In just a few hours, we will learn the opening round matchups of the 2021 NCAA Division III Tournament with four New England teams scheduled to compete in the opening round.
One of the four teams — Framingham State — is making its third-straight trip to the national postseason while the other three, including Endicott College, are making their first appearance in a few seasons.
Let’s highlight the four local teams that will be competing in the national postseason, as well as how things played out in their previous appearances.
Anna Maria College (7-2, 5-1 ECFC): Coach Dan Mulrooney and his AMCATs made history this fall by winning their first-ever Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) title on Saturday with a 31-7 victory over SUNY-Maritime. The win snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Privateers, dating back to Anna Maria’s first season as a varsity program, but this particular trip will be the team’s initial appearance in the national tournament.
Endicott College (8-2, 5-1 CCC): Saturday’s 37-3 victory over Nichols College provided the Gulls with their first conference crown since 2013 when they beat Salve Regina in the New England Football Conference (NEFC) championship game. Endicott secured a matchup with Rowan University but saw their second trip to the playoffs conclude in the opening round with a 24-0 setback. The Gulls’ initial trip to the national tournament came in 2010 — they lost to SUNY Cortland by a score of 49-35 after edging Maine Maritime Academy in the NEFC Championship one week earlier.
In addition to two trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Gulls have appeared in four bowl games, winning a pair of ECAC North Atlantic bowls against Mount Ida College and Norwich University, along with two appearances in the New England Bowl (beat Dean College in 2019, lost to the United States Merchant Marine Academy in 2018).
Framingham State (8-2, 8-0 MASCAC): The Rams are heading back to the postseason for the third consecutive season after winning eight Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) matchups this fall.
Framingham State is seeking its initial postseason win — the Black and Gold have competed in the national tournament five times in the last nine years. They made their first appearance in 2012 after beating Salve Regina in the New England Football Conference championship — Framingham State lost to SUNY Cortland by a score of 20-19.
In addition to competing in the NCAA Tournament, coach Tom Kelley‘s Rams have won two New England Bowls in 2016 and 2017 to go with a pair of ECAC Bowl games.
Springfield will represent the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) in the postseason for the second time in program history — they captured the conference crown in 2017 with a 10-0 overall record but lost their opening-round matchup to Husson University.
The Pride’s initial appearance in the national postseason came in 1998 when coach Mike DeLong‘s squad lost its opening-round contest to Buffalo State by a score of 38-35. They would return two years later, winning back-to-back contests against Montclair State (first round) and Brockport (second round) before losing to Widener University in the NCAA East Regional Final.
Springfield’s 2000 postseason run was the furthest any Pride team would advance in the national tournament — they did advance to the second round in 2006 but lost to St. John Fisher by a score of 27-21. One round earlier, Springfield rolled past Curry College, 42-14.
With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, we head into the tenth week with some exciting conference races to watch in both NCAA Division II and Division III.
As usual, let’s start in Division II and then run through the five Division III conference races.
Northeast-10 Conference (NE10)
The Leaders: Bentley University (8-0, 6-0) and University of New Haven (7-1, 6-0)
Matchup to watch this weekend:
Bentley at New Haven (Saturday, November 6 at 1 p.m.)
Synopsis: A few weeks ago, I thought this would be the matchup that would determine the conference winner. And indeed, it is.
The Falcons and Chargers enter the tenth week of the 2021 college football season with a great deal of momentum – they both secured spots on the NCAA Division II Super Region One Rankings with Bentley securing the top spot while New Haven checked in sixth.
Saturday’s winner will most likely represent the NE10 in the national postseason later this month, pending they don’t win their final contest next weekend.
Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC)
The Leader(s): Endicott College (7-2, 4-1) and Salve Regina University (8-1, 4-1)
In the Hunt: Husson University (6-2, 3-1) and Western New England (5-3, 3-1)
Matchups to watch this weekend:
Salve Regina at Husson (Saturday, November 6 at 12 p.m.)
Western New England at University of New England (Saturday, November 6 at 1 p.m.)
Synopsis: The Seahawks will wrap up their regular-season slate with a visit to Maine on Saturday with hopes of returning to Newport, Rhode Island with their ninth victory. A win for Salve Regina would eliminate Husson from the conference championship hunt, but the same could be said for the Eagles if they are able to outlast the Seahawks as it seems unlikely that this year’s league champion will have two conference setbacks on their resume.
Western New England will also be in Maine on Saturday to face a Nor’easters squad that almost edged Endicott last weekend. UNE can play spoiler by beating the Golden Bears, but most likely, Western New England will prevail.
Endicott is idle this weekend but will return to the gridiron next week when they visit Nichols College.
Eastern Collegiate Football Conference
The Leader(s): Alfred State (4-4, 3-1), Anna Maria College (5-2, 3-1), Castleton University (5-3, 3-1 ECFC), and Gallaudet University (5-1, 3-1)
Matchups to watch this weekend:
Castleton at Alfred State (Saturday, November 6 at 12 p.m.)
Gallaudet at Anna Maria (Saturday, November 6 at 12 p.m.)
Synopsis: This is a “playoff” week with all four contenders competing against each other. And when it concludes, we may have a better gauge of who will represent the conference in the postseason.
For a few weeks, it appeared as if Anna Maria was going to win the league, but now, it could be Castleton, which needs to win its final two contests, as well as get some help from other ECFC members. Anna Maria needs help, along with Alfred State and Gallaudet.
Speaking of Gallaudet, the Bison have been a team to watch this fall, too – can they bounce back from a three-point setback last month to Alfred State this week? I believe they can, but they are facing an Anna Maria squad that is eager to return to the win column after losing to Castleton one week ago.
Don’t rule out Alfred State as they could finish the season on a four-game winning streak to secure their first-ever conference crown. Again, they will need some help to win the league, but I could see them winning the ECFC. Just a hunch.
All in all, it should be an exciting final two weeks of the ECFC football season.
Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC)
The Leader: Framingham State (6-2, 6-0)
In the Hunt: Bridgewater State (5-3, 5-1)
Matchup to watch this weekend:
Bridgewater State at Framingham State (Saturday, November 6 at 12 p.m.)
Synopsis: Framingham State inched closer to winning the conference crown last week with a 23-14 win against Massachusetts Maritime Academy. But as coach Tom Kelley and the Rams know, for them to win the conference, they must beat a Bridgewater State team that was stunned last weekend by UMass Dartmouth.
Bridgewater State can still win the conference, but they need to win their final two contests, including this Saturday’s tilt in Framingham. Like the Rams, they have beaten some of the league’s top teams, including Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Plymouth State, and Western Connecticut. Framingham State, however, topped UMass Dartmouth in their third game of the season.
If the Rams lose on Saturday, then they will need to beat Worcester State next weekend and hope the Bears get tripped up by the Buccaneers in the Cranberry Bowl.
All in all, Saturday’s contest has the makings of an instant classic – can Bridgewater State bounce back and keep their title hopes alive or will Framingham State’s current momentum carry them to their seventh straight victory?
New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC)
The Leader: Williams College (7-0, 7-0)
In the Hunt: Amherst College (5-2, 5-2), Trinity College (6-1, 6-1), and Wesleyan University (6-1, 6-1)
Matchups to watch this weekend:
Wesleyan at Williams (Saturday, November 6 at 1 p.m.)
Amherst at Trinity (Saturday, November 6 at 1 p.m.)
Synopsis: Following an impressive win last weekend against Trinity, Williams heads into its final two contests with a great deal of momentum, but they will certainly be challenged by Amherst and Wesleyan, who are eager to hand their Little Three rival a loss.
Williams will enter this week’s meeting with the Cardinals as the favorite, but Wesleyan is a resilient squad that seems eager to bounce back from a heartbreaking defeat this past weekend against Amherst in overtime.
And speaking of the Mammoths, they need to win, both this week and next week, to have a shot at sharing the conference crown. Amherst has not beaten Trinity since November 4, 2017, so let’s see if they score an important win this weekend against a squad that will be ready to return to the win column.
New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC)
The Leader: Springfield College (5-3, 4-0)
In the Hunt: Catholic University (5-3, 3-1) and United States Merchant Marine Academy (7-1, 4-1)
Matchups to watch this weekend:
Norwich University at Catholic (Saturday, November 6 at 12 p.m.)
Springfield at MIT (Saturday, November 6 at 1 p.m.)
Synopsis: With a 28-23 victory last Saturday, Springfield has put itself in a position to win the conference for the first time since 2017. But for Springfield to win the NEWMAC, they must beat their two remaining opponents: Catholic and MIT.
After dropping a pair of league contests, the Engineers of MIT have roared back, winning back-to-back games against Coast Guard Academy and Norwich, so don’t expect the Cambridge football team to lay down to Springfield. But it’s hard to see MIT or Catholic derailing Springfield, which has not lost a game since September.
Despite losing to Springfield last weekend, the Mariners of Merchant Marine Academy are still in contention to win the league, but they need the Pride to lose either this week or next week. Additionally, Catholic is in the mix but needs to beat Norwich and Springfield and have Coast Guard beat Merchant Marine next week.
All in all, it should be an exciting final two weeks of NEWMAC football.
Tim Callahan rushed for a team-high 137 yards and one score – his lone touchdown with 10:39 remaining in the third quarter proved to be the difference as Springfield College outlasted the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), 28-23, to secure the inside track to the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) title.
Springfield, which moves to 5-3 overall and 4-0 against league foes, snapped the Mariners’ seven-game winning streak that included some impressive conference victories against Catholic University and MIT, two teams the Pride will face next month.
USMMA’s Ian Blankenship produced 313 yards of total offense, including 178 yards on the ground on 23 carries.
Springfield’s Patrick Ladas and David Wells combined for 148 yards and three rushing touchdowns while DJ Brown led the Pride’s defense with 10 total tackles, including nine solo stops and one fumble recovery.
The Pride will visit MIT next Saturday, November 6 – the Engineers will enter the game on a two-game winning streak, thanks to a 21-7 victory against Coast Guard Academy.
WPI snapped a six-game losing streak with a 28-2 victory over Norwich University for the team’s first conference win since November 16, 2019 (their last conference win was also against the Cadets).
Brendan Olexa completed 15 of 25 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns while Brandon Winn and Zachary Levy each located the end zone once while combining for 90 yards rushing.
UMass Dartmouth snapped a six-game losing streak to Bridgewater State with a 26-20 victory to become the first Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) squad to win seven games this season.
Dante Aviles-Santos tossed four touchdowns in the win, including the go-head score with 13:58 remaining in the final stanza when he located Douglas Machado for an 18-yard strike.
Bridgewater State led UMass Dartmouth, 20-14, at the break, thanks to a 25-yard touchdown run by Adam Couch, who became the ninth halfback in program history to record 1,000 yards or more in a single-season.
Despite the loss, the Bears remain in contention for the conference crown, but need to win their final two contests, including next week’s matchup with Framingham State.
The Rams inched closer to securing the conference crown by defeating Massachusetts Maritime Academy, 23-14, in Buzzards Bay. Devaun Ford recorded two touchdowns in the win, including a 75-yard rushing touchdown with 8:55 remaining in the third quarter that provided the visitors with the lead for good.
Amherst College forced overtime and then beat Wesleyan University in the fourth extra session, 16-14, thanks Brad Breckenridge, who threw for 170 yards and one touchdown.
Breckenridge’s lone touchdown pass to PJ Clementi with 23 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter sent the game to extra sessions where the Mammoths were able to convert a two-point conversion in the fourth overtime.
Wesleyan entered the ninth week of the season with a perfect record – the same could be said for Trinity College and Williams College. The Ephs rolled past the Bantams, 42-3, in Williamstown to secure the top spot in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) with two weeks remaining in the regular season.
Other outcomes to note from a very busy Saturday: Castleton University outlasted Anna Maria College, 38-31, Colby College beat Bates College, 10-2, and Plymouth State topped Westfield State, 17-7.
Bentley University and the University of New Haven both scored important Northeast-10 Conference (NE10) wins this afternoon as the Falcons soared past Franklin Pierce University while the Chargers topped Assumption College, 16-10.
Both teams will meet next weekend in New Haven, Connecticut with the top spot in the NE10 up for grabs.
With a brand-new week of New England NCAA Division III football looming in the distance, that means it is time to unveil our 10 Games to Watch (and yes, our picks, too).
Last week, we picked seven of ten contests correct for the second-straight week to bump our season total to 57-23, which is not bad, right?
Anywho, let’s get to some games, along with some picks – as usual, enjoy the games, everyone, and make sure to stay connected throughout the weekend for new blogs and social media posts.
FEATURED GAME: Trinity College (6-0, 6-0 NESCAC) at Williams College (6-0, 6-0 NESCAC) Saturday, October 30 at 1 p.m.: Someone is going to leave Farley-Lamb Field with their seventh consecutive win. These two teams are evenly matched, but something tells us that Trinity will find a way to make one – maybe two or three? – more plays to secure a hard-fought win in Williamstown. PREDICTION: Trinity 21, Williams 14
FEATURED GAME: United States Merchant Marine Academy (7-0, 4-0 NEWMAC) at Springfield College (4-3, 3-0 NEWMAC) Saturday, October 30 at 1 p.m.: Springfield is on a roll — they have won their last three contests, thanks to a total team effort. And we expect that momentum will continue this week in a battle of two triple-option offenses. PREDICTION: Springfield 38, USMMA 34
University of New England (3-3, 1-2 CCC) at Endicott College (6-2, 3-1 CCC) Saturday, October 30 at 12 p.m.: Look for the Gulls to bounce back after seeing their 14-6 lead over Salve Regina University disappear in the fourth quarter. PREDICTION: Endicott 30, UNE 17
Husson University (5-2, 2-1 CCC) at Nichols College (2-5, 0-3 CCC) Saturday, October 30 at 12 p.m.: The Eagles bounced back from a week seven setback with a big win over UNE. Look for their week eight momentum to continue this weekend against a Bison squad that is still searching for its initial conference win. PREDICTION: Husson 35, Nichols 16
Framingham State (5-2, 5-0 MASCAC) at Massachusetts Maritime Academy (4-3, 3-2 MASCAC) Saturday, October 30 at 12 p.m.: Are you ready for the Kelley Cup? We waited two years for this matchup — Framingham State won this game in 2019 by a score of 16-6 and should be able to sneak past a Buccaneers squad that snapped a six-game losing streak one week ago to Western Connecticut. PREDICTION: Framingham State 20, Mass. Maritime 10
UMass Dartmouth (6-2, 4-2 MASCAC) at Bridgewater State (5-2, 5-0 MASCAC) Saturday, October 30 at 12 p.m.: The Bears have beaten the Corsairs in their last six outings — UMD last beat Bridgewater State in 2014. UMass Dartmouth enters the contest with a great deal of momentum, but the same could be said for the Bears, who have won five straight contests. PREDICTION: Bridgewater State 30, UMass Dartmouth 28
Amherst College (4-2, 4-2 NESCAC) at Wesleyan University (6-0, 6-0 NESCAC) Saturday, October 30 at 1 p.m.: The Mammoths enter the final third of their season with some momentum — they have certainly rebounded since losing to Bowdoin College earlier this month. On Saturday, they face a Cardinals squad that is finding ways to win in a dramatic fashion. Sure, we think the Mammoths can win this game, but something tells us that Wesleyan will make an extra play (or two) to escape with their seventh victory of the 2021 season. PREDICTION: Wesleyan 30, Amherst 27
Colby College (2-4, 2-4 NESCAC) at Bates College (1-5, 1-5 NESCAC) Saturday, October 30 at 1 p.m.: The Colby-Bates-Bowdoin (CBB) rivalry officially kicks off with the Mules visiting the Bobcats — Colby found a way to shutout Trinity College in the opening half last week before falling to the Bantams at home. However, we believe they should be ready to combat an explosive Bobcats offense on Saturday. PREDICTION: Colby 24, Bates 20
MIT (3-3, 1-2 NEWMAC) at Coast Guard Academy (2-5, 0-3 NEWMAC) Saturday, October 30 at 1:30 p.m.: The Engineers scored an exciting win last Saturday, rallying to defeat Norwich University at home by a score of 48-37. This week, we don’t anticipate a second-half rally, but instead, their second conference win. PREDICTION: MIT 28, Coast Guard 20
Anna Maria College (5-1, 3-0 ECFC) at Castleton University (4-3, 2-1 ECFC) Saturday, October 30 at 2 p.m.: This is a must-win for the Spartans, who are still in the mix for the conference crown. Last week, they looked pretty good against Keystone College and could provide some challenges for an AMCATs squad that has yet to drop a single conference game this fall. PREDICTION: Castleton 28, Anna Maria 26
Welcome to the ninth week of the 2021 New England NCAA Division III college football season — are you ready for another for a big week of football?
This week, along with the next two, will help us determine what teams will compete in either the national postseason or the New England Bowl(s).
So, without further ado, let’s get excited for another week of football with our latest Top 20 poll.
1. Salve Regina University (7-1, 3-1 CCC | LW: No. 5): The Seahawks return to the top of our poll following a come-from-behind victory against Endicott College.
2. Trinity College (6-0, 6-0 NESCAC | LW: No. 2): A big matchup awaits the Bantams this week against the Ephs of Williams College.
3. Endicott College (6-2, 3-1 CCC | LW: No. 1): The Gulls drop two spots after seeing their 14-6 lead disappear in the fourth quarter last Saturday to Salve Regina.
4. Western New England (5-3, 3-1 CCC | LW: No. 4): Make it back-to-back wins for the Golden Bears who are still in the mix for their conference crown.
5. Williams College (6-0, 6-0 NESCAC | LW: No. 3): Another week, another victory for the Ephs.
6. Framingham State (5-2, 5-0 MASCAC | LW: No. 6): Are you ready for the Kelley Cup this Saturday?
7. Bridgewater State (5-2, 5-0 MASCAC | LW: No. 7): The Bears rolled past Westfield State this past weekend but face a UMass Dartmouth squad that has won three straight since falling to Western Connecticut earlier this month.
8. Wesleyan University (6-0, 6-0 NESCAC | LW: No. 8): The Cardinals shut out Middlebury College at home and will look to continue their midseason momentum against Amherst College this weekend.
9. UMass Dartmouth (6-2, 4-2 MASCAC | LW: No. 9): Don’t be surprised if these Corsairs hand the Bears of Bridgewater State their initial conference setback of the season on Saturday.
10. Husson University (5-2, 2-1 CCC | LW: No. 10): The Eagles bounced back from a week seven setback to Endicott with a big win against the University of New England.
11. Springfield College (4-3, 3-0 NEWMAC | LW: No. 11): Make it three-straight wins for the Pride, who now face their toughest test of the season: the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USSMA).
12. Anna Maria College (5-1, 3-0 ECFC | LW: No. 12): Did you know the AMCATs are in first place in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC)?
13. Plymouth State (3-4, 3-2 MASCAC | LW: No. 13): Make it three-straight wins for the Panthers, who will look to even their record with a win on Saturday against Westfield State.
14. MIT (3-3, 1-2 NEWMAC | LW: No. 17): A dramatic second-half comeback helped the Engineers outlast Norwich University.
15. Amherst College (4-2, 4-2 NESCAC | LW: No. 20): The Mammoths posted their first shutout of the season last Saturday against Hamilton College. Will this win translate to a big victory this weekend against Wesleyan?
16. Massachusetts Maritime Academy (4-3, 3-2 MASCAC | LW: Not Ranked): The Buccaneers returned to the poll following an impressive 22-20 win over Western Connecticut.
17. University of New England (3-4, 1-2 CCC | LW: No. 15): A big challenge awaits the Nor’easter this weekend at Endicott.
18. Western Connecticut (3-5, 2-4 MASCAC | LW: No. 14): The Colonials will attempt to snap a three-game losing streak on Saturday at Worcester State.
19. Colby College (2-4, 2-4 NESCAC | LW: No. 19): The Mules will look to bounce back from their week eight setback to Trinity with a CBB (Colby-Bates-Bowdoin) victory against Bates College.
20. Bates College (1-5, 1-5 NESCAC | LW: Not Ranked): These Bobcats have provided some challenges to Wesleyan and Williams this fall, so don’t be surprised if they finish their 2021 slate with two – maybe three? – more victories.