10 games to watch for 2010

So, another year of Division III football is upon us (finally!) I’ve been writing this column since 2006 and every year, I learn more and more about D-III football -- including the teams and the campuses where they play.

My name is Adam Samrov and I’m a news editor for the Bennington Banner in Bennington, Vt. in my day job.

For those new to the East Region, the teams I cover include the Empire 8, which is really six (but we’ll get to that later). It also includes the Liberty League, the Middle Atlantic Conference and the New Jersey Athletic Conference. So by my count, that’s somewhere in the vicinity of 30 teams.

Following all those teams is definitely not an easy task, but hopefully you, the readers, will make it a bit easier.

This year, I have started a Twitter account for you guys to follow where I’m following -- the big games, the interesting stories, the items that wouldn’t get in the column on a weekly basis. It’s also a place to link to stories I might not see, so it’s definitely a great place to go back and forth with the readers of this fine column. So follow @d3fbEAST.

Without any further ado, and in no specific order, here’s some of the top games in the East Region this season.

Sept. 11 Union at Ithaca: Two of the East’s powers battle head to head for the second year in a row. Last year, Union won in Schenectady 24-21, but now the Dutchmen travel across New York state to the South Hill to battle the Bombers. Ithaca will need to stop Union running back Chris Coney. Coney could be the Liberty League’s leading rusher when all is said and done. Ithaca will be playing its first game after the suspensions of seven players, six starters, for the opening game of the season.

Sept. 25 St. John Fisher at Hobart: Two perennial top teams square off in Geneva in Week 4. Even though this is a non-league game, it should be a great matchup for the Rochester-area squads.

Oct. 9 Ithaca at St. John Fisher: This one, like the Kickoff special says, should be the title game for the Empire 8, if everything plays out. Even though the conference only has six teams, it still gets the automatic qualifier because two new affiliate members are coming in during the grace period.

Sept. 18 Rowan at Montclair State: This matchup with two of the top teams in the NJAC and the East takes place in Week 3. Much of Rowan’s success will fall on how the Profs come back from losing quarterback Frank Wilczynski to graduation. For the Red Hawks, who come into the season ranked in the Top 25 poll, a good start will be key in repeating as NJAC champs in 2010.

Oct. 16 Cortland State at Rowan: Later on in the season, the Profs have perennial power Cortland State come to town. For the Red Dragons, 17 starters from a year ago return, including nine on the defensive side of the ball. On offense, Dan Pitcher returns after missing 2009 with an injury.

Sept. 11 MAC vs. PAC challenge: Eight games, 16 teams, two conferences. The Middle Atlantic Conference and the Presidents Athletic Conference will battle in Week 2 for the state of Pennsylvania in the MAC vs. PAC challenge. Delaware Valley faces Washington & Jefferson, Albright faces Geneva, Lebanon Valley will face Grove City, Wilkes and Waynesburg, Lycoming will take on Westminster (Pa.), King and Bethany, Widener and Thiel and last but not least, FDU-Florham against St. Vincent. Should be a fun day.

Sept. 18 Delaware Valley at Wesley: Two top 10 teams facing off in Week 3? That’s a win for Division III fans. It should be a terrific matchup.
For the Aggies, all five members of the offensive line are back, as part of 18 returning starters for coach Jim Clements, in his fifth season at the helm of Delaware Valley. Quarterback Mike Isgro graduated, but senior Mark Hatty is ready to take over, and he’ll have a huge task to defeat the Wolverines.

Oct. 2 Lebanon Valley at Delaware Valley: So if Delaware Valley makes it past Wesley, they get to battle Lebanon Valley at home two weeks later. This could be for the Middle Atlantic Conference title. Most teams in the MAC are losing their starting signal-callers from a year ago, but the Flying Dutchmen aren’t one of them. Leb Val had a school record in victories last year, but DVC is the biggest stumbling block in trying to match or surpass that total in 2010.

Oct. 30 Union at RPI: “The Shoes” is one of the premier rivalry matchups not only in the East, but throughout the country. But there are many others, including Cortland State/Ithaca, that merit making a trip to see.

Nov. 13 Liberty League matchups in the last week of the season: The last couple years, the Liberty League has come down to the final week and even final half of the season, and 2010 looks to be no different.

I’m really looking forward to the 2010 season. It should be a banner year for Division III in the East Region.