A brand new season of New England NCAA Division III football is quickly approaching, which means it is time to unveil our Noontime Sports preseason squad, which features a slew of student-athletes from last year’s end-of-season team.
The 2022 NCAA D-III football season begins Thursday, September 1 with a slew of local teams kicking off their respective season on Friday, September 2.
We’re less than 30 days from the start of a brand-new New England NCAA Division III Football season.
Are you excited?
I am, which is why I am ready to share my early predictions for which team will win their respective conference this fall.
Like most of our early season content, these picks are educated guesses. It’s possible these picks will be right while some could be wrong.
Anywho, allow me to share my early predictions for all five New England D-III football conferences.
Commonwealth Coast Football (CCC): From top to bottom, this might be the most competitive conference in the region.
As of early August – and yes, a few weeks back – I was pretty sure Endicott College would be the favorite to win its second-straight title this fall. But from doing some additional research, I will change my mind and go with another team: Salve Regina University.
To me, the Seahawks might be the best team on paper in this conference heading into the upcoming season. They will return some key members of last year’s offense that averaged 199.2 rushing yards per game.
But while Salve Regina might be the squad receiving some early-season praise for its key returners, do not overlook Endicott, along with Husson University, Western New England, and the University of New England. All four squads, along with Curry College and Nichols College will provide the Seahawks with plenty of challenges this season.
Noontime’s CCC Champion Prediction: Salve Regina University
Noontime’s Surprise CCC Team of 2022: University of New England
Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC): A new chapter of Anna Maria College football will begin this fall with first-year coach Steve Croce.
Like Salve Regina, Anna Maria will return some key members of last year’s squad on both offense and defense, including quarterback Alex Cohen, who concluded the 2021 season with 23 touchdown passes.
While Anna Maria appears to be the team to beat in the ECFC, don’t overlook Alfred State College, a squad that appeared in its first-ever postseason contest last November. Additionally, the Pioneers set a new program record for wins with six victories. For the Blue and Yellow to continue its success this fall, they will need to do it without quarterback Aaron Jenkins, who will be competing for Adrian College this season.
One team to keep an eye on this fall is Keystone College, a squad that concluded its inaugural season winless but could pose problems for both its non-conference and conference foes.
Noontime’s ECFC Champion Prediction: Anna Maria College
Noontime’s Surprise ECFC Team of 2022: Keystone College
Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC): Framingham State has been the team to beat over the last decade or so and should be the squad with a target on its back heading into training camp this month.
But don’t rule out the Corsairs of UMass Dartmouth, which concluded the 2021 season with a league-best nine wins (that’s nine wins in 11 contests).
UMass Dartmouth earned some much-needed momentum heading into the postseason by capturing its first-ever New England Bowl Game last November – the Corsairs rolled past Alfred State, 42-16, thanks to a six-touchdown effort (four passing and two rushing scores) by Dante Aviles-Santos.
Aviles-Santos returns this fall hoping to lead the Corsairs to their first-ever conference crown. UMass Dartmouth has never won a MASCAC title and appears to be the team to beat on paper.
While UMass Dartmouth might be equipped to challenge the Rams for the top spot in the conference, don’t overlook Bridgewater State, which finished its 2021 campaign with six wins and a Cranberry Bowl victory over Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Plymouth State, which ended its previous season with a 5-5 overall record, will also be in the mix for the conference crown.
Noontime’s MASCAC Champion Prediction: Framingham State
Noontime’s Surprise MASCAC Team of 2022: Plymouth State
New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC): The Bantams of Trinity College won eight games last season. They also lost one contest to Williams College, which captured the NESCAC crown with a perfect 9-0 record.
The loss to the Ephs should fuel a conference championship run for the Bantams this fall – Trinity, like other New England squads, will welcome back some key members of its 2021 squad, including quarterback Spencer Fetter, halfback Will Kirby, and wide receiver DeVante Reid. Linebacker Brian Casagrande, who led the Bantams’ defense with 46.0 total tackles, is also expected to return.
While Trinity will be the squad to watch in the NESCAC heading into their initial contest, the same could be said for others such as Amherst College, Colby College, Tufts University, and Wesleyan University.
Williams College could also pose threats to Trinity’s title run with the Ephs representing the region on last month’s D3Football Preseason Poll. Williams is one of many teams receiving votes.
Noontime’s NESCAC Champion Prediction: Trinity College
Noontime’s Surprise CCC Team of 2022: Tufts University
New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC): After starting their season with one win and three losses, Springfield College responded with a six-game winning streak that helped the Pride capture its second NEWMAC crown, as well as advance to the opening round of the NCAA D-III Tournament.
The early expectation is that Springfield will be the de-facto favorite to win the NEWMAC this fall, but don’t overlook Merchant Marine, which finished its 2021 season with a 9-1 overall record.
The Mariners won their final two contests against Coast Guard Academy and Western New England – the win over the Golden Bears provided Merchant Marine with its second New England Bowl victory since beating Endicott in 2018. Additionally, the team’s final win was an ideal sendoff for longtime head coach Mike Toop, who guided the Silver and Blue to 70 wins in 17 seasons.
It’s hard to believe, but the final week of the 2021 New England NCAA Division III football season has arrived, which means it is time to unveil our second to last Noontime Sports Top 20 Poll.
We will unveil our final poll for the 2021 season later this month following the conclusion of postseason contests, including local and regional bowl games.
So, without further ado, let’s kick off the final week of the New England D-III college football season with a brand new Top 20 poll, which finds Williams College in the top spot.
1. Williams College (8-0, 8-0 NESCAC | LW: No. 2): The Ephs matched their 8-0 record from 2010 with an impressive win over Wesleyan University.
2. Endicott College (7-2, 4-1 CCC | LW: No. 3): Despite being on a bye, the Gulls inched closer to winning their conference crown, thanks to a 24-10 victory by Husson University against Salve Regina University.
3. Husson University (7-2, 4-1 CCC | LW: No. 7): The Eagles remain in the mix for their conference crown, thanks to a big win on Saturday against the Seahawks.
4. Framingham State (7-2, 7-0 MASCAC | LW: No. 5): Framingham State captured its conference crown on Saturday with an impressive win over Bridgewater State.
5. Western New England (6-3, 4-1 CCC | LW: No. 4): The Golden Bears escaped with a hard-fought win this weekend against the University of New England. Next up: Husson at home.
6. UMass Dartmouth (7-2, 5-2 MASCASC | LW: No. 6): The Corsairs were idle this past week but will look to end their season with a win against a Plymouth State squad that enters the last week of the regular season on a five-game winning streak.
7. Salve Regina University (8-2, 4-2 CCC | LW: No. 1): The Seahawks’ regular season concluded with a disappointing 24-10 setback to the Eagles of Husson. Salve Regina is idle this upcoming weekend and will wait to see if they will compete once more in a bowl game later this month.
8. Springfield College (6-3, 5-0 NEWMAC | LW: No. 9): The Pride needs one more win to claim their conference crown.
9. Trinity College (7-1, 7-1 NESCAC | LW: No. 9): Spencer Fetter threw five touchdowns on Saturday in a bounce-back win for the Bantams.
10. Bridgewater State (5-4, 5-2 MASCAC | LW: No. 8): The Bears struggled against the Rams on Saturday but will look to bounce back this week against Massachusetts Maritime Academy in the Cranberry Bowl.
11. Plymouth State (5-4, 5-2 MASCAC | LW: No. 13): The Panthers head into their final contest with a five-game winning streak.
12. Amherst College (5-3, 5-3 NESCAC | LW: No. 11): The Mammoths struggle to slow down a talented Bantams offense on Saturday.
13. Wesleyan University (6-2, 6-2 NESCAC | LW: No. 12): The Cardinals will attempt to snap a two-game losing streak on Saturday against the Bantams.
14. Anna Maria College (6-2, 4-1 ECFC | LW: No. 16): The AMCATs are one win away from winning their first-ever conference crown.
15. MIT (4-4, 2-3 NEWMAC | LW: No. 14): Get ready for the Battle of the Cambridge Engineers and Worcester Engineers (WPI) on Saturday.
16. Western Connecticut (5-5, 4-4 MASCAC | LW: No. 18): The Colonials concluded their 2021 campaign with a win. They will be idle this weekend.
17. University of New England (3-5, 1-4 CCC | LW: No. 20): The Nor’easters may have lost their last two contests, but they are proving they can compete with the top teams in their league.
18. Massachusetts Maritime Academy (4-5, 3-4 MASCAC | LW: No. 17): Like the Bears of Bridgewater State, the Buccaneers will attempt to end their season with a win.
19. Castleton University (5-4, 3-2 ECFC | LW: No. 15): The Spartans will attempt to bounce back from a disappointing loss this week when they host Gallaudet University.
20. Colby College (3-5, 3-5 NESCAC | LW: No. 19): The Mules will attempt to capture the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin (CBB) on Saturday when they host Bowdoin College.
A pair of touchdowns in the opening frame provided Williams College with all the momentum they would need to beat Trinity College and secure the top spot in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) on Saturday afternoon Farley-Lamb Field.
The Ephs topped the Bantams, 42-3, to secure their third consecutive win against Trinity while limiting the Blue and Gold to a season-low in points and offensive yards (183).
Trinity has not been held to just three points in a game since falling to Middlebury College, 20-3, on October 28, 2000.
Joel Nicholas, Bobby Maimaron, and Dan Vaughn combined for five rushing touchdowns while the Williams defense concluded its seventh contest of the 2021 season with six tackles for a loss of 40 yards, one forced fumble, one interception, and eight pass breakups. Nicholas led all rushers with 172 yards on 17 carries and three scores.
Maimaron helped Williams secure the lead for good by capping his team’s initial drive with a three-yard rushing touchdown up the middle before locating Vaughn on the ensuing possession for a 33-yard strike. Vaughn would cap the Ephs offensive output with 6:08 remaining in the fourth quarter with a 12-yard burst up the middle.
Trinity capitalized on just one of five offensive series in the first half and struggled to contain the Ephs rushing attack, especially Joel Nicholas, who recorded his first touchdown with 4:36 remaining in the second quarter that provided Williams with a 21-3 lead at the break.
Saturday’s contest marked the first time Trinity quarterback Spencer Fetter did not throw a touchdown this fall – the junior signal-caller leads the NESCAC with 20 touchdown passes.
Williams will attempt to win its eighth consecutive contest next Saturday, November 6 when the Ephs host Wesleyan University, which saw its six-game winning streak snapped this afternoon in overtime against Amherst College. The Mammoths of Amherst will visit Trinity with both games scheduled to commence at 1 p.m.
It’s that time of the week when we highlight five teams to watch this weekend in New England NCAA Division III football.
So, without further ado … let’s get after it!
Castleton University (4-3, 2-1 ECFC): The Spartans are in the mix for the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) crown after winning back-to-back league matchups against Dean College (21-13) and Keystone College (41-0).
Against the Giants, Evan Smith threw three touchdowns, Simon Davis Jr. rushed for a pair of scores, and the Spartans defense tallied 10 tackles for a loss of 50 yards and three interceptions.
This week, the Spartans face an Anna Maria College squad that has won five consecutive matchups, as well as sits atop the ECFC standings. Saturday’s game could be considered a playoff game for the Spartans, who need to win their final three contests to remain in position to snatch their first-ever league crown.
Castleton has split its last two matchups with Anna Maria, falling to the AMCATs in 2018 before beating them one year later in 2019.
Husson University (5-2, 2-1 CCC): Despite a week seven setback to Endicott College, the Eagles of Husson are very much in the mix for the Commonwealth Coast Football (CCC) crown. However, they will need to win their final three contests and get some help.
This week, the Eagles will fly south to Dudley, Massachusetts to compete against a Nichols College squad that has yet to win a conference matchup this fall. The Bison lost their previous matchup with Husson in 2019 by a score of 31-7.
A win for the Eagles would certainly provide the Green and Gold with some much-needed momentum heading into a pair of important end-of-season matchups with Salve Regina University and Western New England. Both teams, along with Endicott are in the mix for the league title.
On Saturday, keep your eyes on Husson quarterback Nic Visser, who completed 25 of 39 passes for 350 yards and four touchdowns last Saturday against the University of New England.
Salve Regina University (7-1, 3-1 CCC): Like the Eagles of Husson, the Seahawks of Salve Regina are very much in the mix for their conference crown, thanks to a come-from-behind win last Saturday against Endicott.
But the biggest question facing the Seahawks heading into their final two contests of the 2021 season with Curry College and Husson is can last week’s big win carry them to two more victories?
Salve Regina entered conference play with a great deal of momentum after rallying to beat Rowan University by a score of 50-35. But one week later, the Seahawks saw their five-game winning streak snapped by Western New England, which beat the Blue and Grey by a score of 41-3.
Since losing to the Golden Bears, the Seahawks have rebounded, winning three-straight while averaging five touchdowns per game. They will certainly need to score a few touchdowns, both this weekend and next weekend, especially if they want to finish with nine wins.
Trinity College (6-0, 6-0 NESCAC): The Bantams are one of three New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) teams that have yet to lose a single game this season – the same could be said for Wesleyan University and Williams College. But can they find a way to finish the season with three more wins?
Last week, the Bantams fell behind early, but were able to rally and beat Colby College, 35-12, thanks to four touchdown passes from Spencer Fetter and a 139 rushing yards by William Kirby, who also located the end zone once at the end of the third quarter.
Perhaps the slow start against the Mules could be a blueprint for one of its three remaining foes – Amherst College, Wesleyan, and Williams – to beat the Blue and Gold, but it could also be a valuable learning lesson for a squad that has already won more games than they did in 2019.
Trinity will certainly be challenged these next three weeks but seem determined to finish their season without a single setback like they did in 2016.
UMass Dartmouth (6-2, 4-2 MASCAC): The Corsairs might be on the outside of the two-team race for the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) crown, but they certainly can make things interesting by beating Bridgewater State this weekend.
The Bears are one of two teams that have yet to lose a conference matchup this fall – the same could be said for Framingham State, which beat UMass Dartmouth in week three.
UMass Dartmouth has not beaten the Bears since 2014 when they beat Bridgewater State on their home turf by a score of 37-10.
Since their 27-point victory against the Bears, the Corsairs have lost five straight, including their most recent outing in 2019 when Bridgewater State registered 56 points, which was the most the Red and White produced in a single-game that season.
Since falling to Western Connecticut earlier this month, the Corsairs have won three consecutive matchups to gain some much-needed momentum heading into the final three weeks of the 2021 season.