Amherst, WNEC on a roll

More news about: Amherst | Western New England
Jeff Katz
Jeff Katz has had three and a half sacks, five tackles for loss in Amherst's first four games.
Amherst athletics photo

Western New England offensive coordinator Ryan Anderson was a third baseman at Dickinson. But going into the season opener at Norwich he really was at the hot corner. WNEC coach Keith Emery had unexpectly lost his offensive coordinator late in the summer and Anderson came aboard the last week of July.

He was installing a new offense and the Golden Bears were not even certain who their new quarterback would be. That's all pretty daunting when you are about to travel to play a team going into the season on an eight-game winning streak.

The result was not unexpected. Norwich spanked WNEC 35-7.

"It was a long night back from Vermont," Emery said.

And it's been a beautiful ride ever since. The Golden Bears have reeled off six consecutive victories and are 4-0 in the Boyd Division of the New England Football Conference, putting themselves in a showdown at 4-0 Plymouth State this weekend.

Just a few miles down I-91, there's another winning streak going on. The Amherst Lord Jeffs are 4-0 and on a 12-game winning streak in the New England Small College Athletic Conference.

The Bears and Jeffs are having all this success with very different situations at quarterback.

The Jeffs have the benefit of a three-year starter with plenty of savvy in Alex Vetras.

"He is everything you want in a quarterback," Amherst coach E.J. Mills said. "He is a great leader, he understands the offense and he makes good decisions.

"His sophomore year he made some critical mistakes, turnovers in big games. It was a real learning experience. He's not making those mistakes now."

That has shown up this season in Vetras's TD-interception ratio. He has had nine scoring strikes and has been picked off just once.

Emery did not settle on one quarterback until after the nonconference schedule had been completed.

"Josh Lamson had actually won the job out of spring ball," Emery said.

"After three games we decided to settle on one guy. The separation was so small."

They went with junior Bryce Brown, who had played at Sacred Heart and Springffield.

"Bryce was the older kid and more experienced and runs the option a little better," Emery said.

The Golden Bears had a great four-year run with Justin Walz at quarterback. He rewrote the record book, breaking all of the school's passing records. Now, it's all different. Emery estimates the ratio is 65-35 in favor of the run.

Plymouth is also run-run-run.

"This could be the fastest game ever," joked Emery.

Bryce Brown, like Walz, is from Connecticut. There are 58 players on the WNEC roster from Connecticut, many more than from Massachusetts.

That's because Emery handles the recruiting of that state himself and has struck up great relationships with the high school coaches there.

He knows toppling Plymouth at the Panthers' Currier Field is an imposing task. This is new territory for the Golden Bears.

"They have been here before. We haven't been here," Emery said.

WNEC is coming off a 27-10 win over MIT where Brown did a little of everything. He piled up 111 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries and also completed 12 passes for 113 yards. He threw 18 times and had no interceptions.

Plymouth has already had a dress rehearsal. They were in a similar showdown last week when the 3-0 Panthers met 3-0 Endicott for the right to keep pace with WNEC. J.J. Brooks scored on a keeper with 8:37 left to give Plymouth a hard-earned 10-3 victory.

WNEC and Amherst are creating quite a buzz around Western Massachusetts as well as on their campus.

"The support has been amazing," Emery said. "Springfield is used to Springfield College doing this, not so much WNEC.

"WNEC has been a soccer school and now the soccer kids are coming to our games. It's just great to see. We're having fun."

Mills said the fans are excited about the 12-game win skein, but he and his players know they have to focus only on the opponent this week "or the streak will be over."

And like WNEC, Amherst has a very tough opponent on the road.

Wesleyan is 3-1 and it's the Cardinals' homecoming.

"This game is huge," Mills said. "Mike Whalen does a great job and they return a ton of starters.

"It's also a Little Three Game (Wesleyan, Williams and Amherst) and that's very important to us. Our priority every year is to win The Little Three and you can't do that without winning the first one."

If Vetras is a leader of the offense, Jeff Katz has to be a leader on the other side of the ball for the Jeffs. Katz is 24 years old and played baseball in the Atlanta Braves organization for three years. He also played football at Lafayette. He made 10 tackles and forced a fumble in the 30-12 win against Colby.

Matt Pieterse also had a big game on defense for the Jeffs, making nine tackles and scooping up a fumble and returning it 81 yards for a score.

"The other kids look up to Jeff and the way he prepares for a game," Mills said.

"Western New England kids are unsung,' Emery said. "Last year we went 6-4 and had only three make all-conference.

"It's a different kid every week. It's no one guy. Every week a different guy steps up and the kids are really feeding off that."

This week at Plymouth, a lot of guys are going to have to step up.

And Mills knows it will take the same kind of effort from his players at Wesleyan's homecoming.

But lately every week it's been a win for these I-91 neighbors. And that's creating a lot of excitement around here.

Ground assault
Just as there was the showdown in the Boyd Division of the NEFC, the Bogan Division had its own big game.

Chris McKenney's Maine Maritime offense did it the way they always do, pounding the ball all day long. This time it resulted in a 50-26 victory over Framingham State, leaving both teams at 3-1 in the Bogan.

Workhorse Jim Bower had 285 yards and three touchdowns to show for his 31 carries and quarterback Matt Rende accrued 182 yards and three scores.

The Mariners rushed for 523 yards.

Crowded at the top
It's a showdown every week in the Bogan. Mass. Maritime joined Framingham and Maine Maritime at the top by beating Fitchburg State 34-7 to stretch their own Bogan mark to 3-1.

The Maritimes will settle things this week in the battle for the Admiral's Cup.

Mass. Maritime quarterback Mike Stanton threw for two touchdowns and Matt White ran for two.

This is the latest Mass. Maritime (4-3 overall) has been over .500 since Oct. 14, 2000.

Salve's big 'D'
All season, win or lose, coaches have raved about Salve Regina's defense. This time it forced eight turnovers in a 31-7 win over Curry. The victory snapped a seven-game losing streak to Curry.

Trey Scales scored two second-half touchdowns for the Seahawks, but it was on defense where they made their mark, recovering five fumbles, intercepting three passes and registering four sacks. Shane Lange had two of the sacks, two fumble recoveries and four hurries. Lange this season has 51 tackles, including a team-leading 11.5 for a loss.

Hamilton breaks through
Hamilton gots its first win, 31-10 over Bowdoin. James Stanell rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns.

The 31 points was the most scored by the Continentals since they beat Bowdoin 51-48 in overtime six years ago.

Castleton, Ida and Norwich keep pace with Privateers
The Eastern Collegiate Football Conference is a four-team race with SUNY-Maritime keeping its perfect season intact at 7-0 and 4-0 in the ECFC.

SUNY-Maritime's storybook season continued with a 23-0 win over Becker.

SUNY-Maritime coach Clayton-Kendrick Holmes' orders for deployment after the season have received plenty of attention. It was chronicled here and later was the subject of a story in the New York Times. He is recognized for his service at visiting venues.

Another chapter in this great story was written with the win over Becker as Jamie Spanopoulos ran for two touchdowns and Keith Barnes had nine tackles and two of the Privateers; five sacks. Quarterback Joe Dickey ran for 89 yards and a score. Madison Leary kicked a 38-yard field goal with time expired to send SUNY-Maritime to halftime with a 16-0 lead.

Mount Ida, Castleton State and Norwich won to stay one game behind SUNY-Maritime. All are 3-1.

Ida had to do it without star running back Johrone Bunch who was hampered by an injury and limited to two carries. The Mustangs defeated Gallaudet 22-16 with 14 unanswered points in the second half. Scott Drosendah threw for 288 yards and a touchdown.

Castleton outgunned Anna Maria 49-36 in the Helmet Game. The teams, which launched their programs against one another in 2009, play for a trophy that is a helmet, half of which is painted in one another';s colors.

Castleton's Mick Wong rushed for a career-high 118 yards and caught a touchdown pass. Tyler Carpenter added 85 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Shane Brozowski complemented this ground game by throwing for 299 yards and a score. Michael Patterson had five cathes for 99 yards.

Norwich routed Husson 52-7 as Kris Sabourin threw three touchdown passes and the Cadets amassed 461 rushing yards. Andrew Fulford had 110 of those on 14 carries.

Dwyer, Wesleyan on the run
Shea Dwyer and Wesleyan set up that big homecoming game with Amherst by beating Bates 27-20. The Bobcats threw a scare into the Cardinals as it took a 20-yard touchdown run by Matt Coyne with just 51 seconds remaining.

Dwyer had 169 yards on 33 carries. It was his fourth straight 100-yard rushing game and he is averaging 189 yards rushing per game.

Mr. Versatility at Westfield
Westfield State's leading rusher Luke Johnson was unable to go because of an injury so leading receiver Evan Berneche stepped in at running back. What a debut! Berneche gained 236 yards on 37 carries, including a touchdown.

As a receiver, Berneche has 24 catches for 457 yards and four TDs this season.

Just for kicks
Mass-Dartmouth did with the foot and it belonged to Edgar Osols. He kicked three field goals in the Corsairs' 9-7 victory over Nichols. His third won it with 1:22 remaining.

New digs, new life
Newly renovated Swenson Field got broken in in grand style. Bridgewater was celebrating its homecoming and refurbished field. It couldn't have been better. The Bears trimmed Worcester State 25-9 and the big-play man was freshman Chris Constantine. He caught a 39-yard touchdownn pass and retuned a kickoff 75 yards for a score. Freshman Mike McCarthy threw for two touchdowns.

Look what I can do
Middlebury quarterback Donnie McKillop sets some kind of record every week. Last week it was the New England Division III record for completions. This week it was the New England Division III record for attempts. He has 1,111 in 26 games.

He threw for 302 yards and a touchdown, but was upstaged by Williams quarterback Pat Moffitt. He threw for 334 yards and four touchdowns as Williams won 41-17 to run its record to 4-0.

No place like home
Trinity extended its incredible home winning streak to 37 games by beating Tufts 27-7 as freshman running back Evan Bunker gained 158 yards with a touchdown on 32 carries.

The Big Games
Where to start? There are so many this week, but begin with the showdown in the foothills of the White Mountains. Western New England and Plymouth match their 4-0 records in the Boyd Division.

And on the other side of the NEFC, it'll be a whole lot of commotion by the ocean. The Admiral's Cup would be enough in itself, but now we have at least a share of first place in the Bogan Division at stake as well when Mass. Maritime and Maine Maritime clash in Castine.

The NESCAC's big game has Amherst putting that 12-game streak on the line against a good Wesleyan team that will have a homecoming crowd in its side.

And in the ECFC, the game with the don't-miss tag has undefeated SUNY-Maritime going into Mount Ida which is just a game behind the Privateers.

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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. He has been D3football.com's Around the Northeast columnist since 2007.

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