/seasons/2011/contrib/20110902af51ij

Western New England opens season at home against Norwich on Saturday

More news about: Western New England
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8-20-11 Bryce Brown
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8-20-11 Phil Tsopanides
Phil Tsopanides
SPRINGFIELD, Mass.
– Fresh off the best season in program history, the Western New England football team looks to continue its winning ways starting with the season opener at 1:00 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 3) against visiting Norwich University.

The Golden Bears posted a 9-2 record last year, which shattered the previous school mark of six set in 2009.

Western New England also posted a 6-1 mark to shared the New England Football Conference (NEFC) Boyd Division title with Endicott and set a school record for points with a 66-41 victory over Maine Maritime in its first ECAC North Central Championship Bowl appearance.

All of that is secure in the record books and coach Keith Emery and his team now face a formidable challenge of hosting the hard-working and disciplined Cadets who handed WNE a 35-7 drubbing in last year's opening game in Northfield, Vermont.

"They beat us pretty good last year and quarterback Kris Sabourin and running back Andrew Fulford can break the game open at anytime," said Emery who was the 2010 NEFC Boyd Coach-of-the-Year. "We need to maintain possession of the ball and keep it out of their hands."

Western New England fared well in a scrimmage against a solid Utica squad on August 25 as veterans and newcomers had a chance to finally see some live action after two weeks of practice.

"The scrimmage went well and we saw things we were hoping to see on both sides of the ball," Emery noted. "We have a lot of things to work on, including improving our pass defense and pass protection,"

The scrimmage also marked the return of senior offensive tackle Chris Mullins (Oakville, CT) who missed the last five contests of the 2010 season with an injury.

"Chris has had an injury prone career here at Western New England. He sat out his freshman year because of a foot injury and has been plagued by injuries ever since. Chris is highly motivated to have a great season this year and has demonstrated great leadership," stated Emery.

Senior quarterback Bryce Brown (Guilford, CT) and junior free safety Phil Tsopanides (Fairfield, CT) head the list of 16 returning starters.

In his first season with the program, Brown was the NEFC Boyd Division Offensive Player-of-the-Year and the MVP of the ECAC Bowl Game. He compiled 2,029 yards (1135 passing, 894 rushing) and 18 touchdowns, including 10 on the ground. Brown also ran for a school-record 307 yards with two touchdowns in the win over Maine Maritime.

Tsopanides became the first WNE player in four years to make the New England Football Writers' Division II/III All-Star Team. He led the team in tackles (74) and had two key interceptions against Westfield State (98 yards for a touchdown that proved to be the winning points) and Plymouth State (on the final play of the game in the end zone).

Both Brown and Tsopanides were selected to the All-NEFC Boyd Division Team along with senior running back JJ Jachym (Milford, CT)  (871 yards rushing, 9 TDs), senior guard Richard Poquette (Burlington, VT), senior offensive tackle Joe Van Huysen (Killingworth, CT), junior defensive end James Georges (Stamford, CT),, and sophomore defensive tackle Kevin Soule (Medfield, MA).

Serving as the team captains are Brown, Jachym, senior linebacker Todd Krolikowski (Bristol, CT), and senior defensive ends Matt Danko (Southington, CT) and Scott Wojciechowski (Adams, MA).

New coach takes over at Norwich

Mark Murnyack takes over as head coach of Norwich after serving as the team's Defensive Coordinator and Director of Football Operations for the past four years.

The Cadets posted an 8-3 record last year and finished second in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) with a 5-2 mark. NU also earned an invitation to the ECAC Northeast Championship Bowl dropping a 27-21 decision to Framingham State.

Junior Kris Sabourin (Georgia, VT) enters his third season as the starting quarterback. He started all 11 games last season passing for 1,260 yards and 15 touchdowns while adding 973 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Sabourin was a repeat selection as the ECAC Co-Offensive-Player-of-the-Year.

The Cadets also feature All-ECFC First Team performers running back Andrew Fulford (Gloucester, MA), place-kicker Long Ding (Qing Dao, China), and linebacker Joseph Gumbrewicz (Oxford, CT). All three are seniors.

Fulford led the Cadets with 1,065 yards and eight touchdowns rushing a year ago while Ding was the ECFC Special Teams' Player-of-the-Year after making 39-of-42 PATs and 4-of-7 field goals for a league best 51 kick points. Gumbrewicz led the team in tackles (68), tackles-for-loss (13), sacks (six), and was selected to the New England Football Writers' Division II/III All-New Team.

This will be the third meeting between the teams with the series tied at 1-1. WNE won the inaugural meeting 28-27 at Golden Bear Stadium in 2009.

Moment of Silence

Before the game, there will be a moment of silence for former WNE wide receiver Jimmy Geyer '82 (Rockville Centre, NY) and former defensive back Sandrino Plutino (Pitman, NJ).

Geyer, who played on the school's first varsity football and men's lacrosse teams, was killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Plutino played one season for the Golden Bears in 2002 and also was on the wrestling squad. An elite member of the Army Rangers, he was killed by enemy insurgents in Afghanistan last month.
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