September 18, 2012

Framingham reaches critical mass

More news about: Framingham State
The number of players at Framingham State that are from Mass., however, require several more hands and feet to count, including running back Melikke Van Alstyne and defensive lineman James Muirhead.
Framingham State athletics photos

You can count on one hand the players on the Framingham State roster who are from outside Massachusetts. And you won't need your thumb.

Sure, state schools tend to have a liberal sprinkling of in-state products on their roster. But 91 out of 95 is taking the homegrown concept to a new level.

"It's awesome," star running back Melikke Van Alstyne said. "You have either heard of every kid or you have played with him at one of the Shrine Games. It's actually enjoyable. We talk a lot about whose high school team is better. It brings out chemistry. It makes for easy conversation."

It has certainly brought about the best in Van Alstyne. He ran for 142 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's 30-0 victory over UMass-Dartmouth. The previous week he amassed 222 yards on the ground in a win over Nichols.

"We kind of promote that," Framingham coach Tom Kelley said.

"When we recruit kids from rival schools, the kids kind of get their back up at first. But we tell them, 'You want to play with kids who are tough and who come from good programs.'"

When Kelley and his staff brought in a recruit from Brockton and another from Reading at the same time it was during a week when their schools were playing one another. "We made a big deal of that," Kelley said.

It is not that Kelley has anything against recruiting outside of the state's borders. It is just that with most everyone being part time on the staff except for Kelley who also wears the hat of athletic director, there are time constraints.

"Connecticut really intrigues us," Kelley said. "That is a real hotbed of high school football where the kids don't have a lot of D-III options in their state."

But Kelley is quick to point out the staff doesn't do real well of getting out and visiting high schools in their own state because of being so part time.

"Time is precious for us," he said.

What the Rams do have is outstanding relationships with high schools and prep schools such as Bridgton Academy in Maine. Van Alstyne is a Massachusetts product, but he prepped for a year at Bridgton.

"We do lose some kids to Division II schools and I tell the staff that when it hapens not to burn any bridges and wish everyone well," Kelley said.

That type of approach has resulted in getting some players on the rebound who just were not the right fit at a Division II program.

"We have really good relationships with the Massachusetts high school coaches, especially the North Shore. We do really well there. But there are still places we need to crack. We finally got a kid out of Springfield," Kelley said.

But here is a more amazing roster factoid than the 91 out of 95 Bay Staters. Back in 2003, the Rams had exactly 27 players on their roster. There are tiny high schools with more than 27 players.

"Some of the players who were here before have told us how bad it was when they got here," Van Alstyne said. "I just want to carry it forward. It's still their legacy."

Van Alstyne will be leaving his own legacy. Last year he ran for 1,579 yards and 21 touchdowns and also caught 13 passes, averaging 15.5 yards per catch.

But he spreads the credit elsewhere.

"My line is awesome," Van Alstyne said. "Those guys work as hard as possible every day. My stats are their stats. That's the way I see it," he said.

He quickly ticks off the names of those guys in the trenches paving the way for him: Zach Pappas, Aaron Ferreira, Joe Masucci, James Krebs and Nick Stanfield.

The Rams stumbled out of the gate, enduring seven turnovers in a loss to Endicott. But since they have handily beaten Nichols and UMass-Dartmouth.

"We definitely feel good about things. But we have got to work harder each day and take it a game at a time, obviously," Van Alstyne said.

And that first game in the Bogan Division race of the New England Football Conference comes this week and it could not be any bigger. Bridgewater State boasts a 3-0 record and are the co-favorites to win the Bogan crown along with Framingham. The Bears host the Rams on Friday.

There have already been challenges. Quarterback injuries necessiated the moving of Matt Mangano from defensive back to quarterback. All he did was rush for 171 yards against Nichols and 81 more against UMD.

And then middle linebacker Pat McGrath snapped a bone in his foot by simply jumping up and down at halftime.

"My mother told me I would get paid back for all the things that I have done.  I think it's all coming home to roost," Kelley cracked.

But the bright side is that the Rams are a combined 16-6 the past two years and have been playing in the postseason. They are regarded as an NEFC contender this year by just about everyone and will have a chance to validate their billing on Friday.

That 0-9 season with just 27 players is becoming a distant memory.

Bridgewater, Salve, Norwich remain perfect

Bridgewater knew it would get a test from Endicott, another of the NEFC contenders. The Bears got a stern test but held off the Gulls, 20-14, as Mike McCarthy rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Blaise Branch also had a 100-yard game on the ground.

Salve Regina also went to 3-0 and. like the Bears, had a monster performance on the ground. The Seahawks got theirs from Richie Edwards who rambled for 116 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-7 lacing of Fitchburg State..

Continuing the theme, Norwich hiked its mark to 3-0 with a bruising ground game. The Cadets got 147 yards and two TDs on the ground from Danny Triplett and another 106 yards rushing from quarterback Kris Sabourin. The Cadets rushed for 319 yards in all trimming WPI 20-3.

It was the 62nd meeting between the Cadets and Engineers but the first in nearly a decade. The Cadets and WPI are former rivals from the old Freedom Football Conference.

"Our alumni are pumped that WPI is back on the schedule," Norwich coach Mark Murnyack said.

The win was a sweet one for the Cadets, as part of on Homecoming.

"Homecoming is special here. This is a place like none other," Murnyack said.

Program marks at Castleton, WNE

Castleton State quarterback Shane Brozowski and receiver Brandon Boyle set school records in a 56-35 loss to RPI. Browzowski completed 41 of 56 passes for 403 yards and four touchdowns. His 41 completions break his own record of 40 from a game in 2010. It was the fifth time in his career that the senior has thrown for 400 yards and four touchdowns in the same game. Boyle had 17 receptions, breaking the record of 15 in a game established by Evan Cassidy in 2010. Boyle had 178 receiving yards along with two touchdowns.

"The corners were playing back on me and Shane told me that anytime the corner was playing off me, he was going to throw to me," Boyle said. "We used hand signals."

Western New England's Tucker Schumitz returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown to set a school mark in a 50-14 victory over Worcester State.

Breaking through

Plymouth State got its first win by beating Maine Maritime 13-7 as the Panthers' outstanding tailback Andrew Foglia collected 98 yards. But the big piece of the win was a goal-line stand at the end. Husson got its first win by topping Anna Maria 28-22 with Ryan Dorso leading the way. He rushed for 202 yards and a score, and caught a 42-yard pass.

Curry stopped Westfield State for its first win. Kevin Fruwirth completed 30 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns and Phil Bigelow rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns and had a TD reception.

Coast Guard got some eye-popping performances in a 35-21 victory over MIT. Jake Wawrzyniak had his number called 35 times in his first career start and he did plenty with the opportunity, rushing for 143 yards and three scores on 35 carries. Quarterback Jon Resch completed 27 of 38 for 262 yards and two touchdowns.

Passing buc

Mike Stanton could not have been much more efficient for Mass. Maritime in its 41-13 win over Nichols, He ran for two scores and completed 13 of his 17 passes for 210 yards and two more touchdowns.

Mount Ida fell 49-42 to Springfield.

Becker did not have quite enough in its loss to Hartwick. Becker's Robert Baker threw for 319 yards and three scores but the Hawks lost their shootout, 53-41 to Hartwick.

SUNY-Maritme lost its riivalry game across the water, falling 19-14 to Merchant Marine. Maritime launches its Eastern Collegiate Football Conference campaign this week at Castleton. Keith Barnes and Pat Lasher, Maritime's star linebackers, had 16 tackles apiece.

The big games

Every game this weekend in the New England Small College Athletic Conference is a big one. After all, these are their openers. Yes, the NESCAC is finally playing and the most intriguing game might be Bowdoin's visit to Middlebury.

But the biggest games of all are in the NEFC which begins divisional play this week. Endicott goes to Salve and Framingham to Bridgewater. All four of these teams are rated as red hot contenders in the league and plenty will be sorted out here.

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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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