November 10, 2009

Sometimes 6-4 is a welcome result

A 4-6 or 6-4 record would be unwelcome at a perennial power like Curry or at a program like Maine Maritime which just clinched its second consecutive Bogan Division championship in the New England Football Conference.

But at other places those marks are great accomplishments and sources of encouragement. They are signposts along a route those programs are hoping takes them someday to a destination inhabited by the Currys and Maine Maritimes of the world.

When Gallaudet went up to SUNY-Maritime and came home with a 16-13 victory Friday night and a 6-4 record, it marked the first time since 1930 that the Bison had a winning record against varsity schools.

The Washington, D.C., school had a hiatus from the varsity rigors where it played a club schedule for a time and came back as a varsity program under coach Ed Hottle in 2005.

The 6-4 record is also pretty special at Western New England after a 1-4 start. The Golden Bears concluded the season Saturday with a 31-10 victory over Nichols and a five-game winning streak. It is the best record for the Golden Bears since they began playing in 1981.

And a 4-6 record at Mount Ida translates into a championship game next week. The Mustangs were 4-2 in the first-year Eastern Collegiate Football Conference to earn a spot in next week's ECFC Championship game against Norwich in Northfield, Vt. Mount Ida and Gallaudet were tied for second with 4-2 records, but the Mustangs get the nod as the result of beating Gallaudet during the season. Mount Ida is also a young program and the trip to the title game is a noteworthy accomplishment.

And SUNY-Martitime is justifiably proud of its 6-4 record in only its fourth season as a varsity program.

Gallaudet beat Maritime with a touchdown by Michael Gimeli with only 53 seconds remaining.

"In some respects I'm surprised and in some I am not," Hottle said. "This group of seniors put a lot of work into it.

"It's kind of fun to see the things accomplished in just five years. We were only a couple of plays away from going to Northfield this week."

And the Bison have not stopped practicing. They are going through workout sessions this week in the event they get a bid to an ECAC postseason game. The ECAC bids are announced after the NCAA Division III playoffs pairings on Nov. 15.

"It's an outside chance, but a chance," Hottle said. "I have been told we need to practice this week. From a Gallaudet perspective, just to be in that conversation is great."

Hottle said the ECFC has breathed new life into the program. The ECFC does not have an automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs until 2011. That is why ECFC Commissioner Julie Muller and the conference officials decided on a championship game between the top two teams in the league on Nov. 14.

"We needed something to play for, not having the AQ," Hottle said. "It really changed everything for our staff and players.

"Before, weeks seven, eight, nine and 10 felt like a death march. This has made it a lot more entertaining. Almost all the teams were in contention until the last two weeks. You can't ask for anything more than that."

Hottle said the Bison will practice lightly this week.

"We're not going to rev anything up. We just want to go back and evaluate Friday night's game and make sure all of our base stuff is crisp and clean. We will approach it like spring ball. There won't be too much banging around."

SUNY-Maritime coach Clayton Kendrick-Holmes is every bit as proud of what his Privateers' 6-4 mark represents.

"I am awfully proud of our kids," he said.

"I have gotten to know Clayton very well," Hottle said. "He is a quality guy and a very, very good coach.

"I measure myself and our program against theirs because we started about the same time."

Another common denominator between the Bison and the Privateers is the option offense.

"We equate to the service academies in that we have high academic standards and our students have a lot offseason commitments," Kendrick Holmes said.

"Also, we aren't going to get the big offensive linemen you need to run the power offenses. And Gallaudet is in a similar position.

"I think it was a good choice for them to go to the option this year."

Up in Springfield, Mass., WNEC coach Keith Emery sees his 6-4 finish as a springboard to the future.

"I think it is going to help tremendously in the recruiting process," Emery said. "We finished ahead of Endicott and Salve Regina, our two biggest recruiting rivals."

The five-game win streak gives the Golden Bears plenty of juice for 2010.

"We weren't as bad as our 1-4 record. Our schedule was front loaded," Emery said.

Mount Ida is still playing football as the Mustangs have gotten as much out of a 4-6 campaign as possible.

They lost the regular-season finale to Utica 47-40, but gave the Norwich Cadets plenty to think about as they prepare for the championship game.

The Cadets must get ready for school-record holder Johrone Bunch, the prolific runner who amassed 357 yards rushing in one game alone. He ran for 101 yards and a score against Utica.

But the Cadets must now be concerned about the Mustangs' air attack. Sophomore quarterback Scott Drosendahl riddled the Utica secondary, going 16-for-35 for 284 yards and four touchdowns.

Pass the cranberries

Bridgewater State won its 13th straight Cranberry Bowl against Massachusetts Maritime. The Bears got 155 yards rushing and two touchdowns from Justin Fuller.

Ryan Howley made the 31st Cranberry Bowl special for him. Playing his final game for Mass. Maritime, he collected a whopping 14 tackles.

Plymouth rocks Salve

Plymouth State's 33-7 victory over Salve Regina featured two special quarterbacks. Plymouth's J.J. Brooks rushed for 108 yards and three touchdowns. Salve's Jeff St. Onge closed out his brilliant career as tops in program history with 467 completions. He had 33 career TD passes and 21 career rushing touchdowns.

Getting defensive

Coast Guard's Chris Costello had three interceptions in the Bears' 20-13 victory over Framingham State. It earned him a share of New England Football Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors along with Westfield State's Ryan O'Connell who also came up with three turnovers.

Owlish combo

Sophomore quarterback Kyle Anderson helped the Westfield State Owls to their 33-16 win over Worcester State by throwing three touchdown passes. Evan Berneche caught two of them.

Walz is golden

Western New England's Justin Walz ran for two touchdowns and threw for another in the Golden Bears' 31-10 win over Nichols. Walz closed out his career with nearly all WNEC's passing records.

Angell earns his wings

Maine Maritime quarterback Tyler Angell rushed for 117 yards, including 98 in the first half, as the two-time Bogan Division champions rolled past Fitchburg State 35-15. Todd Murphy ran for a score and also threw for one.

A Maine event

Bates kept its hopes alive for a share of the CBB Trophy with a 28-24 comeback win over Bowdoin. Tyler Kuehl's 25-yard return of an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter gave Bates its first lead of the game.

Trevor Smith went 21-of-31 for 269 yards and three touchdowns.

Bates and Bowdoin need Bowdoin to beat Colby this week to claim a share of the trophy in the battle for supremacy among the three Maine schools in the New England Small College Athletic Conference.

Undefeated Lord Jeffs

The Amherst Lord Jeffs went to 7-0 by edging Trinity 23-12. The win clinches at least a tie of the NESCAC championship for the Jeffs. Amherst is 7-0 for the first time since 2001. Alex Vetras went 21-of-38 for 252 yards and three touchdowns.

Next up is archrival Williams (6-1) which defeated Wesleyan 34-7 behind Ryan Lupe who ran for 115 yards and three scores.

Eagles turn on the Juice

Julius "Juice" Williams made his final game in a Husson uniform truly special. He amassed 250 yards with two touchdowns on just 16 carries as the Eagles crushed Becker 74-22. Husson had 552 yards on the ground.

Sap sweetest for Norwich

The Cadets took home the Maple Sap Bucket in the inaugural game between Vermont teams. Andrew Fulford led the charge for the Cadets with 154 yards and three touchdowns as Norwich outgunned Castleton State 48-27.

Norwich and Middlebury played 100 times in a series that began in 1893. They ceased playing after 1991 and this game fills that void. Middlebury and Norwich played for the Wadsworth Trophy. Norwich won that 1991 game and still displays the Wadsworth hardware in the entrance to the football offices. Now, the Maple Sap Bucket can be displayed right beside it.

Castleton quarterback Shane Brozowski threw for 306 yards and three touchdowns before a throng of 3,480.

Midd, McKillop rocking

Middlebury had its own trophy game on this day and the Panthers claimed the Rocking Chair by whipping Hamilton 37-14. It was the third straight win for 4-3 Middlebury which got another monster game from quarterback Donald McKillop. He went 34-of-50 for 406 yards and four touchdowns. James Millard was his hot receiver with 13 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown.

Gulls reach .500

Endicott finished 5-5, a nice improvement from last year's 3-7 campaign as Dan Leary led the way by throwing for a touchdown and running for another.

A Cavanaugh classic

Curry quarterback Zach Cavanaugh earned the NEFC Offensive Player of the Week accolade by rushing for 118 yards and throwing for 234. He ran for a TD and passed for two as the Colonels beat UMass-Dartmouth 28-12.

The big games

The biggest game of all? The one that is the biggest game every year and, in fact, goes by the name of "The Biggest Little Game in America."

It's Williams hosting Amherst and it's truly special this year as Amherst goes for the third undefeated season in program history.

And the site is the scene of ESPN's only GameDay stop at a Division III school.

Norwich, 7-3, hosts Mount Ida in the ECFC Championship Game.

The stakes are higher in Milton, Mass., where Maine Maritime comes to Curry for the NEFC Championship Game where the winner gets an automatic berth in the NCAA playoffs.

Maine fans have another CBB tussle as Colby visits Bowdoin.

Middlebury has a large concentration of alumni in the Boston area and many are certain to come to Medord, Mass., to see what McKillop can do this week as the Panthers take on Tufts in search of a fourth consecutive victory to end the season.

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Tom Haley

A seven time Vermont sportswriter of the year, Tom Haley has been with the Rutland Herald since 1987. He was inducted into the Castleton State College Hall of Fame in 2004 and received the Contributor to Football Award from the National Football Foundation's Vermont Chapter.

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