-athletes with a championship experience that they did not endure earlier this year when both seasons abruptly concluded in mid-March.

Noontime’s Way Too Early D-III Football Conference Predictions

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Frank Stola and the Williams College football team will be one of the favorites in the NESCAC this fall. (PHOTO COURTESY: Kris Dufour/Williams College Athletics)

By NoontimeSports.com 

Our WAY too early New England D-III football preseason coverage rolls on with some predictions on who we think will win their respective conference this season.

Yes, we know these are VERY early predictions and they will certainly change once we get closer to kick-off, but for now, enjoy some way too early thoughts (from your friends at Noontime Sports) on who we think will celebrate a conference championship in November.



Commonwealth Coast Football (CCC)

  • Predicted Winner(s): Endicott College or Western New England
  • Teams to Watch: Husson UniversityNichols College, and Salve Regina University
  • Quick Synopsis: Yes, we know the Gulls and Golden Bears will be the teams to watch this fall, but don’t overlook Husson, Nichols, and Salve Regina as these three teams that will certainly challenge Endicott and Western New England for the CCC crown. Western New England has won the conference the last three years while Endicott has come close the past two seasons to snatching the title from its rival.

Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC)

  • Predicted Winner: Dean College
  • Teams to Watch: Maritime (N.Y.) 
  • Quick Synopsis: With a 4-1 conference mark, the Bulldogs were able to win their first-ever ECFC title last fall, so expect that momentum to continue one year later. Maritime (N.Y.) will also be a team to watch this season, while the other ECFC teams should provide challenges to both the Bulldogs and Privateers.

Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC)

  • Predicted Winner(s): Framingham State or UMass Dartmouth 
  • Teams to Watch: Bridgewater State and Western Connecticut 
  • Quick Synopsis: The Rams of Framingham State have enjoyed a great deal of success the past few years, but could this be the year of the Corsairs? With quarterback Stephen Gacioch leading the UMass Dartmouth offense this fall, expect the Corsairs to challenge the Rams for the top spot in the MASCAC.

New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC)

  • Predicted Winner(s): Wesleyan University or Williams College
  • Teams to Watch: Middlebury CollegeTrinity College, and Tufts University
  • Quick Synopsis: As of now it seems as if this conference could be a two-team or five-team race for the NESCAC crown. Williams will welcome back an impressive senior class that should help them overcome the challenges to secure their first outright title since 2008. Keep your eyes on Trinity and Tufts – these two teams could play spoiler – and, of course, don’t overlook the Cardinals of Wesleyan, who will return some impressive talent on both sides of the ball.

New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC)

  • Predicted Winner: MIT
  • Teams to Watch: Coast Guard Academy, Merchant Marine Academy, and Springfield College  
  • Quick Synopsis: Coach Brian Bubna and the Engineers have won back-to-back NEWMAC championships so it is hard to pick against MIT, which will once again be one of a few teams to watch in this conference. The Bears of Coast Guard Academy could also be a team that takes that next step, but don’t overlook Merchant Marine and Springfield College. Also, let’s not count out WPI, which did graduate a big senior class, but will carry over some momentum from its 10 win season.