Tag: Scott Sperone

Noontime’s D3 Football Teams to Watch in Week Six

Joshua Onujiogu and the Framingham State defense shined last week against Plymouth State. (PHOTO COURTESY: Frank Poulin/Frank Poulin Photography)

By Matt Noonan

The second half of the 2021 New England NCAA Division III football season begins this weekend – man, that first half went by quick, eh?

Luckily, there is still plenty of football left to be played, and as usual, it is time to highlight our five teams to watch this weekend.

Amherst College (2-1, 2-1 NESCAC): Through three weeks of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) season, the Mammoths have been a pleasant surprise, winning two of three contests, including a 24-21 victory last weekend against Tufts University.

Quarterback Brad Breckenridge concluded last week’s game with 223 yards of total offense, including 103 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

Saturday’s performance against the Jumbos was Breckenridge’s most impressive outing this fall after struggling one week earlier against the Colby College defense.  

As a team, Amherst’s best effort occurred two weeks ago in an opening day win against Bates College when the Purple and White recorded 432 yards of total offense. Can they duplicate that performance this week against Middlebury College?

In addition to watching Brad Breckenridge, make sure to keep your eyes on defensive back Matt Durborow, who concluded last week’s game against Tufts with 12 total tackles, including five solo stops (Ryan Monteleone also recorded 12 total tackles, too).

Framingham State (3-2, 3-0 MASCAC): Tom Kelley’s squad has seemed to click into gear heading into the stretch run.

After starting its season with back-to-back losses, the Rams have won three consecutive conference tilts, including a 33-0 win over Plymouth State last Saturday.

Devaun Ford rushed for a pair of scores while Elijah Nichols hauled in a game-high 12 receptions for 116 yards. Cully Curran paced the defense with five solo tackles while the unit combined for four sacks and eight tackles for a loss of 44 yards. Framingham’s defense also recorded four pass breakups and one quarterback hurry.

This week, the Rams visit Fitchburg State, which is seeking its first win under Scott Sperone. A win for Framingham State certainly would provide them with additional momentum heading into next week’s conference clash with Western Connecticut.

Massachusetts Maritime Academy (3-1, 2-0 MASCAC): The Buccaneers enter the sixth week of the season riding a two-game winning streak that will be tested on Saturday against a UMass Dartmouth squad that suffered its second setback of the 2021 season last weekend to Western Connecticut.

A win over the Corsairs would keep the Buccaneers in the race for the top spot for the conference crown.

Cole Keefe, Hunter Lassere, and Mack Brown led the Massachusetts Maritime defense last week against Westfield State – the unit tallied five sacks and 12 tackles for a loss of 56 yards to go with one forced fumble and three fumble recoveries. Expect the Buccaneers defense to provide the UMass Dartmouth offense with some challenges.

Norwich University (2-3, 1-0 NEWMAC): The Cadets looked pretty good last weekend against Coast Guard Academy – Norwich beat the Bears, 24-21, for its initial New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) victory.

Norwich concluded the game with 492 yards of total offense and converted two fourth-down attempts.

Trevor Chase led all receivers with eight grabs for 155 yards and two touchdowns while Jeremy Henault stuffed the stat sheet with five solo stops, including one tackle for a loss of four yards, two interceptions, and one pass breakup.

Last week’s win resulted in Norwich securing a spot on our weekly Top 20 poll.

This weekend, Norwich will need to play its best football against the top team in the conference: the United States Merchant Marine Academy.

Western Connecticut (3-2, 2-1 MASCAC): With a 34-19-win last week over UMass Dartmouth, the Colonials have found themselves back in the conference crown mix.

Mack Driver highlighted his team’s third win of the season by rushing for 119 yards on 17 carries and three touchdowns while Ambrose Richards registered eight total tackles, including two sacks for a loss of 12 yards.

Coach Joe Loth praised his team for their effort against the Corsairs, saying his squad “executed three great game plans” on offense, defense, and special teams.

All three units will be tasked with executing great game plans again this week against Plymouth State.

Noontime’s D-III Football Region One Conference Predictions

Western New England’s Steven Fedorchak and the Golden Bears will once again be a team to watch this fall. (PHOTO COURTESY: Chris Marion)

By NoontimeSports.com

A brand new season of NCAA Division III football is set to kick off tomorrow before a few New England squads compete for the first time since 2019 on Friday and Saturday.

Before we officially begin a brand new season of college football — yes, we know some FBS and FCS teams began their respective campaigns last weekend during Week 0 — let’s dish our conference predictions and teams to watch for Region One.

Best of luck to all teams competing, both this weekend and over the next few days/weeks, and if you’re craving more New England (and NCAA D-III) football coverage, then make sure to check out our first Top 20 poll of the season and our preseason team.

Commonwealth Coast Football (CCC)

Predicted conference winner: Western New England: Quarterback Alec Coleman has graduated, but these Golden Bears return a great deal of talent on both sides of the ball that should position the Blue and Gold to win their fourth-straight CCC title.

Teams in the mix: Endicott College, Husson University, Nichols College, and Salve Regina: All four squads will certainly provide challenges for the Golden Bears as the season progresses, but one should not overlook the Eagles of Husson, who return some key pieces from their 2019 squad that will keep the Green and Gold in the mix for the top spot. 

Keep your eyes on the University of New England: The Nor’easters are trending in the right direction — the Blue and White could enter their initial week of conference play with two or three non-conference victories.

Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC)

Predicted conference winner: Dean College: The Bulldogs enter 2021 with a target on their back after winning their first conference crown in 2019.  

Teams in the mix: Anna Maria College, Alfred State, and SUNY-Maritime: The Privateers have posted five wins or more since 2015, so don’t be surprised to see them challenge the Bulldogs for the top spot this fall. Also, keep your eyes on the AMCATs of Anna Maria, which enter the 2021 season with high hopes. 

Keep your eyes on: Keystone College: The Giants enter the 2021 season as an unknown, but will certainly be a program to watch throughout the fall. 

Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) 

Predicted conference winner: UMass Dartmouth: Quarterback Stephen Gacioch is back for his final season with the Corsairs, along with some key pieces of the 2019 defense, which will help UMass Dartmouth contend for the conference crown.

Teams in the mix: Bridgewater State, Framingham State, and Western Connecticut: There are some questions about who will be under center for all three of these teams, both this weekend and throughout the season, but despite some key graduation losses from 2019 (and yes, 2020), all three units will be in the mix for the conference crown this fall.

Keep your eyes on: Fitchburg State: The Falcons begin a new chapter in their program history with Scott Sperone, who will coach his first game on Saturday against Dean. Also, don’t overlook Plymouth State, which was picked to finish fifth in the preseason conference poll.

Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC)

Predicted conference winner: Delaware Valley: The Aggies are our favorites heading into the 2021 season — yes, they will be challenged by Stevenson and Wilkes — maybe Lycoming College? — but at the end of the day, Duke Greco‘s squad will win the conference and advance to the postseason.

Teams in the Mix: Stevenson University and Wilkes University: Both teams were in the mix in 2019 and will once again challenge the Aggies for the top spot in the MAC.

Keep your eyes on Misericordia University: John Davis begins his first season with the Cougars on Saturday — expect the first-year coach to duplicate his success with the Blue and Gold from his previous stop with The Apprentice School.

New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC):  

Predicted conference winner: Williams College: The Ephs finished with seven wins in 2019 — Williams ended its season with a victory over rival Amherst College and should return a slew of talent on both sides of the ball that should make them one of the top teams in the conference.

Teams in the mix: Middlebury College, Trinity College, Tufts University, and Wesleyan University: While the Cardinals. and Panthers are certainly expected to contend for the top spot in the conference, the same could be said for the Bantams and Jumbos, who look to bounce back from a five and four win season, respectively.

Keep your eyes on: Colby College: These Mules will certainly surprise a few NESCAC fans this fall — fans of the Mules and NESCAC football will be able to see them compete in 17 days against Wesleyan.

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

Predicted conference winner: Merchant Marine: We saw the Mariners compete last fall — they beat Coast Guard Academy, thanks to an impressive outing by quarterback Ian Blankenship, who is back for his final season. Joshua King and Matt Strong were recently elected captains, and will lead a squad that garnered three first-place votes in the preseason poll.

Teams in the mix: MIT, Springfield College, and WPI: All three Massachusetts squads will look a bit different than they appeared two years ago, but are certainly equipped to challenge the Mariners for the top spot in the conference.

Keep your eyes on: Norwich University: Mark Murnyack‘s squad may have been picked to finish sixth in the conference, but don’t be surprised if these Cadets score a few exciting and dramatic wins this fall.

The Early Outlook: MASCAC

Stephen Gacioch will be spotted under center this fall for the UMass Dartmouth football team. (PHOTO COURTESY: UMass Dartmouth Athletics)

By Matt Noonan

Our preseason New England college football coverage rolls on with some early thoughts on the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC), which certainly has the making of a multi-team race for the top spot.

In case you missed it, make sure to read our previous early-season outlooks for the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC), New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC), and Commonwealth Coast Football (CCC).

MASCAC Teams

  • Bridgewater State
  • Fitchburg State
  • Framingham State
  • Massachusetts Maritime Academy
  • Plymouth State
  • UMass Dartmouth
  • Western Connecticut
  • Westfield State
  • Worcester State

2019 Conference Refresh: For the sixth time in seven seasons, Framingham State secured the top spot with an 8-2 overall record, including an 8-0 league record. The Rams advanced to the opening round of the NCAA Division III Tournament but saw their championship hopes dashed to Wesley College by a score of 58-21.

Western Connecticut also finished its 2019 campaign with an identical 8-2 record — the Colonials, who finished tied for second in the conference with Bridgewater State with a 6-2 record, ended their season against WPI in the New England Bowl (the Engineers won the game by a score of 35-6).

The biggest surprise of the 2019 season was UMass Dartmouth — the Corsairs posted seven wins for the first time since 2004 when they represented the conference in the ECAC Northwest Bowl. Quarterback Stephen Gacioch was named the MASCAC Offensive Player of the Year — the junior signal-caller finished second in the conference in efficiency (143.2) while completing 59.2 percent of his passes.

Additionally, Gacioch competed in eight games and recorded career-highs in passing touchdowns (20), passing yards per game (277.6), rushing yards (356), and rushing touchdowns (six).

Massachusetts Maritime ended its season with six wins, which is the most the Buccaneers have tallied since posting an 8-2 record in 1999.

New Coaches at Fitchburg State and Worcester State: The MASCAC will feature two new coaches at Fitchburg State and Worcester State this fall — Adam Peloquin will lead the Lancers (he was a three-year offensive guard for the blue and gold) while Scott Sperone will lead the Falcons after spending three seasons as a defensive coordinator with WPI.

New Signal-Callers: A majority of the quarterbacks from 2019 have graduated, so the expectation is we will see some new signal-callers this fall for some of the “usual” contenders.

Stephen Gacioch is the only starting quarterback returning (that I know of at this time), but it is expected that we’ll see someone new running the offense at Bridgewater, Fitchburg, and Framingham this fall.

Westfield State excited to be back on the field: Like many teams in our region, getting back to the gridiron after a year away due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is certainly something the Owls of Westfield State were happy to do a few days ago, despite a mini-heatwave. But with cooler weather now arriving to the area, the Blue and White will use this time, as well as the next few days and weeks to prepare for their season-opener against Nichols College on Friday, September 3 at 6 p.m.

Nichols and Westfield last met in the opening week of the 2018 season when the Owls topped the Bison, 25-14, thanks to 205 rushing yards and two touchdowns from halfback R.J. Darby.

Early-Season Favorite(s): It might be easy to pick the Rams of Framingham State, but the Black and Gold enter the upcoming season with some question marks on both sides of the ball, including who will be their starting quarterback. Adam Wojenski has graduated, so it will be interesting to see who coach Tom Kelley selects to lead his offense.

While Framingham State will certainly be a team to watch, the same could be said for these three squads: Bridgewater State, UMass Dartmouth, and Western Connecticut. Like Framingham, all three have some question marks heading into their respective 2021 campaign, but the Colonials will welcome back some key members of its 2019 squad, including wide receiver Will Daniels and cornerback Jarius Bailey.

Don’t rule out Plymouth State, which finished its 2019 campaign with a 6-4 record. The Panthers concluded their 2019 campaign by winning one of their final four contests, but I expect the Green and White to be in the mix this fall.

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.”