Tag: Tom Kelley

The 2021 New England College Football Season Was Worth The Wait

Matthew Sluka and the Holy Cross football team concluded its 2021 campaign with 10 wins, along with a trip to the NCAA FCS Tournament. (PHOTO COURTESY: Mark Seliger Photography/Courtesy of Holy Cross Athletics)

By Matt Noonan

Another season of New England college football — and yes, preps and high schools, too — are slowly ending. But the 2021 season is still on my mind.

After not seeing so many local teams compete last fall due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was an amazing feeling to pace the sidelines these last few months and watch numerous student-athletes compete on the gridiron.

The 2021 New England football season will be one we will all remember — in my opinion, it was worth the wait. (And you can revisit some of our favorite memories from the sidelines by watching our end-of-season highlights on YouTube!).

There were some of the “usual suspects” that either won or were in the mix for their respective conference title to some new teams, especially in NCAA Division III that deserve our attention going forward.

Before we officially say so long and farewell to a fun season of coverage, allow me to revisit a few stories that I certainly will remember from this season.

  • Holy Cross not only won its third-straight Patriot League title, including two in the same year, thanks to a shortened spring season to go with their first postseason victory in program history. And despite losing on Friday in the second round of the NCAA FCS playoffs to the University of Villanova, the future is very bright for coach Bob Chesney’s squad.  
  • Harvard University captured their 137th meeting with Yale University last month, thanks to a game-winning touchdown pass from Luke Emge to Kym Wimberly. The 34-31 victory by the Crimson clinched their first eight-win season since 2015. 

  • Sacred Heart University made its second-straight appearance in the NCAA FCS Tournament, but came up short to Holy Cross, which edged the Pioneers in the opening round by a score of 13-10. The Red and White will graduate some key pieces from this year’s squad, but will attempt to win their third-straight Northeast Conference crown next fall.

  • Bentley University and the University of New Haven were two teams to watch in New England NCAA Division II.

    Both teams met twice last month, including in the opening round of the NCAA Division II Tournament. Two weeks earlier, the Falcons and Chargers squared-off in an early November contest with New Haven not only winning the game, but also securing their first Northeast-10 Conference (NE10) crown since 2012.

    The Chargers lost to Kutztown University last weekend in the second round of the playoffs, but they will certainly be a team to watch next season — the same could be said for the Falcons.

  • Bentley’s Stephen Sturm was one of a few NE10 signal-callers to watch this fall as he concluded the season with a league-high 23 touchdown passes.

    Saint Anselm’s Drew Willoughby, who was named the league’s Rookie of the Year, threw for a league-high 2,803 passing yards to go with 22 touchdowns. He averaged 311.4 passing yards per game.

  • Anna Maria College won its first-ever Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) title with seven wins, which is the most victories any AMCATs squad has recorded in a single season. And despite losing to Delaware Valley in the opening round of the NCAA Division III Tournament, coach Dan Mulrooney’s squad will certainly be a team to watch next fall, both in and outside of the ECFC.

  • The 2021 Williams College football team made history by becoming the first squad to win nine games in a single season.

    The Ephs capped their campaign with three impressive wins over Amherst College (24-19), Trinity College (42-3), and Wesleyan University (25-0) to clinch a 9-0 record, their first perfect season since 2010.

  • Colby College could be a team to watch next fall as they matched their 2013 squad with four wins.

    The Mules captured their second-straight Colby-Bates-Bowdoin (CBB) crown with a pair of victories over Bates College (10-2) and Bowdoin College (21-10).  

  • Tom Kelley and the Framingham State University football team won their third-straight Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) crown outright. The Rams concluded their season with an 8-3 overall record for the third consecutive season, as well as posted a perfect 8-0 league mark for the second-straight year.

    The Rams will continue to be the team to watch (and yes, follow) in 2022, but will certainly be challenged by a slew of teams in the MASCAC.

  • Endicott College captured its first conference crown since 2013, as well as hosted its first-ever NCAA playoff game.

    Coach Paul McGonagle’s Gulls will certainly be a team to watch next fall — the Green and White are young and will return a slew of talent from this year’s squad on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Mike Ingraffia and wide receiver Shane Aylward.

  • After starting its season with a 1-3 record, Springfield College bounced back with six-straight wins to capture its second New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) crown. The Pride ended their season with three important wins against Catholic University (28-14), MIT (17-7), and the United States Merchant Marine Academy (28-23).

  • NCAA D-III Football Teams to Watch in 2022: Bridgewater State, Husson University, Salve Regina University, Plymouth State, Trinity College, Tufts University,  UMass Dartmouth, University of New England, and Western Connecticut.

Four New England D3 Football Teams Are Headed To The NCAA Tournament

Endicott College will make its first appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament this week since 2013. (PHOTO COURTESY: Tammy McManaway Sports Photography)

By Matt Noonan

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 College (7-3, 6-0 NEWMAC): The Pride punched their ticket to the postseason with a 28-14 victory on Saturday over Catholic University.

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.

New England Small College Football Conference Race Watch (Week 10)

Joel Nicholas and the Williams College football team currently sit atop the NESCAC with a 7-0 record. (PHOTO COURTESY: Kris Dufour/Williams College Athletics)

By Matt Noonan

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.

 

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.

Observations & Thoughts From Five Weeks of New England D2 & D3 Football

Western New England’s Steven Fedorchak set the program record for touchdown receptions last weekend against Salve Regina. (PHOTO COURTESY: Chris Marion)

By Matt Noonan

We’re slowly reaching the halfway mark of the 2021 college football season – crazy, right?

But the good news is there is still plenty of football left to be played.

While yesterday – Sunday, October 3, 2021 – technically marked the beginning of the sixth week of the season, here are some observations from what I have witnessed over the past few weeks.

Let’s begin in the Northeast 10 Conference (NE10) where Bentley University has won five straight contests to stretch its current winning streak to 10 games, dating back to October 2019.  

The Falcons, who currently occupy the top spot in the conference, have won three consecutive league matchups this fall, including a 34-21 contest this past weekend against Saint Anselm. Quarterback Stephen Sturm account for four touchdowns – three passing, one rushing – and 379 yards of total offense against the Hawks while Cole McCubrey registered a team-high 13 total tackles, including nine solo stops (Rene Nunez also recorded nine solo tackles).

Bentley enters the sixth week of the season as the 18th best team in Division II, according to the latest American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Poll. The Falcons are one of nine teams on this week’s list that have won five consecutive contests this fall.

West Florida and Northwest Missouri State, which secured the first and second positions in this week’s AFCA D-II Poll, boast identical 4-0 records.

As noted above, there is still a lot of football left to be played, but Bentley has certainly found ways to score hard-fought wins, both this past weekend and at the end of September against American International College.

This week, the Falcons host a Pace University squad that provided challenges for New Haven, which broke open a 14-14 tie with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Last week’s Pace-New Haven contest marked the first time the Chargers competed on the road this school year.

Coach Chris Pincince seemed proud of his team’s effort against the Setters, saying that “a win is a win, we look forward. We took another step toward another goal (of winning the Northeast 10 title) that we have.”

New Haven hosts Saint Anselm this week – the Chargers defense will be tasked with slowing down an impressive Hawks passing attack that is led by quarterback Drew Willoughby, who has thrown for 10 touchdowns and 1,410 yards in four contests.

As of now, it appears as if both Bentley and New Haven are the frontrunners for the conference crown as neither squad has dropped a league contest thus far, but don’t overlook Southern Connecticut (3-2, 2-1), Assumption College (2-3, 2-1), and Stonehill College (3-1, 1-1). All three, along with possible American International College could conclude the season in the top spot.

Sure, we picked against Western New England this past weekend in the previous 10 Games to Watch – I thought Salve Regina University would continue its early-season momentum against the Golden Bears – but the Blue and Gold proved me wrong as they defeated the Seahawks, 41-3, in their initial Commonwealth Coast Football (CCC) contest.

Steven Fedorchak highlighted his team’s big win over the Seahawks by setting a new program record for touchdown receptions with 23. He concluded the contest with a game-high 87 yards on six catches.

With the win, the Golden Bears returned to the top spot in our weekly poll and seem destined to occupy that position for the remainder of the season baring a future setback to say Endicott College this week or another conference foe later this fall.

We’ll share our weekly picks later this week, but from what I have seen from Western New England thus far, as well as this past weekend, they certainly are the favorite to win their fourth-straight CCC title.

Alex Cohen recorded six touchdowns last weekend in his team’s first-ever win against Keystone College. (PHOTO COURTESY: Brian Foley/Anna Maria College)

Here are a few more teams to keep an eye on over the next few weeks:

Anna Maria College: The AMCATs have been a great story this fall.

Anna Maria has won three of four meetings, including its first-ever with Keystone College, which saw quarterback Alex Cohen account for six touchdowns – five passing and one rushing.

Last Saturday’s win provided coach Dan Mulrooney with his seventh victory as the AMCATs head coach – the seven wins are the most recorded by a head coach in program history, dating back to their initial season in 2009.

Anna Maria has never won the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) but could be in line for the title, pending how the next few weeks play out.

Framingham State: After losing back-to-back non-conference games earlier this season, the Rams have bounced back, winning three straight, including their first conference clash of the season with UMass Dartmouth.

Coach Tom Kelley’s squad enters the sixth week of the season tied with Bridgewater State for the top spot in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) – the two teams will compete next month in Framingham.

The Rams pitched their first shutout of the season last weekend against Plymouth State (33-0) and will attempt to extend their winning streak to four games on Saturday when they visit Fitchburg State for a 3 p.m. kick-off.

Norwich University: The Cadets scored a big win last weekend against Coast Guard Academy to secure a three-way tie atop the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) standings.

After starting their 2021 campaign with back-to-back losses, Norwich has rebounded quite well – hey, they did not make things easy on Endicott, which rallied to beat the Cadets on their home field.

Keep an eye on the Cadets moving forward – maybe their win against Coast Guard Academy is just the start of an exciting second-half run.

Trinity College: I watched the Bantams game last weekend against Middlebury College and came away impressed.

Trinity blanked the defending champions by a score of 28-0, thanks to a pair of touchdown passes from Spencer Fetter, who has thrown eight touchdowns this fall while completing 62 of 91 passes for 952 yards.

Fetter was impressive, but the same could be said for others, including halfback William Kirby and linebacker Brian Casagrande, who both scored one touchdown last weekend.

Trinity is one of three New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) teams that have yet to drop a game this season – they will attempt to continue their winning ways on Saturday when they visit Hamilton College for a 1 p.m. kick-off.

University of New England: The Nor’easters are one win away from matching their program record for wins in a single season after capturing their last three matchups, including a pair of non-league wins over Alfred State and Bridgewater State.

Last Saturday, UNE scored its first win in program history against Nichols College, thanks to three rushing touchdowns from Jack Mahoney, Jaymeson Maheux, and Connor Sirois.   

UNE travels to Salve Regina this weekend for its second conference tilt of the 2021 season.