By Adam Samrov
The Middle Atlantic Conference has a real fight on its hands heading into the last three weeks of the regular season.
With Delaware Valley and Albright undefeated and garnering all the headlines in central Pennsylvania, Lebanon Valley is creeping up on the other two teams, as the Dutchmen are 6-1 for the first time since 1961. They are also 3-1 in conference after beating up on King's 40-14. LVC's rushing attack led the way in the rain, as Charlie Parker, who was honored before the game for breaking the school rushing record, and Ben Guiles led LVC to more than 200 yards on the ground.
"We're sort of an old-school rushing attack," said head coach Jim Monos on Tuesday afternoon. "You don't see it a whole lot in the league. I mean, teams run, but they like to throw as well."
Having the tough running game can really simplify things on offense.
"If you're scoring points, it really shortens the game," Monos said. "Offensively, we have an excellent offensive line and a good rushing attack."
Monos sang the praises of both Parker and Guiles, saying that each player's different rushing styles make it difficult for opposing defenses to play it.
"We used to substitute by series, but now both will be in at all different times," Monos said. "They both have 'it', and by 'it' I mean vision. It's a different look for the defense."
Opposing defenses can't just focus on Parker and Guiles, though, because of the sprint passing game LVC runs. Quarterback Caleb Fick is better when he's moving around and Monos' offense allows him to do just that.
"It's a lot harder for a defense to play that. We like to spread the ball to a lot of different receivers, tight ends, even the backs make a lot of catches," Monos said.
It's proven in the stats. Fick has nearly 1,000 yards throwing this year, and 10 players have caught passes this year.
But defense is where it's at for the Dutchmen. Matt Lillis secured the game against King's on that side of the ball for the Dutchmen, making two interceptions, including a 31-yard pick-six.
In the last couple of weeks, LVC linebackers have earned MAC defensive player of the week awards for their performances -- Will Keylor against FDU-Florham and Alex Gilchrist against Wilkes. And Lillis could have won it with his performance against King's.
"His interception was the turning point of the game," Monos said. "It was 26-14, they had the ball, and then it's 33-14 and it's a different game."
With the defense leading the way, Monos said he's seen a huge improvement in his team. But as most coaches are wont to do, Monos refuses to look ahead.
"I tell the guys that the goal is beating Widener (next week). Anyone can beat anyone in this league," Monos said.
The only problem for LVC is that the team doesn't control its own destiny for the automatic qualifier in the MAC. They do face Albright on the road on Nov. 14 in the regular season finale, but they've already lost to Delaware Valley, so if LVC wins out, they lose out in a head-to-head matchup.
But the Dutchmen could be in a position for a Pool C bid if they win out, with their only loss to DVC. However, LVC's out of conference schedule is not very strong, and if looking for an at-large bid, that could be foreboding for the Dutchmen.
And now there were two
Two East Region teams have made their way into the D3football.com Top 25 -- Delaware Valley moved up one spot to No. 23 -- but the one team who has finally cracked the poll, at No. 24, is Alfred.
Alfred, which beat St. John Fisher at Growney Stadium 31-28 on Saturday, reached the top 25 for the first time since 2007.
Sophomore kicker Eric Rockwood may have been the most popular guy in Mayberry on Saturday night, after kicking a 31-yard game-winning field goal with 12 seconds left to secure the win.
Quarterback Tom Secky and senior running back Vinson Hendrix both left the game with injuries, but according to people who attended the contest in Pittsford, N.Y., both were hanging out on the sidelines without crutches, so both injuries may not be a big deal.
Secky, who left the game after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter with a right knee injury, had thrown for about 100 yards before sophomore T.J. Kilcarr came and managed the game, completing seven passes for 104 yards.
Hendrix, who has rushed for 885 yards, left in the third quarter with an undisclosed injury. Secky is ninth in passing efficiency and Vinson Hendrix is fifth in rushing yards per game in the nation, so if either one of those two key cogs are gone for any amount of time, it's going to be a tough row to hoe for the Saxons.
Alfred has averaged eight wins over the past five years, and this could be their year.
Middle Atlantic Conference
The East Region's consistent Top 25, Delaware Valley, was efficient in beating Lycoming 21-7. The Aggie defense came up huge all day, causing six turnovers and getting five sacks.
DVC spotted Lycoming seven points in the first 90 seconds, and held them to nothing for the rest of the contest.
Delaware Valley is 4-0 in conference, and 6-1 overall, with the only loss to Wesley, the No. 3 team in the D3football.com Top 25.
Albright remained undefeated at 7-0 and 4-0 in conference after a big-time defensive performance in a 31-17 win over Widener. Sophomore Alvin Thomas led the charge against the Pride, scoring 2.5 sacks, bringing his season total to 11.5, tying the Lions single-season record set back in 1995 by Chris Rickards.
New Jersey Athletic Conference
Kean and Montclair State remained undefeated in the New Jersey Athletic Conference with wins over Morrisville (43-6) and TCNJ (16-13), respectively.
Kean forced five Mustang turnovers as sophomore Tom D'Ambrisi continued his spectacular season, completing 18 passes for 302 yards and three touchdowns.
Senior running back Jared Chunn ran for 115 yards and a touchdown, breaking the career rushing record for the Cougars. He came into the game 15 short of 3,000 yards, and on the second play from scrimmage, ran for a 59-yard touchdown to break the barrier.
Montclair State, the other conference unbeaten, had a good defensive battle at TCNJ's homecoming.
The Red Hawks were held to 32 yards on 29 carries, just over a yard per touch, but kicker Marco Capozzoli saved Montclair's tails and unblemished mark by hitting three field goals -- all over 40 yards.
The most dangerous team in the NJAC right now, almost without question, is the team I wrote about last week -- Rowan.
Rowan, as coach Jay Accorsi talked about, refused to look at anything else except their opponent Saturday, Buffalo State, and beat the snot out of the Bengals 57-7.
The 6-1 Profs (5-1 in the NJAC) outgained Buffalo State 422-44 and were up 37-0 at the half, so for the fourth week in a row, quarterback Frank Wilczynski didn't play in the second half.
Senior Andrew Yezzi led the defensive charge for the Profs, making seven tackles, 3.5 for loss, a sack and two forced fumbles.
Cortland is right behind at 5-2, which had to use a trick play late in the first half to beat William Paterson in the rain, 12-10.
Running back Anthony Giuliano's first pass attempt as a collegian out of the "Wildcat" formation went for a 54-yard touchdown to senior Eric Hajnos with 3:17 left in the first half, which turned out to be the winning score.
Hajnos caught seven passes for 160 yards and the long touchdown. The 160 yard performance was the most by a Cortland receiver since 2001.
The NJAC will be a battle all the way to Week 11, as usual.
Union, the top team at 4-0 in the LL, fell in a close one to out-of-region opponent Salisbury 19-16. Union was asleep in the first half, as Salisbury took a 16-0 lead into the break. Two third-quarter touchdowns for Union tied it, but a 22-yard field goal with 4 minutes left propelled Salisbury to the victory.
Union gave up a lot of yardage on the ground, as the Sea Gulls ran for more than 300 yards, but only one sustained scoring drive. It just happened to be the game-winner, a 14-play, 73-yard drive.
Luckily for the Dutch, this game was out-of-region and conference, so while it is a loss, but they are still at the top of the league, with a good chance to win the conference's AQ.
And next week is the Shoes game, so not only is there a chance to win the Shoes back after a three-year absence, it would maybe put the LL conference out of reach.
Hobart bounced back from a 31-21 loss to Union last week with a 28-0 shutout of Merchant Marine Academy.
Hobart used five quarterbacks in the contest, including Doug Vella, who threw for 105 yards.
The Statesmen are 2-2 in conference, but still have three conference games to end the year, against WPI, RPI, and Rochester.
Rochester is 3-2 in the Liberty League after a 24-17 win over WPI. Rochester's Clarence Onyiriuka continued his terrific season, rushing for 142 yards and two touchdowns against the Engineers. Onyiriuka is seventh in rushing yards per game in the country. They still have conference games against St. Lawrence and Hobart and a huge non-conference tilt next week against Alfred.
RPI and St. Lawrence played in sideways rain at the East Campus Athletic Village on Saturday, and I was there as the Engineers and Saints slipped and slid for four quarters on the new Field Turf. The Engineers slipped the least as a 16-yard touchdown run by freshman quarterback Mike Hermann in the third quarter was the winning points in a 10-7 slopfest.
The touchdown was a fitting play for the conditions, as Hermann admitted to reporters and yours truly after the game that the run was because of a broken play.
"We missed a lot of early opportunities," Hermann said. "It was a nice run, but it was a busted play and I hoping that would be the last touchdown."
Thankfully for Hermann it was. In fact, St. Lawrence's offense didn't score any, as the Saints' score came via a blocked punt in the end zone.
"The defense didn't play very well last week (against Susquehanna)," RPI coach Joe King said. "The defense stepped up today with a defensive win."
RPI players and officials all agreed that the game would not have continued if the teams were at '86 Field as opposed to ECAV, even though King said the bad weather didn't even crack his top ten of worst-weather games.
"We would have had to stop the game at '86," King said.
Ithaca and Utica were off this week, so the only other Empire 8 game was between Springfield and Hartwick, with the Pride winning 35-7. The Hawks couldn't handle the triple option, with the No. 2 rushing attack in the country piling up 363 yards on the ground -- which is actually 20 yards under their average. The lack of a kicking game hurt Hartwick as well. Early in the third quarter with SC up 14-7, Hartwick had first-and-goal at the Pride 2 and came away with nothing when the kicker missed an 18-yard field goal wide left.
Springfield is 2-1 in conference, tied with St. John Fisher, but if the Pride can run the table with the only loss to Alfred, they may be able to sneak a Pool C, or definitely an ECAC bid.
In the ATN Podcast, Pat and Keith talk about how Mount Union could still be imported to the East even if Alfred AND Albright finish undefeated. I know that the scheduling committee picks the top four teams, regardless of region, but if two actual East Region teams finish unbeaten and Mount Union still gets imported in, the whole Division III playoff setup is a farce. A complete farce.
Odd statistic of the week
In the Rochester-WPI game, quarterbacks Braezen Subick (Rochester) and Mike Swanton (WPI) both completed 14 passes in 24 attempts for 187 yards in Rochester's 24-17 Liberty League win.
The difference, as it always is, was turnovers -- Subick didn't have any interceptions, but Swanton had two.
In the best game of the week in the region that nobody heard about, Western Connecticut broke a 12-game losing streak with a 45-44 win over Brockport State.
Lionel Assie was the spark for the Colonials, carrying the ball 13 times for 143 yards and three touchdowns. For his effort, Assie earned the NJAC offensive player of the week award. In one game, Assie surpassed his season rushing total (106 before the game against Brockport.)
He's been excellent on special teams, though, returning kicks a total of 750 yards, an average of over 27 yards for each return.
But Assie wasn't the best kick returner on the field on this day. Brockport senior Cevon Carter returned two kickoffs for touchdowns -- an 80-yard return in the first quarter and a 90-yarder in the second half.
It was only the second time all season that one person returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game, following Western New England's Brendon Thompson, who returned two for scores the previous week against MIT. Carter was named to the D3football.com Team of the Week
Kean kicker Billy Daniels, a sophomore, nailed a 43-yard field goal, a career-long, and fifth-longest in school history.
William Paterson quarterback Matt Marshall tied a school record with his 28th touchdown pass of his career, matching the mark of Robert Pirmann from 1975-1978.
Hobart shut out USMMA 28-0, and the Mariners haven't scored an offensive touchdown against Hobart since 2007.
Springfield sophomore fullback Alex Mendez ran for his first career touchdown in SC's 35-7 win.
St. John Fisher receiver Paul Deckard tied a school record with his career-day performance against Alfred. Deckard caught 10 passes for 147 yards and three touchdowns in the loss.
Just one this week: RPI-Union for the Shoes
Right now, the Dutchman Shoes reside in a trophy case at the new multi-million dollar East Campus Athletic Village, but they'll make the trip to Schenectady for Saturday's rivalry contest.
Records mean zilch when we talk about the rivalry, but it makes for great smack talk in the days leading up to the contest.
RPI has a three-game winning streak and a win would make the seniors the first class to go undefeated against Union.
Unfortunately for the Red, they have struggled immensely in many of their games this season, so for that reason, I'm going with Union to take back the Shoes at home on Frank Bailey Field.
Union 17, RPI 14