Inside Mount Ida's victory

More news about: Mount Ida | Trinity (Conn.)
Mount Ida's program started in 1999 and struggled for years before posting three consecutive winning seasons.
Mount Ida athletics photo 

There was a wild celebration at midfield at Spartan Stadium after Mount Ida had beaten Castleton State 52-28 on Saturday to earn the Mustangs their trip to Wesley for the NCAA Division III first-round playoff game.

But even in this greatest moment of the 13-year history of Mustang football, there was time to reflect on Josh and Alex Yood, those little guys back home that have become part of the Mustang family.

Josh and Alex are twins who were born prematurely so that they have a number of health issues. The Mount Ida team adopted them through the Team Impact program.

"They are our biggest fans," Ida quarterback Scott Drosendahl said.

"We see them every week," Mount Ida coach Mike Landers said. "They come to our practices. They are a big part of our family.

"The most important thing we did all year was not winning the championship, but adopting those kids."

Landers was not at Spartan Stadium for the game. He was suspended and not allowed to make the trip per Ida's athletic policy which prohibits any coach from coaching in the next game if they are ejected from a contest. Landers was ejected in the game the previous week at Gallaudet.

He was home watching the game on the Northeast Sports Network's videocast.

Now, the Mustangs will represent the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference in the playoffs, along with Bridgewater State and Framingham State from the New England Football Conference. The Rams defeated Salve Regina in the NEFC Championship Game and the Bridgewater Bears got an at-large berth with their 9-1 record. The Bears' loss was to Framingham.

Chris McNally had an outstanding day rushing for Mount Ida. He went through the Spartan defense for 243 yards and two touchdowns to lead a ground game that piled up 342 yards. 

"It was a great effort by Chris McNally. It is what he's done all year," Drosendahl said.

Drosendahl complemented that ground game by throwing for 170 yards and two scores.

Landers said Drosendahl is as complete a quarterback as he has been around. That is no small compliment since Landers was a teammate of Joe Hamilton at Georgia Tech in 1995. Hamilton went on to finish second in the Hesiman voting to Ron Dayne in 1999, finishing ahead of quarterbacks Michael Vick, Drew Brees and Chad Pennington in the balloting.

"He is truly the general out there," Landers said of Drosendahl. "A lot of quarterbacks play in systems today where they throw 40 to 60 times a game and put up big numbers. But Scotty is so consistent and manages the game so well."

Drosendahl aims for a good mix of pass and run.

"If we don't have a running game, we aren't going to be a complete offense," said Drosendahl, obviously an extension of Landers' offensive philosophy.

How does a quarterback like Drosendahl from the Buffallo area wind up on a campus in Newton Center, Mass.?

He was always among the youngest in his class and was just 17 when he first took a snap in a game for the Mustangs.

"I wanted to be by a big city like Boston and I wanted to get far enough away from home," Drosendahl said.

It has all worked out. Now, the 17-year-old is a senior and going to the NCAA playoffs. 

Neil Hitchen was the acting head coach in this game which was a showdown for the ECFC title with Castleton coming into the game with a league mark of 6-0.

"We're excited," Hitchen said after the game. "I have never been in this position. I've come close at a couple of other schools. Now we are going to try to go to 1-0 in the NCAAs."

The Mustangs had a large picture of Landers face mounted on the bank behind their bench.

There was a lot going on during the week. Hitchen's wife delivered a baby on Wednesday, the campus was pounded by a snowstorm on Wednesday and Thursday and there was Landers' situation.

"We came together as a community," Drosendahl said.

"It was one of those weeks where there was a lot of adversity, but we built this program on dealing with adversity," Landers said.

Landers had a good feeling about the game on Friday when the team left.

"It was the most focused team I have ever coached," he said.

The Spartans were without Shane Brozowski, the all-time leader in New England Division III football in passing yardage.

"Shane is a tremendous player," Landers said. "But they have a great system and we prepared for that system."

There was an odd situation at Spartan Stadium. McNally tore his jersey and donned a jersey with a different number. All game long the public address announcer identified McNally as Zach March. Everyone in the press box was confused for March is a freshman defensive back on the roster. Nobody from Ida corrected the error and March was credited for every one of those 243 yards on the Northeast Sports Network, the local radio broadcast and by the PA announcer.

"It gives you a glimpse of who we are," Landers said. "It would have been nice for Chris to get credit for that, but it's just all about us as a team. This team has all the intangibles."

The Bridgewater players who were around campus and the coaches watched the selection show together. Coach Chuck Denune said they were not sure if they would hear their name called but added, "We thought we had done enough."

The Bears did practice during the week because they were sure they would have either an NCAA game or an ECAC Bowl.

Now, they are off to Widener.

Framingham earned its berth by beating Salve Regina in the last NEFC Championship Game, 28-16. Melikke Van Alstyne led the Rams by rushing for 96 yards and two touchdowns. They head to Cortland State for their first round game.

Perfect Bantams

New England Small College Athletic Conference teams do not go on to the NCAA playoffs, but Trinity has something Ida, Framingham and Bridgewater do not: a perfect record.

The Bantams finished 8-0 with a pulsating 30-24 overtime victory over state rival Wesleyan. Evan Bunker rushed for 139 yards, including a 25-yard dash to the end zone in overtime. Ryan Burgess threw two touchdown passes for the Bantams.

Mike Whalen took Wesleyan to its best season in awhile and this NESCAC regular season finale could get red hot, not that it isn't anyway, said Trinity coach Jeff Devanney.

"We're natural rivals," Devanney said. "Even in a year when they were 2-6 it was a great game. It's like Amherst and Williams."

Devanney loved this year's edition of Bantam football.

"In my seven years as head coach this is the most consistent team I have had in terms of preparation and practice effort,' he said.

All the success doesn't hurt recruiting, either.

"We have six commitments now," Devanney said. "We typically get more with recruiting weekends after Thanksgiving.

"Trinity is a pretty easy place to sell. It is a great school and a fun school. And we win a lot."

Now, if they could just get that ninth game so that everyone in the 10-team league plays each other.

"It's ridiculous that we don't have a ninth game," Devanney said. "When I played here the baseball team played 28 games and the football team played eight games. Now, the baseball team plays 45 games and the football team still plays eight games."

Devanney points out that it would not cost much more to play a ninth game as the NESCAC teams play a full scrimmage the week before the opener anyway.

"It is just foolish not to have a ninth game," he said.

Footeball thrives at Middlebury

Middlebury put the exclamation point on a 7-1 season in the NESCAC by beating Tufts 35-13. McCallum Foote set a new NESCAC single-season record with 2,897 passing yards. He set the league mark earlier this year with 31 TD passes for the season.

His hot receiver Zach Driscoll had 10 catches for 124 yards with two touchdowns and ends the campaign with new NESCAC records for receptions with 83 and TD catches with 15.

Its was the 23rd consecutive loss flor the Jumbos.

Williams won the Biggest Little Game in America by edging Amherst 23-20. It was the 127th meeting between the storied teams and it closed out 121 years at Pratt Field for Amherst.

Amherst quarterback Max Lippe passed for a touchdown and ran for two.

The Lord Jeff seniors finish 28-4 to become the winningest class in the 135-year history of Amherst football.

Bates had their most successful season in years. The Bobcats outgunned Hamilton 47-33 to finish 5-3 as Patrick George led the way by rushing for 143 yards.

Norwich clubbed Becker 47-14 as Kris Sabourin ran for two scores and threw for another.

Johnathan Michaeles say his Colby team close fast in his first year as head coach. The Mules won three of their last four games and finished the season with a 17-0 blanking of Maine rival Bowdoin. Derrick Beasley and Ryan Veillette helped key the shutout with interceptions.

Gallaudet also pitched a shutout. The Bison defeated SUNY-Maritime 21-0. The 7-3 Bison had their most victories since rejoining Division III in 2007.

Sean Murphy is stepping down as Husson's head coach and the program is conducting a search for his successor. Murphy will head the school's men's lacrosse program.

His final game was a triple-overtime loss to Anna Maria. The AmCats won 44-42 when Santino Simone threw a two-point conversion pass to Donald Graham. Simone riddled the Eagles with 349 passing yards. He threw for four touchdowns. Three of them were caught by Dom Concepcion.

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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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