September 24, 2013

Van Alstyne helping Framingham break out

More news about: Framingham State | Middlebury

Melikke Van Alstyne is just a half-dozen yards shy of 5,000 career rushing yards.
Framingham State athletics photo

Melikke Van Alstyne must feel as though he knew John Calder. The Framingham State running back earned the John Calder Award, the honor that goes to the MVP of the Rams' Homecoming game, for the third straight year. This time he did it by gaining 192 yards on 30 carries with a touchdown in the 42-21 victory over Fitchburg State.

Framingham coach Tom Kelley could tell Van Alstyne plenty about Calder. He was the captain of his second team during Kelley's first stint as head coach at the school from 1982-1984.

"He was a special player,” Kelley said of Calder. "He was a big middle linebacker and a smart kid; economics major who was working for the IRS."

John Calder was killed in an ATV accident not that long after graduation. He was inducted posthumously into the Framingham Hall of Fame in 2003.

"The award is special to the alums and myself," Kelley said.

Van Alstyne is also a special player and every team knows it. He is one of the top running backs in the country and Kelley realizes that while Van Alstyne will be the man and that 30-carry games will be the norm, he must also take some pressure off him.

That appears to be happening as the Rams have struck a balance. They have moved the ball through the air with Matt Silva already throwing 10 touchdown passes through the first three games.

"We're getting there. We have had a lot of injuries to our receivers," Kelley said.

He is also trying to lessen Van Alstyne's load by integrating freshman Jalen Green into the running game. Green got 11 carries against Fitchburg.

When Calder was playing for the Rams, it was a struggling program playing under .500. That has finally  changed. The Rams earned an NCAA playoff berth last year and nearly picked off Cortland in the first round. They are the preseason favorites to win the league title in the inaugural MASCAC season.

Kelley is also the athletic director and that has changed the way he looks at scheduling. Framingham has stuck to its own little corner of New England in the past, but this year they struck out for New Jersey to play Rowan, a traditional NJAC power. Rowan will visit Framingham in 2014.

"New England schools have been segregated. There are so many schools that we don't have to travel much and it makes sense to play games close by," Kelley said.

"But now our program has gotten to the point where we need to get out and test the waters and get some national exposure."

It is a far different Framingham program, one that Kelley has nurtured and brought along to the point where it is respected in the new MASCAC and beyond. John Calder would be proud.

Just as the Framingham offense starts with Van Alstyne, the Middlebury attack begins with McCallum Foote. The Panther quarterback threw 31 touchdown passes last season against just eight interceptions and was a Gagliardi finalist after leading the team to a 7-1 record.

He picked up where he left off by throwing for 361 yards and three touchdowns as he completed 36 of his 59 passes in the season-opening 27-7 victory at Bowdoin.

Foote did not rest on his reputation. He worked harder than ever to prepare for his senior year, throwing passes all summer at a prep school camp where his brother Tom coaches.

"He's got a great work ethic," Middlebury coach Bob Ritter said.

"I was trying to come into this season with more arm strength," Foote said. "I want to be in midseason form and my arm is much stronger than it was at this time last year. My arm definitely feels better."

That can't be good news for this week's opponent, 1-0 Colby.

"And with the extra work, I added weight," said Foote whose now weighs 200 pounds.

The Panthers lost their two top receivers from last year, but Foote said he is quickly getting in sync with the new ones.

"It's just a matter of reps and working after practice," Foote said.

One of the moves to shore up the receiver corps was switching William Sadik-Khan from wideout to tight end. The experiment is off to a great start. Sadik-Khan had 11 catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns against Bowdoin.

The Bantam beat goes on

Trinity got its 10th straight victory as the Bantams went up to Maine and beat Bates 28-17. Evan Bunker rushed for 123 yards and three touchdowns.

There are a couple of things to take out of this NESCAC opener. Trinity did nothing to dispel the notion that they are still the team to beat and Bates has the look of a team very much on the rise after going 5-3 last season. Ryan Curit was a work horse for the Bobcats getting the ball 30 times. He rushed for 104 yards and two scores.

Amherst also had a very successful opener in the NESCAC, picking off Hamilton 23-7. Literally picking off the Continentals. The Lord Jeffs had five interceptions by five different players with Ned Deane, Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn, Jaymie Spears, Max Dietz and Danny Chun doing the honors. Chun's pick was a game-changer. He returned it 22 yards for a score on the game's first series.

Wesleyan was even more dominant, rolling to a 45-7 lead by halftime on the way to crushing Tufts 52-9. The Cardinals did it by land and air. Kyle Gibson rushed for 150 yards and LaDarius Drew 119 more. Jesse Warren threw for 215 yards and three touchdowns.

The other NESCAC game saw Zach Padula return an interception 98 yards for a score to help Colby to a 31-8 win over Williams.

Record setters

Matt Green caught a school-record five touchdown passes to propel Bridgewater State to a 51-20 victory over Worcester State in a MASCAC opener. Mike McCarthy threw for 263 yards and ran for another 98.

Another school record fell when visiting Mass. Maritime put up a new standard of 752 yards of total offense as the Bucs thumped Maine Maritime 52-18. Quarterback Mike Stanton was a big part of it as he completed 22 of his 28 passes for 357 yards and two touchdowns. Stefan Gustafson rushed for a career high 201 yards on 20 carries for the 2-0 Bucs. John Trudel threw three TD passes and ran for one.

Norwich, Georgio get in gear

Al Georgio's slow start to the season was a microcosm of his team's start. The Norwich Cadets got out of the gate at 0-2 and scored but 10 points in the two games combined. Georgio, who entered the season with plenty of fanfare, had less than two yards per carry in those games.

But Georgio and the Cadets broke out in a 31-14 win over WPI. Georgio hurt the Engineers in different ways. He ran the ball for 193 yards and two touchdowns, but he also caught four passes, one for a 45-yard touchdown. The Cadets had 507 yards of total offense.

Norwich's ECFC brethren Castleton is really struggling to move the ball on the ground. RPI held the Spartans to negative 41 yards rushing, an RPI school record.

Mark Comstock was added to the list of Castleton players suspended related to charges for theft, a significant loss since he was the ECFC Rookie of the Week after catching eight passes for 164 yards in the season-opening win over Plymouth State.

Mount Ida is the defending ECFC champion and the favorite in the preseason coaches poll, but the Mustangs lost again, 41-0 to Springfield.

Westfield rolling

Westfield State rolled to an impressive victory for the second straight week, thumping UMass-Dartmouth 36-7. Troy Cutter (nine tackles and an interception) and Greg Sheridan (eight tackles with an interception) keyed a superb defensive effort and Kane Terrilli was a big-play guy with an 87-yard kickoff return and a 58-yard reception. Mike Orellana kicked two field goals.

Nobody kicks field goals quite like Endicott's Dylan Rushe. He had another in a 24-17 loss to Kean and is now 6-for-6 this season with half of those in the 40-49-yard range.

First in a long time

Husson blanked Alfred State 13-0, the Eagles first shutout since Oct. 25, 2008, Gallaudet trimmed Rochester 37-13 for the program's best start as a Division III team since 1987.

Gabby Price begins his second stint at Husson's head coach. He was also at the helm for the shutout in 2008.

Stephan Dance keyed the shutout with 12 tackles.

Western Conn.'s revival

There was plenty of talk about Western Connecticut's return to New England from the NJAC before the season. There's a lot more now.

The Colonials were referred to as the "unknown everyone fears" by one coach. They are making themselves known very quickly. Western Connecticut went to 2-0 by whipping Plymouth State 35-3 behind Octavias McCoy who rushed for 165 yards and three touchdowns.

The ECFC's SUNY-Maritime fell 7-6 to Merchant Marine, its neighbors across the water.

The Big Games

Western Connecticut hosts Framingham in the most intriguing game of the week in the MASCAC if not in all of New England. This one has it all. It's the new kid on the block who is picking up the bully tag against the league's preseason favorite.

"We have got our hands full. We will have to play better than we did on Saturday or we will be a sorry bunch of guys," Framingham coach Tom Kelley said. "They have got a lot of good running backs."

It will be the third game in four weeks on the road for the Rams.

Joe Loth and his Colonials have already garnered plenty of respect with their wins over Nichols and Plymouth, but Framingham will be the best team they have faced yet.

It's early but this game will tell plenty about the new MASCAC.

There are a couple of games in the NEFC that jump out at you: Endicott at Curry and MIT at Salve Regina. Endicott is the preseason favorite in the league, but Curry is expected to take a big step this year in the direction of reclaiming its spot as the league's power. Endicott is 1-2, but the losses are to Framingham and Kean. This is another of those games that could reveal plenty about each team. Salve also has a lot of support as one of the NEFC's favorites but MIT could pick up some converts if the Engineers can push their record to 3-0.

The game to watch in the NESCAC pits Colby against Middlebury in a battle of 1-0 teams.

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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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