Bantams hit Middlebury hard

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The Trinity (Conn.) defense came after Middlebury in a way the Panthers were not expecting.
Trinity (Conn.) athletics file photo

I don't know if Olivia Newton John's "Let's Get Physical" was blaring in the Trinity locker room. It should have been. The Bantams hit a Middlebury team like they had not been hit before and it turned a much-ballyhooed showdown between 5-0 teams into a 45-7 rout and a 46th consecutive home victory for Trinity.

"We are a very, very physical football team," Trinity coach Jeff Devanney said.

The Bantams were planning to pick their spots and blitz quarterback McCallum Foote a couple of times in the opening quarter. But once they saw the results that the blitz yielded, the Bantams did it much more frequently.

"Their body language showed they didn't like being hit," Devanney said.

Middlebury came to Hartford with one of the nation's most prolific offenses and Foote and his talented stable of receivers had put up staggering numbers. Many felt the Panthers had a chance to end Trinity's lengthy home winning streak.

"I think a lot of people were picking Middlebury to win. Our kids were fired up about it," Devanney said.

Devanney was quick to point out that when you shut down a team like Middlebury, it's not just the defense that is responsible.

"It wasn't just our defense," said Devanney, a former star player at Trinity on the defensive side of the ball. "It was our offensive line, too. We had a 14-play drive early. That helped stop their offense."

The Bantams did everything well early. They took control of the game in the first six minutes when everything worked, including a fake punt.

That offensive line boasts four seniors: Tim O'Brien, Mike Valenti, Gino Arnold and Andrew Weiss. Their class desperately wants a New England Small College Athletic Conference championship this season. They have spent the last three years finishing second and don't want to be the first senior class to leave without a title since the 1996 class.

The Bantams achieved the balance offensively they have had all season. Ben Crick rushed for 158 yards and two touchdowns, Evan Bunker for 141 yards and two scores and Ryan Burgess threw for 193 yards and two touchdowns.

"Trinity has been playing football since the 1880s. I wasn't around for all of it, but I don't know if Trinity has ever played a better half than we did in the first half of this game," Devanney said.

And the home winning streak just goes on and on.

"I think there is definitely a little mystique about it. But we don't talk about it as coaches," Devanney said. "The players have enough pressure on them trying to win a title. This would be the first class since 1996 not to win a championship."

Panther fans came to see a toe-to-toe showdown between the unbeatens and it made for a special environment.

"Middlebury had a good contingent here. The atmosphere in the stadium was pretty electric," Devanney said.

"But Middlebury is one-dimensional and we took it away."

Just as there was a showdown for supremacy in the NESCAC, so was there in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference where Castleton took its 4-0 league mark to Washington, D.C, to face Gallaudet at 3-1 in the conference.

The Bison had the visitors down 20-7, but Castleton rallied to win 28-20. The Spartans are on a collision course with Mount Ida. The Mustangs, also 5-0 in the league, come to Castleton on Nov. 10 where the league title and NCAA berth will likely be the stakes.

Castleton's Shane Brozowski passed for 338 yards and three touchdowns as the Spartans won their fifth straight.

Mount Ida did its part by rolling past Becker 55-7 with Scott Drosendahl throwing for 244 yards and two scores.

Framingham State wrapped up its second straight Bogan Division title in the New England Football Conference by whipping Coast Guard 39-3. Coast Guard lost record-setting quarterback Jon Resch earlyin the second quarter to a concussion.

Melikke Van Alstyne rushed for 126 yards for Framingham and eclipsed the 4,000-yard mark for his career.

Framingham will be in the last NEFC Championship Game. Salve Regina and Endicott are each 5-1 on the other side, the Boyd Division. Endicott outgunned Western New England 50-45 with Mike Murphy catching a school-record five touchdowns and Drew Frenette throwing a program-record six scores. Records abounded. Dylan Rushe got off a school-record 69-yard punt while converting both of his field goals. Salve shut out Plymouth State 31-0 as Steven Wilken threw for two scores and ran for one.

There was yet another school standard set at Worcester State where Corey Spencer threw for 421 yards in the Lancers' 28-14 victory over Fitchburg State.

Everyone's playing for something

Everybody is still playing for something this late in the year. Teams such as Trinity, Middlebury, Castleton, Amherst, Wesleyan, Mount Ida, Framingham, Endicott and Salve Regina are playing for something tangible like titles or postseason berths.

But teams like Nichols, which went winless last season and has won once this year, is playing for respectability and to build something for the future.

And the Bison are getting people's attention despite the lack of wins. After finally earning a victory, they took Curry to the wire and this week lost 34-27 to an MIT team that was coming off a victory over a Salve Regina team that had been unbeaten and ranked.

"We're getting better," Nichols coach Kevin Loney said. "We play a lot of freshmen and sophomores and we are playing well in all three phases. We have just got to put it all together."

MIT's Justin Wallace rushed for 139 yards and a touchdown.

Nichols quarterback Pat Viencek passed for 252 yards and a score.

Viencek is a transfer from Mass. Maritime in his first year as a starter.

"He has kind of found his niche," Loney said. "He has a big-time arm and he is a big guy."

Loney is in his second season and working the New England area hard to get the right players to the Dudley, Mass., campus.

"I'm a New England guy and we're starting to get the kind of players we want," Loney said. "We are recruiting Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and the rest of New England."

He said tasting a victory this season did a lot for the team's psyche.

"The kids have worked so hard. It gave our kids more confidence. When the results aren't there it is disheartening," Loney said.

MIT raised its record to 5-3 and Loney sees Chad Martinovich's program as one on the rise.

"I have the utmost respect for Chad," Loney said. "If MIT commits to him the way the way they have to their other programs, they are going to become Johns Hopkins."

Wesleyan, Amherst keep pace

Wesleyan and Amherst stayed in the NESCAC race by raising their records to 5-1. The Lord Jeffs routed Tufts 51-7 and Wesleyan beat Bowdoin 34-14 as LaDarius Drew rsuhed for 153 yards and two touchdowns.

Williams defeated Hamilton 34-16 with Tom Wohlwender rushing for two scores and Tom Murphy throwing for two.

Bates is off to its best start since 1982. The Bobcats went to 3-3 and got a leg up on the CBB Trophy (Colby-Bates-Bowdoin) by by beating Colby 31-6. Bates quarterback Trevor Smith carried 34 times for 94 yards. He also threw and ran for a touchdown.

Husson works overtime

Husson got a win that should do wonders for its program. The Eagles went on the road and beat SUNY Maritime with Reece Attard's 34-yard field goal in overtime. Husson had been down by 14 points.

Norwich went to 6-2 by rolling past Anna Maria 50-21 as Kris Sabourin threw three TD passes and became the all-time leader for the Cadets with 41 career touchdown passes.

Mass. Maritime set a school record with 724 yards of total offense in a 35-13 win over Westfield State that saw Mike Stanton throw his three touchdown passes less than 10 minutes into the game.

Bridgewater State went to 8-1 with Ben Desmarais rushing for three touchdowns.

The Big Games

Trinity has taken care of Middlebury, but now 5-1 Amherst comes to town with their own thoughts of halting the long winning streak in Hartford.

"Amherst is a physical football team like we are," Devanney said.

"We told our team that Middlebury was just Round 1 of the playoffs. Now we have Amherst and then Wesleyan."

Wesleyan and Williams have their own rivalry game this week, a Little Three contest.

Bates is at Bowdoin with a chance to capture the CBB Trophy, the hardware so coveted by the three Maine NESCAC schools; Mount Ida and Castleton try to keep pace with one another in the ECFC. Both must do it on the road, but the Mustangs would appear to have the sterner test. Ida is at Gallaudet and Castleton at Husson.

"Gallaudet is an outstanding football team," Ida coach Mike Landers said. "If you look across the board at the matchup, they probably have the edge. They play hard, disciplined football.

"We aren't even thinking about Nov. 10 (Castleton). Our approach this year has literally been trying to go 1-0 each time.

"We have not played our best football yet by any means."

The Mustangs have the challenge of the long trip and Gallaudet's triple option. The plus is that the Mustangs have seen the triple twice already, from Springfield and SUNY Maritime.

"The more times you see the triple the better," Landers said. "But they do things a little differently."

Landers and his players might not be thinking about Nov. 10, but a lot of people are. If they can do what they are setting out to do in D.C., you can bet they will be thinking about it on the ride home.

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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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