By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeSports
In just two days, the Framingham State University football team will take the field for the first time this season when they visit Endicott College for an important week one contest.
Framingham State and Endicott have met 14 times – the series is tied at 7-7 – but the Rams have won the last six meetings, dating back to a 35-23 win in week one of the 2013 season.
Before the Rams and Gulls tangle under the lights in Beverly, Massachusetts, here are some things you need to know about this year’s Framingham State football team, which will once again be led by coach Tom Kelley.
Framingham State Rams | 2019 Team Capsule
The Rams’ 2018 Season: Framingham State won eight of 11 contests last fall en route to claiming a Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) title and spot in the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Coach Tom Kelley was tabbed the MASCAC Champion’s Choice Coach of the Year, while 13 student-athletes landed on the first and second all-conference teams, including defensive lineman Joshua Smiley and quarterback Adam Wojenski.
Framingham State captured one of two non-conference games while ending the regular season on a four-game winning streak.
The Rams drew The College at Brockport in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament but saw their bid toward a national championship dashed with a 40-27 setback. Wojenski concluded the game with 450 passing yards and two touchdowns.
Wojenski’s New Targets: Heading into his final season with the Rams, quarterback Adam Wojenski is adjusting to some new wide receivers and tight ends he will be throwing the ball to this fall, including Jacob Maher, who transferred from Worcester State.
Maher, who played high school football for Marshfield High School, was recently named to the D3Football.com Preseason All-American team after earning a pair of New England Football Writers Division II/III All-New England honors as a member of the Lancers.
“He’s a beast,” said Wojenski when asked about building a rapport with his new tight end. “(Once) we get our timing down then we’ll be good to go.”
Maher won’t be the only wide receiver or tight end Wojenski will be targeting this fall as the Stratford, Connecticut native is expected to target Austin Nunn, Elijah Nichols, and Manny Exilhomme, too.
Wojenski is confident in his new receivers, who he claims have “stepped up” in preseason practices. “They will be ready,” he said.
New Leadership on Defense: Similar to the Rams’ offense, the defense will also look a bit different than last year due to some key graduation losses, but that doesn’t seem to faze Josh Smiley, who claims “(the) defense (has) bought into our system and we’re all ready to go.”
Smiley is just one of a few returners on defense this fall – he will be joined up front by Rufus Rushins, Facundo Isas, and Joshua Onujiogu.
The unit also returns linebackers Brian Donahue and Cully Curran, and strong safety Carls Alphonse.
Framingham State’s defense will be guided by Mike Landers, who coached the wide receivers last fall.
Onujiogu has enjoyed working with Landers, who he claims has helped both him and his teammates understand more than just the typical x’s and o’s.
“(We’re) learning more things (that) we may have not thought of before,” said Onujiogu of Landers’ defensive formations and schemes.
Added Smiley, “We do (get) more freedom, but this is going to be a fast-moving defense.”
Youth Movement: For the Rams to enjoy a successful campaign this fall, they will need some first-year players to step-up on both offense and defense.
The Rams’ 2019 roster features a slew of first-year players, including halfback Devaun Ford, who is expected to start on Friday against Endicott.
Ford played locally for Mashpee High School and competed for a trio of Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) Super Bowl teams, including the 2017 Division 7 squad that beat Blackstone Valley, 22-16.
Danny Marinaccio is also a first-year back that is expected to step up and help the offense this fall.
On defense, Issac Nascimento is a student-athlete that can help the secondary – he will certainly learn a great deal from the upperclassmen and coach Shawn Theriault.
“We’re going to be young and we’re going to have to count on some of the young guys to step up,” said Kelley.
In the past, both first and second-year players have done quite well in Kelley’s system, and have helped the squad by making some key plays when needed.
Conference Favorites: The Rams were picked to win the MASCAC this fall, according to the 2019 preseason coaches poll.
Framingham State secured seven first-place votes, while Western Connecticut, which secured the second position, earned a pair of first-place nods.
Bridgewater State, Plymouth State, and UMass Dartmouth rounded out the top five, checking-in third, fourth, and fifth, respectively, while Westfield State secured the sixth position.
Fitchburg State checked-in seventh, Massachusetts Maritime Academy secured the eighth position, while Worcester State placed ninth.
Conference play for most teams will begin in week three with the Rams hosting Westfield State at 12 p.m.
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