November 18, 2010

Western New England College hosts Maine Maritime Academy in ECAC Bowl Game

More news about: Western New England
Justin Bailey, Dylan Chandler, Dan Crane 9-11-10
WNEC captains (from left) Dylan Chandler, Justin Bailey, and Dan Crane will head out for a coin toss one more time this Saturday, November 20, against Maine Maritime.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - For the first time in program history, the Western New England College football team is going to a Bowl Game.

WNEC (8-2) will host Maine Maritime (8-2) in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) North Central Championship Bowl Game starting at noon Saturday (Nov. 20). Tickets are $5 and $4 for seniors and children ages 12 and under.

The Golden Bears and Mariners are both members of the New England Football Conference (NEFC), and both squads finished with 6-1 marks in their respective Boyd and Bogen Divisions this fall.

Western New England College tied for first with Endicott in Boyd action, but the Gulls advanced to the NEFC title game after beating the Golden Bears (23-15) in their regular season meeting. Endicott defeated Maine Maritime (38-35) for the conference crown this past Saturday (Nov. 13) to receive an automatic invitation to the NCAA Division III Championship.

For Western New England College coach Keith Emery and his players, this is a season for the record books. The eight victories is a school record, breaking the old mark of six established just last year. The Golden Bears also compiled a school best seven-game winning streak and beat Plymouth State for the first time in 13 meetings during the year.

Emery, the Boyd Division Coach-of-the-Year, has directed the Golden Bears to three winning campaigns in his six seasons on the sidelines. Overall, WNEC has finished with a winning ledger in only eight of its 30 years of NCAA Division III competition.

A hard-working coach with a business-like approach and keen sense of humor, Emery knows what this game means for his players and the future of his program.

"It's great that we get an opportunity to play another game and reward our athletes for a job well done as well as get a head start to the 2011 season," he remarked.

Thirteen players made the All-Boyd Team led by junior quarterback Bryce Brown (Guilford, CT) who was the division's Offensive MVP. Brown became the full-time starter in the fourth game of the season and went on to finish fifth in the NEFC in total offense (156.2 avg.). He passed for 975 yards and five touchdowns, and rushed for 587 yards and eight scores.

Junior running back JJ Jachym (Milford, CT) leads the Golden Bears with 796 yards on the ground (that is 10th in the conference) and seven touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Kenny Muhlack (Groton, CT) ranks 10th in the league with 37 receptions for 423 yards and two TDs.

Senior place-kicker Jake Field (Long Valley, NJ) missed a couple of games down the stretch with an injury, but will be available Saturday. He is fifth in the conference in kick scoring with 37 points (19-21 PATs and 6-8 FGs).

A big key to Western New England College's success was the outstanding play of its defense that came up with big plays all year. Four players totaled more than 50 tackles with sophomore free safety Phil Tsopanides (Fairfield, CT) first with 69 stops. Senior linebackers Justin Bailey (Northborough, MA) and Dylan Chandler (Northborough, MA) contributed 66 and 61 tackles, respectively, while sophomore linebacker Brandon Ormsby (Windsor, CT) chipped-in with 51. Chandler holds the school record with 324 tackles.

Sophomore defensive end James Georges (Stamford, CT) leads the squad with 12 tackles for losses.

Maine Maritime enjoyed another incredible season with its potent option attack that set a NCAA Division III record for rushing with 4,830 yards (483.0). The Mariners need only 367 yards to break the NCAA all-time mark of 5,196 set by Oklahoma in 1971. MMA also is fourth in total offense (512.6) and sixth in scoring (44.7).

Coach Chris McKenney's team has two players with over 1,000 yards, led by senior All-American fullback Jim Bower (South Paris, ME) who leads the nation's Division III players with 1,778 yards and 19 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Matt Rende (Augusta, ME) has 1348 yards (12th nationally) and 16 TDs. Junior running back Nic Bourassa (Jay, ME) is also having a fine season with 842 yards and 10 scores.

Bower was the Bogen Division Offensive Player-of-the-Year and Bourassa the Return Specialist-of-the-Year. He has 5,917 career yards rushing, 73 touchdowns, and 431 points.

Rende has completed only 13 passes in 33 attempts, but six have gone for touchdowns. The top receiver is junior wide receiver Nate Duford (Claremont, NH) with eight catches for 131 yards and four touchdowns.

Maine Maritime ranks near the bottom of the NEFC in total defense (358.7) and is last in pass defense (177.9). Sophomore linebacker Joel Chadbourne (Westbrook, ME) is third in the league with 104 tackles. Another player to watch is junior kicker Michael Brennan (Manchester, ME) who also has 37 points after converting 37-of-44 PATs. He hasn't tried a field goal attempt this season.

So, how does Western New England College plan to stop Maine Maritime?

"No idea," stated Emery. "We haven't been able to stop their offense the last couple of years. The goal is to maintain possession and keep their offense off the field. We also need great special teams play."

Western New England College and Maine Maritime are no strangers having played each another the past four seasons. The teams didn't meet this fall because of the new conference crossover schedule.

This will be the 12th overall meeting with the Mariners holding a 6-5 edge in the series. MMA won the last two meetings (42-35 in 2008 and 41-21 in 2009) while the Golden Bears took the previous two contests (28-26 in 2006 and 21-13 in 2007).
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